Councilmember Pedersen’s Blog is the Place To Be!

November 25th, 2020

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

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

More Info:

  • For Alex Pedersen’s bio, CLICK HERE.
  • For Alex Pedersen’s track record and highlights in the City Councilmember position, CLICK HERE.
  • For the decision not to run for re-election, CLICK HERE.
  • You can also subscribe to the 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,






Active August: still working hard for you ✅

August 29th, 2023

Friends and Neighbors,

I’m working for you throughout August, despite the City Council being on what we call a “recess” for the last two weeks of this month. The recess is not a vacation, but rather a time free from formal committee meetings and City Council meetings. This time enables our offices to catch up on responding to constituents, planning for our upcoming budget review season, and writing a very, very long-winded newsletter that I hope you’ll appreciate!

  • District 4: Northeast Seattle Little League Celebration in Laurelhurst, View Ridge Party in the Park, Wallingford’s Wurst Fest, Saving the Luma Tree in Wedgwood, Free School Supplies in Roosevelt, King County Councilmember in U District, and Grants to Revive Vacant Storefronts.
  • Public Safety and Homelessness: Still Waiting for Ordinance to Enforce Public Drug Use, SPD Officers Departing at Faster Pace, Gratitude for Good Work of Officers, Police Employment Contracts, Calling 9-8-8 for Mental Health & Substance Use Crises, Housing the Homeless, Extinguishing Encampment Fires, Homeless Outreach Stats, Report on the Collapse of a Hoteling Program.
  • Taxes and Budgets: Are More Revenues Really Needed?
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: Become a Crossing Guard! Advancing More Traffic Safety Legislation, How to Comment on Bus Route Changes, Report on Seattle Transit Measure, A Streetcar Named Backfire, Fixing the University Bridge (or not), Shortcomings of the Long-Awaited “Seattle Transportation Plan.”
  • Providing Input

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


DISTRICT 4

Northeast Seattle Little Leaguers are National Stars! Celebration at Laurelhurst Park Aug 30!

You’ve probably been seeing news coverage about the Seattle baseball team capturing national headlines with their amazing winning streak. No, not the Mariners (although, yes, they are also winners.) We’re referring to the Northeast Seattle Little Leaguers! This Wednesday, August 30, you can celebrate with the young athletes at Laurelhurst Park at 5:00 p.m.

For coverage by King 5 News, CLICK HERE.

View Ridge Party in the Park: Sept 10!

Bring the family for fun at View Ridge Park on NE 70th Street on Sunday, September 10, 2023 from 2pm to 5pm.  If you live near the park, you can get more involved by participating in the View Ridge Community Council: email address – info@viewridgeseattle.org and website – http://viewridgeseattle.org.

 

Wallingford Wurst Festival: Sept 15 and 16!

What:  The Great Wallingford Wurst Festival. The Wurst Festival is a fun and entertaining community event, hosted by St. Benedict, in Wallingford.  The festival includes live music from more than a dozen local musical acts and bands, great food and beverages, bouncy houses, a “Fun Zone” filled with games for kids with fun prizes, a variety of crafts and vendors, a sweet shop, and an outdoor beer garden (beer garden is open only for ages 21+).

When: Friday, Sept 15, 2023 from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday, Sept 16, 2023 from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.   

Where: St. Benedict Catholic School Grounds between 48th and 49th streets on Wallingford Ave.

Who: All are welcome.

For More Information:  For performance times and additional details, please visit the St. Ben’s website and the Great Wallingford Wurst Festival Facebook page.

Candy Cane Lane Yard Sale: Sept 16 

You love to see their blazing holiday lights every year at Candy Cane Lane. How do they do it? Dedication, artistic flair, love of the holidays, a welcoming spirit for everyone from all over Seattle – AND — to offset the cost of lights, displays, and maintenance — the families have a combined Yard Sale every Fall. All are welcome to see what they have to offer this year. Saturday, September 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. where NE Ravenna Blvd meets NE Park Road and Ravenna Ave NE, near the lower Ravenna Parking Lot. 

 

Luma Saved in Wedgwood! More Work Needed to Protect Seattle’s Trees

Aerial photo by Eli Vanderbilt, August 1, 2023

Visiting the site of Luma for the third time, Councilmember Pedersen is eager to have his photo taken with Seattle punk rocker and fellow tree hugger Suzanne Grant.  Photo by A. Stewart, August 1, 2023.

WE SAVED LUMA!  In my July newsletter (here), I described the controversy over the potential loss of a majestic Cedar Tree in the Wedgwood neighborhood (named “Luma”), and I listed several questions, including:

Will the property owner, real estate developer, and their contractor…decide to do the right thing and simply redraw their plans to make room for the tree when they build their housing?

Fortunately, the answer to this question is YES! We did it! The development will be redesigned to ensure that Luma continues to stand for many years. For the agreement, CLICK HERE and HERE. Here’s the good news I announced on August 9, 2023:

Today we celebrate the agreement to save the magnificent Luma cedar tree in Northeast Seattle, and tomorrow we have much work to do to improve tree protections throughout our city. I want to thank Mayor Harrell and all those who took actions to save this exceptional tree, including the tree advocates and Tribal Governments who understand that mature trees provide valuable public health benefits, environmental sustainability, and deep cultural significance — and we must do more to save more of these trees in the face of increasing urban heat from the increasing climate crisis.”

For coverage by KUOW News, CLICK HERE.

Tree Service Provider Registry Update: We received additional bad news about the beneficial Tree Service Providers (TSP) / “arborists” registry ordinance that we passed last year to improve notification, transparency, and accountability for tree removals from private property. City staff believes that once SDCI approves a Master Use Permit (MUP) for a development project, the weaker tree removal notification provisions in place at the time the MUP was approved are the provisions that apply to that project. In other words, if SDCI approved the MUP when it was still the “wild west of tree cutting,” then the property owner does not need to provide the more advanced notice to the public. Fortunately, in just a few months, this will be moot because MUPs approved after 2022 will be covered by the stronger Tree Service Provider Registry ordinance that my office originated. Thankfully, the Luma tree was covered by a stronger version of the Tree Service Provider Registry ordinance, which is one of the reasons it could be saved.

WHAT’S NEXT?  Unfortunately, the underlying problem—a comprehensive tree ordinance that “protects” very few large trees from being removed during development—has not been addressed.

The City Council passed Council Bill 120534 on May 23, 2023, by a vote of six to one, despite concerns raised by the Urban Forestry Commission and others. As you know, I voted against the bill. The legislation was originally drafted by the Harrell Administration and the Mayor signed the final version into law on May 31, 2023, to become Ordinance 126821, “AN ORDINANCE relating to tree protection…”

Due to my vote being the only vote against Council Bill 120534, it’s unrealistic to achieve drastic legislative changes this year. That said, I plan to sponsor legislation aiming to prevent future Luma scares by incorporating three reasonable improvements:

  • Proactively acknowledge that important trees like Luma — “culturally modified trees” (CMTs) — exist throughout Seattle, as indicated by Tribal governments and the State’s Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 27.53 already exists to consider CMTs, so at the very least the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) needs to incorporate that reality into its review of development applications. Our Seattle Municipal Code should reflect this.
  • Prevent new driveways designed for vehicles (off-street parking) from resulting in the removal of exceptional trees (now referred to as “Tier 2” trees).
  • Require a “tree protection area” that uses the method that best protects trees: the dripline method or the circular radius method — whichever is more likely to retain the tree.

As you may recall, in the case of the Luma tree, a “lot boundary adjustment” changed the tree from being safe on the border of the property to being “in the way” of the new development and subject to the ax. Therefore, I had wanted to require lot boundary adjustments to prioritize protection of these trees. Unfortunately, additional research by City staff seems to indicate that State law prevents the City of Seattle—or any other city in the state—from imposing such “development standards” on “lot boundary adjustments.” The problematic State law exists in RCW 58.17.040(6) [CLICK HERE].  Therefore, the Governor and State legislators would need to amend that provision to save trees facing the chainsaw due to lot boundary adjustments.  

Fix the Tree Ordinance to Prevent Another “Luma” Crisis

CALL TO ACTION:  If you want City Hall to amend its tree ordinance to make it stronger for trees, you can email the responsible officials: Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov and Council@seattle.gov. You could ask them: Please amend Seattle’s 2023 tree ordinance (Ordinance 126821), so that City Hall prevents more threats to important trees like the Luma tree. City Hall should not allow companies to chop down important trees for profit when we need our urban canopy infrastructure to protect people during the heat waves of climate change.

More Info:

  • For a recent editorial by the Seattle Times August 27, 2023 critical of City Hall’s efforts on tree protections, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times article dated August 5, 2023 titled, “Seattle’s growth is heating up the region — literally,” CLICK HERE.
  • For more about the attempts to achieve stronger tree protections during the past four years, CLICK HERE for my blog.

 

Backpacks with School Supplies: Thank You, FamilyWorks, in Roosevelt & Wallingford!

FamilyWorks Executive Director Marcia Soika-Wright invited their District Councilmember Alex Pedersen for a tour on August 22, 2023 of yet another one of that nonprofit’s programs to help low-income families in Seattle: free backpacks stuffed with supplies for little students getting ready for school this Fall.  As a school supply fanatic as a parent and as a kid, the Councilmember was particularly amazed by the variety of supplies offered by FamilyWorks. To serve even more families throughout the city, the local nonprofit FamilyWorks relocated most of their programs to the top of the Roosevelt light rail station within the new, low-income housing project Cedar Crossing. FamilyWorks’ busy food bank operation, however, remains in Wallingford where they are expanding.

 

U District Partnership / Business Improvement Area: Grants to Revive Vacant Storefronts

The manager of the U District’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) is the University District Partnership (UDP) and the UDP issues their own informative newsletter. To read their most recent newsletter from 8/22/2023, CLICK HERE. The UDP’s newsletter highlighted the 30th Anniversary of the U District Farmers Market (every Saturday morning, rain or shine, all year long). The UDP also announced another economic development grant program for small businesses: the 2023 U District Vacant Spaces Revival Grant (CLICK HERE).

 

King County Government Is Here to Serve You, Too!

Here’s a timely reminder that our King County government is here to serve you along with the Seattle city government. Much of Seattle’s District 4 represented by Alex Pedersen overlaps with King County’s District 2, which is represented by King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay. You can meet CM Zahilay the evening of Tuesday, September 12 at University Heights on NE 50th Street and University Way NE (”The Ave”). Bring your questions about County government such as Public Health, Metro Bus service, the King County Jail’s booking policies, and the wastewater portion of your SPU utility bill. The County also assesses the value of all property and collects property taxes for important issues such as the forthcoming ”Crisis Care Centers,” Harborview Hospital renovations, housing for veterans, and early childhood programs (”Best Starts for Kids”). For info about King County’s budget, CLICK HERE. (For the City of Seattle’s budget, CLICK HERE. Also overlapping with Seattle’s District 4 are County Councilmembers Rod Dembowski (Northeast) and Jeanne Kohl-Welles (Wallingford).


SAFETY AND HOMELESSNESS

Illegal Drug Use in Legal Limbo:  Both City Hall Delays and New Rules Hamper Public Safety Enforcement

This month, the public witnessed another failure of the City Council majority to incorporate into our City code the State law compromise that makes public drug use illegal and to enable our City Attorney to prosecute these cases.  

June 6, 2023 vote on Nelson/Pedersen/Davison Bill to Curb Illegal Drug Use (failed 4 to 5)

FOR

AGAINST

Nelson

Pedersen

Strauss
Juarez

Herbold
Lewis
Morales
Mosqueda
Sawant

 

August 15, 2023 vote to speed up Harrell Bill to Curb Public Drug Use (a tie vote of 4 to 4 fails)

FOR

AGAINST

Nelson

Pedersen

Strauss
Lewis

Herbold
Juarez
Morales
Mosqueda
(absent: Sawant)

 

Due to the delays, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee will discuss the Mayor’s version on September 12, which means the soonest the full City Council can vote on the legislation is September 19 – with the bill not becoming effective until October 20 – a full five months after the State passed the law (2E2SSB 5536) on May 16, 2023.

In addition to the frustrating delays, the new content embedded in the Mayor’s version potentially weakens the State law. Rather than simply adopting the State law compromise as other Washington cities have done, the Mayor’s bill (CB 120645) allows public drug use to continue with no consequences if “the user does not pose a threat of harm to others.” The Mayor’s version also introduces a new complex concept, which several officers say will make it very difficult for our understaffed police department to enforce. Rather than a police officer asking the question, is this person breaking the law or not, the officer must make an assessment that seems to combine physician, psychologist, and social worker.

A Seattle Times editorial, published August 4, 2023, raised similar concerns about the Seattle-only “harm” definitions stating, “If the goal of the state law is to get people into treatment, these extra Seattle-only restrictions mean drug users considered a threat only to themselves would continue to wrestle with addiction largely on their own. That hardly seems a laudable or progressive goal.

Here are the potentially problematic provisions:

“E. Threat of harm to others. When considering making an arrest for knowing possession or public use, officers will determine whether the individual, through their actions and conduct, presents a threat of harm to others. This determination is based on the totality of the circumstances and the officer’s training and experience. SPD policy will identify factors to guide officers when assessing the threat of harm presented by the individual. The threat of harm standard governs officer decisionmaking and is not an element of the crime to be proved during the prosecution of possession or public use offenses and cannot be used as a defense at trial.

F. Threat of harm to self. When an officer determines there is probable cause to believe public possession or public use of a controlled substance has occurred as described under this Section 3.28.141, and the user does not pose a threat of harm to others, the officer will then make a reasonable attempt to contact and coordinate efforts for diversion, outreach, and other alternatives to arrest. An officer will not arrest in this situation absent articulable facts and circumstances warranting such action. A determination of a threat of harm will govern officer decisionmaking and will not be an element of the crime to be proved during the prosecution of possession or public use offenses and cannot be used as a defense at trial.”

If this complicated protocol for officers survives the final vote on the bill, I believe it then warrants additional reporting requirements so future policymakers and the public can assess whether it’s helping or hampering public safety.

Delayed legislation and complicated legislation seem to go against the prevailing sentiment of Seattleites. A June 2023 survey of “Seattle residents” commissioned by the Seattle Times had the following key findings:

  • SAFETY: Only 8% believe crime in their neighborhood has decreased. One-third of Seattle residents believe the amount of crime in their neighborhood has increased. Seattle residents identified drug use and gun violence as their “biggest public safety concerns” in Seattle. (CLICK HERE).
  • DRUGS: Nearly 60% “say they support police making arrests for the public use of illegal drugs” (CLICK HERE). (We found identical results in the survey my office commissioned in May 2023; see question 16.)

My current plan is to vote in favor of the legislation (again) that incorporates the State law because it’s simply overdue and Seattle needs to end its harmful outlier status.

More Info:

  • For the original bill to curb public drug use announced by Nelson, Pedersen, and Davison on April 27, 2023, CLICK HERE.
  • For statements by Nelson, Pedersen, and Davison after a majority of the City Council fails to pass the drug use bill (CB 120586) to incorporate the State law (2E2SSB 5536) on June 6, 2023, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Mayor’s July 31, 2023 press release announcing his revised bill (CB 120645), CLICK HERE.
  • For the official legislation from the Mayor (Council Bill 120645) as it appeared on the Aug 15, 2023 Introduction & Referral Calendar, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times editorial that questions that addition of the Seattle-only “harm” definitions, CLICK HERE and for their September 1, 2023 editorial titled, “While Seattle fumbles, other King County cities take decisive action on drug legislation, CLICK HERE.
  • For an August 4, 2023 column about the harm of Portland’s disastrous decriminalization efforts, CLICK HERE.

 

SPD Steps Up Recruitment Efforts as More Officers Leave Seattle at Faster Pace

Our Seattle Police Department (SPD) has stepped up its recruitment efforts in the second quarter of 2023, and their recruitment efforts come just in time because more officers are leaving Seattle at a faster pace. An update from SPD dated July 31, 2023 covering the 6-month period of January through June 2023 included a brief statement on retention: “Through June 30, [2023] recruit hires are up 37% year-over-year and separations are down 45%. The result is negative 20 officers year-to-date [2023], compared to negative 80 during the same period in 2022 year-to-date.”

While these statistics are presented in a positive way by the executive branch by comparing 2023 to 2022, they actually reveal a negative trend during 2023: While SPD is hiring officers, it is losing more officers than it is hiring AND the pace of that “net” loss INCREASED at a disturbing rate during Q2 of this year when compared to Q1.  This is another example of where a calculator comes in handy:

  • Jan through June 2023: net negative 20 officers (net loss of 3.3 officers per month).
  • Jan through March 2023: net negative 6 officers (net loss of 2 officers per month)
  • Therefore, during the 3 months of April through June: net negative of 14 officers (or 4.6 officers per month).

That means the pace of net loss increased from a net loss of 2 officers per month in Q1 to a net loss of 4.6 officers per month in Q2. That’s more than a doubling of officer loss (130% more loss) when comparing those two periods. In response to my office’s follow-up inquiry, the Mayor’s Office said the cause could be the spike of retirements that sometimes occurs in the month of June because certain kinds of cost-of-living adjustments (C.O.L.A.) for police pensions kick in July 1. The data seem to support this hypothesis because there was a spike in both June 2022 and June 2023. We encourage the Mayor’s Office and SPD leadership to continue their recruitment and retention efforts by reviewing all the Exit Interviews of departing officers and attend roll calls of existing officers to seek any patterns that can be addressed as soon as possible.

The urgency to re-staff our police department with officers and detectives after the detrimental defund movement continues after a slew of unsolved armed home invasions in South Seattle, as reported by several media outlets this past week (CLICK HERE) and another shooting death in North Seattle (Lake City): CLICK HERE.

 

Gratitude for the Good Work of Our Police Officers: Attending Roll Calls

Every year, I have visited the roll calls at the start of police officer shifts to thank officers for the good work they do and to encourage them to stay in Seattle. Each year, I would see fewer faces because so many officers AND detectives had left the department since the detrimental “50% defund the police” movement recklessly pledged by a majority of my City Council colleagues.

In addition to these city government frontline workers being insulted by the harmful defund movement fueled by several City Councilmembers, one of the most frequent complaint was directed at King County leadership: why is King County jail preventing officers from booking suspects for thefts, trespassing, and other crimes occurring throughout Seattle?

CALL TO ACTION: If you share this concern about this issue, you could write to Dow.Constantine@kingcounty.gov and Allen.Nance@kingcounty.gov  and tell them: Please fully honor your contract with Seattle by allowing Seattle Police Officers to do their jobs and book into jail each individual who is arrested due to probable cause of violating the criminal provisions of the Seattle Municipal Code, rather than turning them away even when space is available. Ironically, King County’s policy to turn away criminal suspects burdens the emergency medical staff at Harborview Hospital when officers are forced to bring suspects, instead of having medical staff at the jail evaluate the suspects, as is the best practice at other jails in the region. To the extent that the County’s overly restrictive booking policy results in financial savings, reinvest those savings to hire and retain frontline County government correctional officers so that staffing levels cannot be used as an excuse.

 

Police Employment Contracts:

As authorized by federal labor law, negotiations occur behind closed doors for public employee contracts that impact most city government employees, services, and budget expenses. Some believe that the limited oversight from taxpayers and the media results in less than ideal outcomes for the general public, while others believe frank and productive negotiations require management and their employees to have the ability to discuss terms without a daily spotlight. The labor contracts with police unions are particularly relevant, considering the concerns today over public safety, police reforms, and challenges with recruitment and retention of officers and detectives.  See above for an updated version of the PowerPoint slide presented by City Council’s Central Staff at the Public Safety Committee public hearing on August 8, 2023, which highlights some of the negotiation process.

For the current collective bargaining agreements, CLICK HERE.


Who You Gonna Call? Think 9-8-8 Before It’s Too Late

If you see someone experiencing what appears to be a mental health or substance use crisis, you now have a choice of 24/7 emergency numbers to call: 988 or 911.  If you feel unsafe, if someone is physically injured, and/or criminal activity is involved, you would still call 911. If it appears to be solely a mental health or substance use crisis, you can now call 988.

Operators from the 988 Line can refer the 24/7 King County Mobile Crisis Response, which is currently operated by the nonprofit Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC). (We originally reported on the coming of the new 988 number back in April 2022.)

  • For a presentation about 988 from our City Council’s Public Safety Committee on July 25, 2023 (thank you, Chair Lisa Herbold!), CLICK HERE.
  • For a July article by the Seattle Times on 988, CLICK HERE.

 

University District: Housing People Most in Need; Progress on A New Transit-Oriented Development

I’m pleased to report that the Transportation Committee passed my legislation on August 15, 2023 to enable more low-income housing to be built in the University District near the light rail station. Here’s how I described the good news:

I am eager to create additional permanent low-income housing in my district so that more people in need have a safe place to call home, including many who have been experiencing homelessness. By creatively optimizing our public infrastructure to reconfigure this public alley, we can enable the construction of many more units affordable to extremely low-income people at this centrally located intersection, where future residents can walk to jobs, education, health care, and, of course, public mass transit, including Sound Transit’s U District Station. After the space has served approximately 35 residents of a Tiny Home Village for several years, it should serve as a permanent home for dozens of additional low-income residents, including housing-ready individuals who have experienced homelessness (at 0% to 30% of the area median income). I’m grateful to have partners in Sound Transit and our City’s Office of Housing that understand it’s imperative to create as much housing as possible for extremely low-income people, so we can finally move beyond the homelessness crisis toward a more sustainable city for everyone.

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen, August 15, 2023

Many thanks also for the hard and creative work of SDOT, the Design Commission, and City Council’s Central Staff for enabling this important milestone for future low-income residents housing in the heart of our district.

  • For the presentation by Sound Transit on August 15, 2023, CLICK HERE.
  • For Clerk File 314496, which allows for the reconfiguration of the public alley to maximize future low-income housing, CLICK HERE.
  • For my press release celebrating the approval of my legislation at the Transportation Committee, CLICK HERE.
  • For more about the Tiny Home Village called Rosie’s, CLICK HERE.

 

Urge Governor Inslee to Stop the Encampment Fires at the Gateway to University of Washington

“Residents of a tent camp attempt to put out a brush fire along northbound Interstate 5 near the Northeast 45th Street exit in the University District on June 30,” as reported in the Seattle Times August 22, 2023. Photo credit: Karen Ducey / The Seattle Times.

After months of asking the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) to address the growing homeless encampments along I-5 in Seattle’s District 4 (essentially from NE 42nd Street to NE 65th Street), I finally got them to tour the locations with me in July. So far, this has not resulted in any action, so I’m asking you to help me by emailing some of the responsible officials.

The fire in the photo above — one of dozens of fires over the past year – is on WSDOT property, just north of NE 45th Street and adjacent to 7th Ave NE, which is essentially the gateway to our world-class University of Washington, where the city has encouraged small businesses and housing producers to grow near the new light rail station.  In addition to the $200 million KCRHA receives from the governments of King County and Seattle each year, the regional agency receives millions of dollars to address homelessness on State property from the State’s Department of Commerce (which is in charge of housing and shelter programs).

As I told the Seattle Times earlier this month:

People are fed up with soothing words and misdirection that solve nothing, while illegal activity damages our city. To improve safety before a tragedy occurs, our governor needs to instill urgency in his departments — from WSDOT to State Patrol to the Housing Fund — to protect our bridge infrastructure from damage, to prevent fires along our greenways, and to offer shelter to those camping illegally on State property from Sodo to the U District.” 

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

CALL TO ACTION: Suggested message: Governor Inslee, please direct your senior advisors and State government departments to address unsheltered homelessness on state government property with the urgency the emergency warrants, instead of the “unfunded mandate” of relying on local fire fighters and understaffed police departments after fires, shootings, and overdoses have already occurred.  Housing providers receiving money from the State’s Department of Commerce and/or Washington State Housing Financing Commission have vacant units which can take housing ready individuals from our tiny home villages, thereby freeing up tiny homes for people suffering unsheltered on State greenways. 

To send the email, go to: https://governor.wa.gov/contacting-governor/contacting-governors-office/send-gov-inslee-e-message  

More Info:

  • For the article in the Seattle Times on August 21, 2023 titled, “Seattle Fire Department report ‘significant increase’ in human-caused fires,” CLICK HERE.  

  • For an editorial by the Seattle Times on August 25, 2023 titled, “WSDOT, partners must act to avoid calamity of encampment fire under I-5,” CLICK HERE

 

Disturbing Revelation: 60% of Homeless Individuals Decline Offers of Shelter 

Thank goodness for our city government’s “Unified Care Team” (UCT), which is the partially reconstituted “Navigation Team” that a majority of City Council recklessly sought to terminate in 2020. The UCT is in the field every day trying to address unsheltered encampments along with our fire department, which is diverted there to extinguish four fires a day.

During the most recent period studied (April through June 2023), a whopping 60% of people living outside refused shelter offered by the UCT. (Here’s the math: 1,352 total offers of shelter minus 554 accepted offers = 798 offers NOT accepted.  Then take the 798 offers NOT accepted and divide it into the 1,352 total offers = 59%). Their press release accentuates the positive trend of a 21% increase above the number of offers accepted during the same quarter last year, stating that, “In the second quarter of 2023, the Unified Care Team coordinated 554 referrals to shelter, a 21% increase over Q2 of last year.”

But the burden on City resources, the distraction for our frontline emergency responders, and the harm to encampment occupants is made clear by the other stats from the press release:

  • “The UCT also completed over 2,628 visits to sites in Q2, removing approximately [1.6] million pounds of debris
  • Between January and June 2023, 6,435 emergency medical calls were responded to in connection to individuals experiencing homelessness, a slight increase to 36 calls averaged per day, compared to Q1.
  • A total of 700 fires at tent/RV encampments were reported in the first two quarters of 2023, with a decrease from 4.5 fires averaged per day in Q1 to 3.9 per day in Q2.
  • Between January and June 2023, 31 shots fired or shooting incidents were connected to homelessness, an average of one incident per week (consistent with Q1).”

More info:

  • For the August 2, 2023 presentation by the UCT’s homelessness team, CLICK HERE.
  • To activate the UCT, you can use the Find It, Fix It app for your smart phone or contact the Customer Service Bureau (website or phone: 206-684-CITY)

 

Evaluation Shows Homeless Program Failed Due to Lack of Qualifications / Plans for Organization Awarded the Tax Dollars

“After a program using hotels to shelter homeless people financially collapsed this spring, leaving nearly 300 people temporarily facing eviction, everyone involved shares some blame, according to a draft report released this week.” That sobering news is from the Seattle Times article published August 25, 2023.

The Lived Experience Coalition, an organization with no fiscal experience, no case management professionals, and no exit strategy was given $1 million in federal tax dollars, but ended up costing another $3 million, including $2 million from local tax dollars.

According to the official EFSP website under “Funded Organizations,” the local King County board that awarded the $1 million from FEMA’s American Rescue Act allocation for the EFSP to the Lived Experience Coalition was coordinated by the nonprofit United Way of King County, which has historically used rigorous criteria for awarding funds. [The official decision makers who served on the local board for the ESSP and made the decision to award the funds did not appear in the Seattle Times article or on the websites of FEMA or United Way.]

I think this is an example of how “lived experience” should be utilized and valued for informed decisions, but not relied upon as the sole criteria to handle the tax dollars or to produce and report on the outcomes sought by official programs.

We should better understand their success for moving people from the streets to hotel rooms and other shelter, but heed the lesson for the future to fund only organizations that can handle the tax dollars responsibly and have plans to exit people from the temporary shelter into permanent housing.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), already burdened with its own challenges, thankfully came to the rescue of that operation, but at the cost of diverting KCRHA away from its other priorities. The public wants positive results to help those suffering unsheltered and deserves positive results with its tax dollars. New leadership at the KCRHA will be vital for ensuring the success of these important programs going forward and should lean into their professional expertise and national best practices rather than putting the burden of success on those who have already suffered and are not prepared to run government-funded programs.  


TAXES AND BUDGETS

Revenues, Revenues, and More Revenues — Really?

An updated forecast of City revenues came at a bad time for people wanting to introduce new taxes: the new August 2023 forecast now expects revenues for 2023 and 2024 to be HIGHER than originally predicted in April 2023 and HIGHER than estimated in November 2022 when City Hall adopted its current budget.  I believe City Hall should prudently save this additional revenue to address cost increases anticipated in 2025.

There is no budget deficit for 2023 or 2024. Moreover, the “deficit” starting in 2025 is just in the “General Fund” and assumes that City Hall not only fails to manage its costs (primarily costs from granting additional raises to City government employees), but also refuses to use the new “JumpStart” payroll tax to plug the deficits.

Nevertheless, some City Hall officials (not me) asked for a “Revenue Stabilization Work Group” to flesh several ideas for new City taxes. According to the Mayor’s press release from August 9, 2023, “The nine identified revenue sources for further consideration are:

  1. Changes to JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax
  2. City-level Capital Gains Tax
  3. High CEO Pay Ratio Tax
  4. Vacancy Tax
  5. Progressive Real Estate Excise Tax
  6. Estate Tax
  7. Inheritance Tax
  8. Congestion Tax and
  9. Income Tax.”

For the full 15-page report exploring new taxes, CLICK HERE.

If we use new revenues to repeal existing unfair taxes (such as City Hall’s tax on your drinking water), I might support a reasonable and fair progressive tax, such as a small capital gains tax that mirrors the new State tax exempting real estate transactions and retirement accounts. (On August 8, 2023, the Seattle Times editorial board called my revenue-neutral tax reform proposal “a solid idea.”)

It’s difficult to take seriously this effort to find new taxes, when City Hall is not managing existing costs, through prioritization. For example, in response to dozens of emails from constituents, the City Council prudently stripped $1 million from SDOT’s budget to halt another study on an expensive, redundant, unnecessary project called the “Center City Connector” streetcar. But, apparently, SDOT is going to find the money within their existing budget to finish the study anyway.

The Seattle Times editorial board astutely criticized this spending mentality in two recent editorials:

This is consistent with how the majority of the general public feels, according to recent polling:

As shown in the April 2023 poll,

  • 57% say taxes in Seattle are too high already.
  • 65% don’t trust the Seattle city government to spend their tax dollars responsibly.

I’ve observed that policymakers and pundits tend to consciously and/or subconsciously frame the economic situation in a way that supports their policy goals. For example, I think City Hall taxes and spends too much, so I’ll tend to present numbers in a way that emphasizes there’s no current deficit and we can manage future deficits. For those worried about meeting the growing expectations of organizations that receive City dollars and/or who want to provide pay raises to all city government employees, they might emphasize the need to raise additional revenue.

I’m hopeful we can at least find common ground by having the Office of Revenue and Economic Forecasts present their underlying figures in a more understandable and comprehensive fashion: (1) combine the numbers that are currently separated (General Fund and other revenues) and (2) compare the August 2023 forecast to the originally adopted/endorsed budgets (November 2022) rather than to the April 2023 forecast.  After re-organizing the numbers, we see an actual surplus of $93 million over the next 16 months (before subtracting out grants) compared to what the City Council originally budgeted just 9 months ago (in November 2022).

More Info:

  • To review the August 2023 presentation by Seattle’s Office of Revenue and Economic Forecasts, CLICK HERE.
  • For the report from the “Revenue Stabilization Workgroup,” CLICK HERE.
  • For Councilmember Pedersen’s legislation to repeal City Hall’s tax on drinking water (Council Bill 120602), CLICK HERE and for his blog post with endorsements for his tax reform proposal, CLICK HERE.
  • To review the April 2023 survey of registered Seattle voters (“The Index”) commissioned by the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November.

 

Become a Crossing Guard Hero to Keep Kids Safe! Apply Today

We had the volunteers of the School Traffic Safety Committee present to our City Council Transportation Committee earlier this month. Their annual report had several recommendations and, once again, pointed out the need for crossing guards.

As of June 2023, 46 out of 114 crossing guard positions (40%) were vacant. SPS [Seattle Public Schools] has long struggled to fill crossing guard positions. It’s a tough job with short, nonconsecutive hours, a low hourly rate, cold and rainy environment, and frequently dangerous traffic conditions. Prior to the pandemic SPS made real strides in filling crossing guard roles through more active advertisement, particularly to hourly staff in food service and playground monitor roles who can add-on crossing guard duties before and after school…The crossing guard program needs to be better linked into SPS networks for additional support.” (Source: 2023 annual report of the School Traffic Safety Committee)

 

Transportation Committee Advances Additional Traffic Safety Camera Enforcement

Thanks to everyone who showed up to City Hall or contacted our offices to support our legislation to use new cameras to help reduce dangerous speeding. To see how the enforcement cameras (are or will be) distributed throughout Seattle, you can click on the following links:  Block-the-Box (intersections), Drag Racing Zones, Red Light Cameras, School Zones, Transit Lanes.

While the City Council already passed Council Bill 120600 to designate drag racing zones, our Transportation Committee advanced two other important pieces of legislation:

Allowing Warnings for First Infractions:  Council Bill 120625 incorporates into our municipal code the 2022 camera enforcement provisions in Washington State law, including authorization to issue a warning for a first infraction. Studies show the tickets from automated camera enforcement are sufficient to change behavior. Issuing a warning first will mean a positive change in driving behavior and a reprieve for low-income drivers for a first infraction. For SDOT’s presentation from the August 15, 2023 Transportation Committee, CLICK HERE.

Reinvesting Local Revenues for Traffic Safety: Council Bill 120638 directs City owned revenue from speed zone cameras to go toward Vision Zero safety efforts including infrastructure benefiting pedestrians, cyclists, and traffic-calming. As required by the 2022 State law, half of all new revenue from this additional automated enforcement camera authority is set aside for the state’s “Cooper Jones” bicycle safety awareness program. Without Councilmember Pedersen’s bill, the other half of the revenue would have blended into the City of Seattle’s General Fund. With the passage of Council Bill 120638, the net revenue will be reinvested in the community to increase traffic safety in two ways. First, automated enforcement will change behavior and reduce reckless driving. Second, any drivers who do not learn from their first warning, will be ticketed with all the locally kept revenue invested back into traffic safety projects. For City Council Central Staff’s presentation at the August 15, 2023 Transportation Committee, CLICK HERE.

“As part of a comprehensive strategy to increase traffic safety, we know automated cameras are an effective tool because they reduce reckless driving, reduce collisions, and reduce direct interactions between drivers and police. We will use the net revenue from the new cameras to build more sidewalks, crosswalks, and to narrow dangerous arterials. Many of those projects will take years to design and construct at a large scale across our city, so this needs to be a “Yes AND” effort to increase safety. If we’re serious about reducing the harm of traffic injuries and deaths today, we need to use the tools available to us today and that means installing this technology along dangerous roadways and intersections especially where our most vulnerable residents are trying to cross the street.” 

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee

Doubling the School Zone Camera Program: Via Council Bill 120618, the City’s midyear supplemental budget ordinance, Councilmember Pedersen sponsored an amendment to transfer $500,000 to the Seattle Department of Transportation to expedite the doubling of school zone cameras as contemplated in the 2023 Adopted Budget (SDOT-103-B-001-2023). To prepare for additional school zone camera installations, SDOT is evaluating potential camera locations, designing the installations, and conducting other up-front work. This transfer would fund work in 2023 to support the goal of installing cameras in time for the 2024-2025 school year.

Potential Forthcoming Legislation: The City Attorney’s Office, with support from the School Traffic Safety Committee and Councilmember Pedersen, is exploring the potential for the City of Seattle to help with enforcing the Seattle School District’s Bus Stop Paddle Ticketing (Betsy Gates) Program. This program has small cameras attached to the stop paddles on display when children are getting on and off their school buses and would photograph the vehicles illegally zipping past the school bus. After the City Attorney completes the necessary arrangements, Councilmember Pedersen will work to ensure it passes the City Council.

What’s Next?  On September 26, 2023, the Mayor will transmit his proposed budget for 2024. As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I’m expecting to see sufficient revenues to fund any upfront costs for the expanded automated camera enforcement program, as the program quickly pays for itself with net revenue available for safety infrastructure. In addition, as we expand the use of this efficient technology, we need our State legislators to clarify State law so that ANY city government employee sufficiently trained is able to issue the tickets created by the automated enforcement because State law currently restricts that to only sworn police officers.

Ride the Bus? Make Your Voice Heard: The Routes, They Are A Changin’ (again)

As you know, we are fortunate to have an extensive local bus network and it is operated by King County (not the City of Seattle). Every six months, King County Metro updates its bus routes and frequencies, based on their calculations of what riders need. But a bus planner’s interpretation of what riders need depends, in part, on whether you provide input. Seattle has influence on the county’s bus system because most riders are coming from or to Seattle AND Seattle pays an extra sales tax to supplement about 10% of Metro’s bus service (aka the Seattle Transit Measure).  If you are seeing changes or conditions you don’t like about the bus routes, frequency, bus stops, etc. TELL METRO!

Save the 20! As reported in Wallyhood, there’s a deadline of August 27 for public feedback about the Bus #20, which is on Metro’s list for either elimination or reduced frequency. (The Route 20 line runs from the U District, through Wallingford, to Northgate and Lake City.)

Save the 70!  if you reside in Eastlake, you might want to tell King County Metro to “Save the #70!”, rather than allowing Metro to scrap that local route with the excuse that Metro will install a “rapid ride” bus line using federal tax dollars to remove bus stops from Eastlake Ave with the goal of speeding commuters through Eastlake. Is this an equitable way to spend federal and local tax dollars?

Here’s how to provide feedback to King County Metro about the bus system and upcoming changes:

From King County Metro: “…Metro’s current reliability has been impacted by workforce and fleet availability challenges, which has been very frustrating to riders. This fall, instead of riders experiencing an increased level of sometimes unexpected trip cancellations, we are adjusting our schedules to allow for more predictability and less uncertainty for riders.”

 

Seattle Transportation Benefit District: 2022 Report of the “Seattle Transit Measure”

Back in 2020, I sponsored the legislation that enabled voters to overwhelmingly renew the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which SDOT refers to as the “Seattle Transit Measure.” As you know, the Seattle Transit Measure supplements bus service provided by King County Metro. A lot has changed since November 2020:

  • a new State law enables free fares for people 18 and under, so that we no longer direct Seattle Transit Measure revenues toward that expense.
  • Three new light rail stations opened to handle large volumes of transit riders from Northgate to the airport.
  • The West Seattle Bridge reopened and the pandemic era of COVID is over, so the Seattle Transit Measure’s category called “Emerging Needs” has less of a purpose.

The Seattle Transit Measure is funded by the most regressive of taxes: the sales tax. Therefore, policymakers have a tremendous obligation to think carefully about how to invest this revenue and justify why we should not lower the sales tax for people and businesses.

Unfortunately, SDOT has previously sprung upon the City Council and the general public how it (SDOT) would like to spend those sales tax dollars. SDOT has also not yet presented a detailed spending plan for 2024. As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I have urged SDOT to proactively provide detailed line items with sufficient time to consider and justify those expenditures, which I believe should focus on delivering more of the basics, rather than searching for new ways to spend other people’s money. For example, there is common ground in wanting more frequent transit service (a goal specified in the voter-approved measure), but we know King County Metro is having trouble recruiting new bus drivers. Why not use some of the Seattle Transit Measure funding to solve that problem, rather than chasing shiny new objects or inventing new uses for the money that grab headlines, but ignore the basics?  

  • For the 50-page annual report covering 2022 of the Seattle Transit Measure, CLICK HERE. (To see how SDOT selects which bus routes to boost, start on page 16.)
  • For the SDOT blog post about the Seattle Transit Measure annual report, CLICK HERE.
  • For the original 2020 ordinance renewing the Seattle Transit Measure, CLICK HERE.

 

A Streetcar Named Backfire: a fiscal tragedy of streetcar stubbornness?

Thanks to the many constituents who wrote to City Hall urging City Council to stall the expensive, redundant, disruptive 1st Avenue streetcar proposal, which many people agree is less important than the other transportation projects we have, especially transportation safety projects.  We heard also from Pike Place Market and many 1st Avenue businesses that oppose the concept.

Councilmembers Herbold and Nelson and I were successful in directing the additional $1 million away from that new streetcar project, although I understand SDOT might still scrape together the funds from its existing budget to complete the study.

We know many of our Northeast Seattle and West Seattle constituents aren’t interested in spending money on a streetcar for 1st Avenue downtown when they don’t even have sidewalks, and they are painfully aware of how fragile our aging bridges are. So, the next time you ask SDOT to install a crosswalk in your neighborhood that costs only $5,000 and they say they don’t have the money, you’ll scratch your head like the rest of us: if they cannot afford a crosswalk, then where is SDOT finding the money to finish a study that costs more than $1,000,000?

Our budget effort this summer was short and simple: cancel the mid-year request to spend another $1 million on the study and redirect those funds back to the General Fund, which is supposed to experience a deficit in 2025.
 

The Seattle Times editorial board took a longer term view of the troubled project, writing on August 10, 2023, “Here’s a bit of advice for Mayor Bruce Harrell and the Seattle City Council: If you pour money into plans to build a new streetcar down First Avenue, scrap any notion of asking voters to renew a transportation levy in 2024.

“The nine-year, $930 million Levy to Move Seattle was passed in 2015 to tackle vital infrastructure projects (its former name was Bridging the Gap, a nod to fixing the city’s deteriorating bridges). Next year, City Hall will likely ask voters to renew it.

“Whether or not the transportation levy achieved its promises is fair game. But voters should have deep misgivings about city priorities if they are being asked to pony up more property taxes for fundamental services while streetcar fantasies continue.

“So far, the council has shown appropriate skepticism. In its supplemental budget passed on Tuesday, council members cut funding earmarked for a study that would have provided updated streetcar cost estimates and timelines.

“No one knows a final price tag of the proposed First Avenue streetcar, but the project is likely to cost over $300 million and take several years to complete.”


That’s why I’m deeply disappointed to see the draft Seattle Transportation Plan (STP) released on August 24, 2023 still touting the problematic project (STP: Part 1 PG3 on page I-61 and Part 2, page T-34).

Proceeding with the Center City Connector streetcar project for 1st Avenue jeopardizes future transportation funding for priorities such as pedestrian safety (such as crosswalks and sidewalks), overdue repairs to our aging bridges, and overdue repaving for our crumbling streets (needed for all modes of travel including cyclists).  Note: the priority of public mass transit is funded mostly through Sound Transit and King County Metro, although Seattle taxpayers supplement bus service with a sales tax from the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District (Seattle Transit Measure). A streetcar boondoggle is an irresponsible distraction.  Sometimes we need a competing catch-phrase to get people’s attention, so I refer to the “Culture Connector” as a Mobile Money Pit or the Downtown Disruptor.

Councilmember Herbold of West Seattle said it well: “It’s important that we recognize that this project has been on hold. There is no plan for construction of the streetcar…the only viable source for construction funding would be dipping into the Move [Seattle transportation property tax] levy renewal next year, which I believe will hinder the ability to fund safety and maintenance projects and perhaps it would threaten voter approval.

  • For coverage from The Urbanist website, CLICK HERE.
  • For coverage from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
  • For SDOT’s official website for the “Center City Connector,” CLICK HERE.
  • For the 2019 update to costs, CLICK HERE.
  • For the mid-year budget supplemental proposal from the Harrell Administration, CLICK HERE for Council Bill 120618. For the more than 150 line items of the 55-page Attachment A, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times history of the Seattle streetcars (updated in 2019), CLICK HERE.

 

Urge SDOT: Fix the University Bridge

Our city-owned University Bridge is a transportation infrastructure workhorse for our region and has taken on heavier volumes of traffic each time the State-owned Montlake Bridges closes (which has been A LOT during the past 3 years). The University Bridge expends energy and suffers wear-and-tear throughout the day whenever it stops road traffic to raise its two center pieces to accommodate single boaters, due to absurd rules enforced by the Coast Guard that provide preference to yachters over buses.

Unfortunately, repair work on the 100-year old University Bridge was excluded from the 2015-2024 Move Seattle Levy so that money could be provided to “shinier object” projects sought by interest groups. In 2020, SDOT also removed the Ballard Bridge and Fremont Bridge from their priority list for seismic upgrades, claiming those safety projects would cost too much ($61 million). When the City Council authorized $100 million in bonding authority in November 2021, SDOT rejected the funding on March 31, 2022, saying they weren’t ready.

While SDOT’s survey about the bridge is closed, you can still send an email to: universitybridge@seattle.gov. You can urge them: Please fix the University Bridge ASAP before it cracks like the West Seattle Bridge!

 

The new “Seattle Transportation Plan” Needs Your Input: Did the 720-Page Plan to Pave the Way for a Transportation Infrastructure Funding Package Forget the Paving Part? and Bridges? and Impact Fees? You Decide!

One of the best things about the draft “Seattle Transportation Plan” is the cover photo, because it features District 4 in the heart of the U District. For Councilmember Pedersen’s initial assessment of how the Plan needs improvement and for ways YOU can provide input, keep on truckin’.

On August 24, 2023 the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) released their draft Seattle Transportation Plan (STP). The STP, once finalized, is likely to serve as a guiding document for transportation decision-making in Seattle for the next 20 years.

I have asked SDOT to present their draft STP documents at the September 5, 2023 Transportation Committee. The community has various way to provide feedback on the draft STP between now and when SDOT hopes to finalize the plan early next year. But there is a quicker deadline: only 45 days to comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that accompanies the draft STP. 

In order to fund the work outlined in the STP, the Mayor is likely to ask the Council early next year to ask the voters to approve a new funding package in November 2024 when the current $930 million, 9-year “Move Seattle” property tax expires. Due to what appears to be a mismatch between the draft STP’s priorities and what statistically valid polling shows about actual transportation priorities among the general public, it’s likely the STP draft will need revising to earn community buy-in beyond interest groups, especially if voters are going to be asked to pay for it.

The draft STP includes two parts: Part One is a 110-page “summary” document that unveils a vision statement: “In 2044…moving around is safe, fair, and sustainable.” Part One then outlines its six main “goals:” Safety, Equity, Sustainability, Mobility, Livability, and Maintenance / Modernization. Part One then summarizes outreach conducted thus far and provides cursory ideas of how the STP could be implemented. In Chapter 4, SDOT notes they are unsure how to best weigh the importance of these six goals and are asking for community input (page I-90). Part Two is 610 pages and details eight “elements” of transportation: Transit, Freight and Urban Goods, Bicycle and E-Mobility, Pedestrian, People Streets and Public Spaces, Curbside Management, Vehicle, New and Emerging Mobility. Part Two provides details on the elements with suggested project lists, connections to the Transportation Equity Framework, lists of challenges and opportunities, and some measurable outcomes to define success.

Some Good Stuff: Clearly, SDOT conducted a lot of anecdotal outreach and invested a lot of staff time into preparing this 720-page draft. I appreciate their focus on safety and equity. The STP also strives to consider freight more frequently than we have seen in the past, though I will be eager to hear what the freight stakeholders think. I am grateful the STP lifts up the need for more street tree infrastructure, especially when other City departments are allowing trees to be removed at an accelerated rate. The STP finally (and thankfully) synthesizes what have been separate modal plans for bikes, freight, pedestrians, and transit. The STP will also serve as the “transportation element” of the Comprehensive Plan that State law requires cities to revamp every 8 years.

As I understand it, a key purpose of the STP is to envision a utopian Seattle 20 years from now. While I appreciate the aspirational vision, I wish there were more emphasis on addressing our everyday transportation priorities now and in the near term. The Biden Administration has been making strides across the nation with their “Fix-it-First” focus. The statistically valid poll I commissioned for Seattle in May 2023 indicates that people’s top priority is fixing potholes and repaving roads for all vehicles, but that priority seems to be missing from the STP.

Here are the results from my statistically valid poll in May 2023:

In contrast to SDOT’s draft STP, the statistically valid survey I commissioned in May 2023 found that the top 3 transportation priorities receiving majority support were: fixing roads, supporting transit, and fixing bridges. Here’s the survey question I asked:  Thinking now about transportation in Seattle. Of the following, which three transportation investments do you think are the most important for Seattle to make?  

  • Fixing potholes and repaving roads for all vehicles: 66% picked among their top 3.
  • Supporting buses and other public transit: 64% picked among their top 3.
  • Fixing Seattle’s older bridges: 52% picked among top 3.
  • Installing new sidewalks and crosswalks: 30% picked among top 3.
  • Building bike lanes for safer streets: 27% picked among top 3.
  • Prioritizing freight to transport food, household products, and other items: 17% picked among top 3.
  • Something else: 6%
  • None of the above: 1%

One of the biggest themes in SDOT’s draft is continuing the tired “war on cars” rhetoric, despite the advances toward cleaner electric vehicles and that fact that many of Seattle’s crumbling roads are used by multiple forms of transportation. It appears that SDOT cherry-picked anecdotal quotes from their online surveys and their tabling at community events, rather than using statistically valid input to emphasize the STP’s goals and elements. In contrast to the statistically valid survey results from May 2023, here is a typical quote from SDOT’s draft August 2023 STP:

Car-free zones would encourage me to walk around more and would make me feel safer on my bike.” — Anonymous Contributor, Online Engagement Hub.

“I want to be able to move quickly from one neighborhood to another without driving.” — Anonymous Contributor, Online Engagement Hub. (a quote selected by SDOT and highlighted on page I-75 of the STP, Part One.)

In addition, SDOT hurried to release this STP, but we’re still waiting on their Bridge Asset Management Plan — two years after the audit of City-owned bridges showed so few of our aging bridges in Good condition after the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge, which ironically boasted a condition rating of “Fair.”)  The STP seems to minimize the importance of our bridge infrastructure with lack content and how bridges are visualized:

In contrast to how the bridges are portrayed in the STP, a statistically valid poll from May 2023 shows 73% of Seattle wants bridges fixed now.

Despite all the hard work from SDOT staff, input from online surveys and “tabling” at community events,  and the beautiful layout of the documents, the Seattle Transportation “plan” has several substantive problems that I hope can be addressed before it is finalized:

Some Improvements Needed for the Seattle Transportation Plan (STP):

  1. Fails to include the asset management details of a full plan. The STP is more of an aspirational 20-year vision, than an actionable “plan.” The STP should include the frequent caveat that it’s incomplete because the holistic planning from SDOT will also include the bridge asset management plan and SDOT’s other asset management plans. Those caveats — and the forthcoming asset management plans — are key to provide the public with a complete and compelling picture of Seattle’s transportation infrastructure needs.
  2. Shortchanges much of what the public wants according to polling, such as Road Maintenance (see polling results above).
  3. Barely mentions bridges and minimizes the need to fix bridges now, despite 73% support for that among the general public. (For one of just a handful of references to bridges among the 720 pages, go page I-70 of Part One). The STP also de-emphasizes the dangerous condition of our bridges. On page I-93, the STP notes a goal of ensuring key infrastructure is in “Good” repair, but then lumps in the “Fair” condition bridges to try to imply that 84% of the City’s bridges are fine. But the West Seattle Bridge, which cracked and closed for two years, was rated as “Fair.” Therefore, it’s disconcerting the STP would think “Fair” bridges are fine, especially when lifting up “Safety” as an overarching goal.  A more prudent and accurate baseline would note that only 22 of the 77 City-owned bridges (or 28%) are in “Good” condition and STP’s goal should be to ensure 100% of our bridges are in “Good” condition. By listing the baseline as 84% rather than the more accurate 28%, I continue to worry that SDOT is not acknowledging the drastic need to invest in our bridges now.
  4. Rehashes the tired “War on Cars” Rhetoric even though a growing number of vehicles are being powered by clean electricity.
  5. Forgets “Fix It First”: The STP seems to be all about shiny new things, rather than the Biden Administration’s national policy to “Fix it First.” Will that make it harder to obtain future federal grants?
  6. Touts the expensive, redundant, disruptive 1ST Avenue “Culture Connector” Streetcar (STP: Part 1 PG3 on page I-61 and Part 2, page T-34). See my critique of the “downtown disruptor” earlier in this newsletter and CLICK HERE for a recent Seattle Times editorial which bluntly states, “Here’s a bit of advice for Mayor Bruce Harrell and the Seattle City Council: If you pour money into plans to build a new streetcar down First Avenue, scrap any notion of asking voters to renew a transportation levy in 2024.
  7. Ignores a Key Funding Source that Vast Majority Supports: Impact Fees. One of my big concerns from the draft STP is SDOTs portrayal of potential funding opportunities. Page I-91 of Part One of the STP lists 13 current funding sources and implies that “developer fees” are an existing funding source. I worry this is incredibly misleading for the public, as the City Council prepares to consider adopting Developer Impact Fees, which are NOT currently authorized by the City, which makes Seattle a conspicuous outlier compared to the 70 other cities that charge them to help pay for infrastructure. Excluding developer impact fees from the STP is, I believe, unwise when people are tired of seeing their property taxes increase by multiple recent local levies. Moreover, impact fees garner a whopping 75% support in polling. 

These are just my initial thoughts as I continue to work my way through the 720 pages and as I await input from District 4 constituents and others to supplement the poll I commissioned during May 2023.  

 

More Info about STP and Ways to Provide Input:

  • For the main website for the Seattle Transportation Plan, go to SDOT’s online to read the full draft of the Seattle Transportation Plan and provide feedback to SDOT: CLICK HERE. You can also email your comments to: STP@Seattle.gov
  • To sign up to comment at our Transportation Committee on Tuesday, Sept 5, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. to provide feedback to City Councilmembers, CLICK HERE.
  • For SDOT’s blog post releasing the draft Seattle Transportation Plan, CLICK HERE.
  • To see the survey results from May 2023 that gauged public priorities for transportation in a statistically valid manner, CLICK HERE.
  • To review the 2022 survey report from the organization Commute Seattle, CLICK HERE.
  • To read the view of the Friends of the Market regarding the proposed 1st Avenue streetcar (a.k.a. Center City Connector a.k.a. Culture Connector), CLICK HERE. (For more on the streetcar, see other mentions in this newsletter or in my July 2023 newsletter.)
  • For our 2020 audit of Seattle’s bridges in the wake of the West Seattle Bridge closure, CLICK HERE.
  • For a popular and vital funding source ignored by the Seattle Transportation Plan, CLICK HERE for my blog post on Impact Fees.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Ways to Provide Input

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

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

 

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

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

 

Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

In-person office hours on most Friday afternoons are back to Magnuson Park’s Building 30 conference room at 6310 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115, just a couple of “blocks” into the park’s main entrance. You may continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE, so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Tiny Home Village Helping People Experiencing Homelessness in our District 4 Will Transform to More Permanent Low-Income Housing in Future

August 15th, 2023
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is f9c85020-e070-452b-a277-937b23f3d865.png
early aerial view sketch from Low Income Housing Institute

Here are updates on the new Tiny Home Village helping people experiencing homelessness in our District 4. Located in the heart of the U District at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE, Rosie’s Village has 35 temporary tiny homes in place for at least 2 1/2 years, thanks to the City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). The ultimate goal is to leverage the under-utilized, centrally located site near frequent transit to create up to 200, permanent low-income housing units in the future. These blog posts include updates from various sources including our City Council office’s e-newsletter.

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

Source: February 23, 2021 press release.

Want to help out at Rosie’s Village? 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 . Thank you!



August 15, 2023: Advancing Plans to Maximize Permanent Low-Income Housing by Leveraging Centrally Located Land Near Frequent Transit

I am eager to create additional permanent low-income housing in my district so that more people in need have a safe place to call home, including many who have been experiencing homelessness. By creatively optimizing our public infrastructure to reconfigure this public alley, we can enable the construction of many more units affordable to extremely low-income people at this centrally located intersection, where future residents can walk to jobs, education, health care, and, of course, public mass transit, including Sound Transit’s U District Station. After the space has served approximately 35 residents of a Tiny Home Village for several years, it should serve as a permanent home for dozens of additional low-income residents, including housing-ready individuals who have experienced homelessness (at 0% to 30% of the area median income). I’m grateful to have partners in Sound Transit and our City’s Office of Housing that understand it’s imperative to create as much housing as possible for extremely low-income people, so we can finally move beyond the homelessness crisis toward a more sustainable city for everyone.

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen
  • For the presentation by Sound Transit on August 15, 2023, CLICK HERE.
  • For Clerk File 314496, which allows for the reconfiguration of the public alley to maximize future low-income housing, CLICK HERE.

Winter Holiday UPDATE (November and December 2021): Houses, Pies, Hats, Hope

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

SEPTEMBER 28, 2021 UPDATE: Open House!

Here is our press release for the Open House:

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

Tiny House Village creates much needed shelter spaces in University District  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

See the Homes of our New Tiny Home Village!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


AUGUST 9, 2021 UPDATE:

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

Remarks during City Council meeting August 9, 2021:

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

Additional thoughts:

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

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


APRIL 2021 UPDATE (Community Online Meeting April 15):

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


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

Dear Community,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,  

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

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


FEBRUARY 2021 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

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

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


DECEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

Photo from nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute

Addressing Homelessness

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

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

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

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


NOVEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

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

OCTOBER 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

HOMELESSNESS INTERVENTION IN DISTRICT 4: WHAT DO YOU THINK?

aerial view sketch from Low Income Housing Institute

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

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

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


FEBRUARY 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

Transitional Encampments (Council Bill 119656):

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

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


FEBRUARY 18, 2020 POST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #


Summarizing July, Saving Luma, Saving $ on Your Water Bill

July 27th, 2023

Friends and Neighbors,

Let’s jump into our July newsletter where there’s something for everyone. Thank you for reading and caring!

  • District 4: Community Center Ribbon-Cutting in Magnuson Park; Save Luma the Cedar Tree in Wedgwood; Getting Your Goat; Exploring the Troll’s Knoll in East Fremont; and Traffic Challenges near Montlake Bridge.
  • Public Safety and Homelessness: Homicides Increased During First Half of 2023, National Night Out Block Parties; and City Attorney Leverages Her Office To Address Graffiti.
  • Taxes and Budgets: Support Gushing for City Hall to Stop Taxing Your Drinking Water; Asking for More Sidewalks Instead of Studies.
  • Land Use: For “Saving Luma” the Tree, see District 4 Updates; Seattle’s First Urban Forester Leadership Position Finally Open.
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: We Passed Our Legislation to Reduce Dangerous Street Racing; Transportation Equity Report; Getting More Sidewalks For Aurora Avenue North; and Seattle Receives Federal Funds to Support Internet for All.
  • Providing Input: It’s Been Raining Surveys in Seattle!

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


DISTRICT 4

“Welcome back to your Magnuson Park Community Center!”

Not trusting himself with sharp objects, Councilmember Alex Pedersen lends his ribbon-cutting scissors to the more able hands of the children. Our New Parks Superintendent AP Diaz is sporting the cool shades. Note that the size of Mayor Harrell’s big red scissors nearly match the size of his “One Seattle” biceps.

The big day finally arrived on July 6, 2023: the ribbon cutting symbolically reopened the Magnuson Park Community Center, after a COVID-delayed renovation that finally added community space, with more than $4 million in investments from the city, county, and State. I opened my remarks with, “Welcome back to your Magnuson Park Community Center!” I ended my remarks with, “Let’s promise to deliver the best and most affordable access to the low-income residents who call Magnuson Park home.”

 

Saving “Luma” the Cedar Tree: for Wedgwood, for Seattle

Councilmember Pedersen, during one of his visits in July to Luma the Cedar Tree. He finds it’s a good sign so many people want to save this tree and Seattle’s dwindling urban forest.

Background:  After local environmentalists at the site of Luma stopped the initial attempts by the developer to hire “tree service providers” (a.k.a. arborists) to chop down the massive exceptional tree, the Snoqualmie Tribe sent a letter, dated July 19, 2023, to city government officials:

We represent the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, a federally-recognized sovereign Indian tribe with inherent sovereign rights and reserved rights as a signatory to the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855. On behalf of the Tribe, we are writing to provide formal notice to the City of Seattle that the ’exceptional’ western red cedar located at 3849 NE 88th Street is a culturally modified tree (“CMT”) that delineated an ancient indigenous trail system connecting Puget Sound to Lake Washington, and an archaeological site subject to special protections under Washington State law. The Tribe has two specific asks in this letter. First, and most pressingly, we demand the City permanently withdraw or cancel development permit issued for the site that would allow this “exceptional” CMT to be felled as part of the proposed construction project by Legacy Capital. Second, we further demand consultation with the Tribe related to this CMT and the development of comprehensive measures to protect other CMTs within the City at the highest levels of City government…The focus of this letter is the “exceptional” CMT that is about to be felled on the City’s watch and because of the City’s negligence and incompetence...The Tribe is shocked that you informed us that the City lacks a review process or other means for the City to take action to protect the newly discovered and identified archaeological site and the CMT. The Tribe is also surprised to learn from the City that there was no process when the permit was issued in the first instance to conduct an environmental analysis which would have included a cultural resource review.

For the Snoqualmie Tribe’s entire July 19, 2023 letter urging City leaders to save this exceptional tree, CLICK HERE.

The crisis over Luma is more evidence of the weakness of the tree ordinance sent to the Council by the Mayor’s team and adopted by a majority of the City Council – legislation I voted against due to its shortcomings and failures to incorporate numerous meaningful recommendations by the Urban Forestry Commission.

For the July 20, 2023 response to the tribe from the Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), CLICK HERE. Rather than the Mayor’s Office working with their department to solve the problem, SDCI attempts to punt the problem to the State government, specifically to the State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). The letter from the SDCI Director states, “The City does not have the authority to withdraw or rescind the final approved permit.”

Supporters of “Luma” and trees throughout Seattle show up in force (again) at City Council, July 25, 2023.Thank you for showing up!

What or who will save the 200-year-old massive, magnificent cedar tree “Luma” from a chainsaw in Wedgwood?

  • Will our Mayor unleash his energy and creativity to brainstorm a One Seattle solution to save the “Luma” tree with his Seattle Department of Construction (SDCI), or will they continue to insist that their “hands are tied because we already issued the building permit”?
  • Will the Snoqualmie Tribe succeed in asserting their rights to protect this Culturally Modified Tree (CMT) — a category of archeological sites — which likely served as a tribal guidepost 200 years ago on a trail between Puget Sound to Lake Washington?
  • Will our State Legislators of the 46th Legislative District (Senator Valdez and/or Rep Farivar or Rep Pollet) prevail upon the State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), or will DAHP – with their own courage and expertise — deny the required State permit?
  • Will it be State Attorney General Bob Ferguson who will find another way to support the Snoqualmie Tribe by saving this cedar tree?
  • Will the property owner, real estate developer, and their contractor Bad Boyz (I’m not making that up) decide to do the right thing and simply redraw their lot boundary adjustment to make room for the tree when they build their housing?
  • Will the dozens of demonstrators continue to speak truth to power at City Hall (see photo above from July 25, 2023) and persuade politicians to take the action needed?
  • Will it be “Droplet,” the persistent person(s) bravely occupying the tree 24/7 for weeks (who has already helped to save the tree temporarily)?
  • Will it be our 2022 Tree Service Provider registration law, which requires public notice before any tree cutting can occur, thereby enabling environmentalists to continue convincing arborists to keep their chainsaws away as they already have with three generous arborists?
  • Will a City Councilmember who voted for the shaky new tree ordinance not only fix that legislation to protect tribal trees and require government-to-government consultation (with Indian tribes) in the future, but also save Luma the tree today?
  • Will someone on the competitive campaign trail conjure a creative solution and make it happen?

There’s more at stake than just this massive, magnificent cedar tree in Wedgwood. “Luma” has come to symbolize the importance of preserving Seattle’s dwindling tree canopy / urban forest.

To honor the pleas of the community, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and environmentalists, I believe our Seattle and State leaders must do everything we can to save this massive and magnificent cedar to prove that we appreciate the public health and environmental benefits of the urban forest — and to prove that we can build housing and save trees at the same time. As the City Councilmember representing this geographic area, I continue to reach out to other City of Seattle and State government officials, urging them to support the tribe and the hundreds of tree advocates striving to save these trees. I also stay in direct content with those at the Luma tree site to make sure I’m alerted if the developer’s chainsaws rev up.

 

U District/Wallingford:  Let Them Get Your Goat

Ever the fiscal watchdog, Councilmember Pedersen caught this grass-muncher taking an unauthorized break on the government’s dime on July 9, 2023. Instead of busting this Billy bovid, Councilmember Pedersen granted amnesty and declared, “Let them eat grass!”  To learn more about our creative and cost-effective method for removing weeds and preventing urban wildfires by tapping the insatiable appetites of goats, CLICK HERE for a 2022 Seattle Times article.

East Fremont: Explore the Enchantments of the Troll’s Knoll

On the western edge of our Council District #4 is the semi-secret oasis called the Troll’s Knoll forest trail. The Troll’s Knoll forest trail is on the eastside of the Aurora Bridge above N 36th Street, whereas the fancier Troll’s Knoll Park is on the westside with the famous Troll sculpture in the middle. Many thanks to the volunteers at Friends of the Troll’s Knoll as well as to our City government departments of transportation and parks for keeping this funky and fun area clean and beautiful. On Sunday, July 9, 2023, I encountered volunteer leader Leo on the forest side (District 4) cleaning the area. We observed many visitors to Seattle enjoying the adjacent Troll sculpture and this tranquil trail with trees that relax the roar of Highway 99 above.

“Pardon our Progress”: Frustrating Road Closures Enable Faster Work to Complete Projects

For Seattle residents who drive across “The Cut” on Montlake Blvd, this has been a frustrating time as the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) scheduled several temporary closures to accelerate their work on the various projects related to the western portion of State Route 520 (“the rest of the west”). While you can now see many new improvements, there will still be construction activities where Montlake Blvd meets Lake Washington Boulevard (southern side of 520), so drivers will probably want to use Boyer Ave E.

  • For more about the State Route 520 Portage Bay and Lid Projects, CLICK HERE.
  • For more about the temporary closure of a few key blocks of Lake Washington Blvd (between Montlake Blvd and 24th Ave), CLICK HERE.
  • To get email updates from WSDOT, CLICK HERE.

SAFETY AND HOMELESSNESS

Seattle Times headline: “Homicide counts are falling in U.S. cities. In Seattle? Not so much”

As reported in the Seattle Times on July 21, 2023, “Bucking a national decline in killings, the number of homicides in Seattle grew 7% in the first half of 2023, according to a report released Thursday by the Council on Criminal Justice.  On average, the number of homicides reported across 30 cities has dropped by 9.4% this year, compared with the first half of 2022. Seattle was one of 10 cities to report an increase, with a percent change greater than New York (4.9%).”

According to the online Crime Dashboard from our Seattle Police Department (SPD), homicides in Seattle are actually up 12% this year compared with the first six months of 2022. In Seattle, it appears there have been several drug-related shooting fatalities and an increase in unhoused victims.

This is another reason why the King County Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) needs to work faster to bring people inside. Our City government also has a responsibility to optimize the number of low-income housing units available through our Office of Housing (OH). OH routinely reports a vacancy rate of 5% (excluding units under construction), which is higher than the national average (ranging from 2% to 2.6%) for low-income, below-market housing. Improving from a 5% vacancy rate to a 2.5% vacancy rate could immediately make available approximately 350 vacant units from OH’s 14,000-unit portfolio.

I appreciate the hard work our SPD is doing, despite being under-staffed for both 9-1-1 response officers and detectives needed to find the people committing each homicide. At our most recent Public Safety Committee meeting, I asked SPD to get back to the City Council with an update on their shortage of detectives by comparing the number of detectives active in 2019 (pre-pandemic) to the number of detectives now, after the department lost 400 officers in the wake of the ill-conceived, unproductive “defund the police” movement of 2020-21.

 

“National Night Out” Block Parties for Community Safety

“Night Out” is a national event on Tuesday evening, August 1, 2023, for neighbors to enjoy time together on side streets in their community to connect and share food while heightening crime prevention awareness.  As I do every year, I’ll visit as many of these block parties as I can in our District 4 in Northeast Seattle.

  • To register your block for the event or to find an event near you for National Night Out, CLICK HERE.
  • For more immediate crime prevention needs, contact a Crime Prevention Coordinator by CLICKING HERE. My office worked hard to secure funding for two Crime Prevention Coordinators in North Seattle: Sarah and Katelyn are ready to meet with you to share crime prevention tips.

 

Graffiti Abatement Efforts by our City Attorney

I’m grateful to our City Attorney Ann Davison for appealing the decision of a district court judge so that we can better address graffiti throughout Seattle.  Our City Attorney’s appeal asks that the court ruling be overturned on the grounds that the Seattle graffiti ordinance is, in fact, constitutionally valid. Davison said, “The victims of graffiti – the public as a whole, business owners, property owners, and others – must have a voice. Graffiti is a crime that has an enormously negative and costly impact.”

Seattle Municipal Code 12A.08.020 A2 makes it a gross misdemeanor if a person “…(I)ntentionally writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person unless the person has obtained the express permission of the owner or operator of the property.”

For the City Attorney’s July 5, 2023 press release, CLICK HERE.

We look forward to the Mayor expanding the graffiti abatement efforts to neighborhoods in addition to downtown, and we urge the Governor and State legislature to provide the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) with more funds for graffiti abatement.

Many thanks to the City workers from Seattle Public Utilities and the teams hired by business improvement areas who get out there every day to clean up graffiti! More of that, please!

To report offensive graffiti, CLICK HERE or use the Find It, Fix It app.


TAXES AND BUDGETS

Support is Gushing in to Repeal Seattle’s Regressive Water Tax:

On July 22, 2023, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times wrote a thought-provoking column entitled, “Seattle speaks with poignancy and pain on rich-poor split.” He concluded with the following: “I think we can again be a city that works. More practical problem-solving and less ideological posing would help. More concern from Big Tech about its own impacts in all this is required. The bubbles and the wealth inequality are probably only going to grow with artificial intelligence. Mostly I thank everyone for telling their stories of how Seattle’s ground is shifting beneath their feet. It’s essential to the vital ongoing project of trying to settle it.”

I agree and I would add the following improvement: tax reform that frees everyone of regressive taxes. On June 7, 2023, I unveiled legislation that would – for the first time – eliminate a regressive Seattle tax:  repealing the tax on your drinking water.

The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) consistently ranks Washington State as one of the most unfair systems in the country, where lower income residents pay a much higher percentage of their household earnings for taxes and fees than wealthier residents. Nearly 60% of Seattle voters said their taxes are too high and nearly two-thirds said they don’t trust City Hall to spend their tax dollars responsibly, according to a survey conducted by EMC Research in April 2023.

Support for repealing the water tax has been flowing faster. Here are some key statements of support:

NEW: Derrick Belgarde, Executive Director of the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club said, “Seattle’s water utility tax places a disproportionate burden on low-income communities and our members. Repealing this regressive tax will allow more of our members’ income to be focused on their healing & recovery as they move forward on a journey to being healthy & housed in supportive environments. We must break down all barriers that create homelessness or housing instability without limiting our resources to address these crises in our urban Native Communities.

NEW: Shalimar Gonzales, CEO of the nonprofit Solid Ground said: “There are many barriers to ending poverty that we must break down together and that includes the repeal of regressive taxes and fees that burden lower income households. Consistent with our nonprofit’s mission, I support policymakers repealing Seattle’s utility tax on drinking water and believe replenishing that revenue with a local capital gains excise tax is a solid option.

 

NEW: Joe Thompson, Executive Director of Mercy Housing Northwest confirmed that their nonprofit endorses this effort: “Our affordable housing communities have been especially burdened by escalating costs for necessities like utilities. We support the effort toward a more fair and equitable approach through the repeal of this regressive tax on drinking water.”

 

NEW: Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) said, “The affordable apartment buildings and tiny homes that our nonprofit LIHI builds and manages for low-income people are currently burdened by the city’s water utility tax, so we support local leaders repealing that regressive cost as they seek to make Seattle’s tax system more fair.”

NEW: Marcia Wright-Soika, Executive Director of the nonprofit FamilyWorks, reported that her board approved the following statement of support: “The vast majority of families we serve every day through FamilyWorks’ food banks and resource centers are marginalized by economic injustice. We support efforts to bring relief to low-income families and neighbors by repealing regressive taxes, such as the tax on our drinking water. We hope policymakers center just and progressive revenue options as the pathway to make our city affordable and inclusive for all.”

Local small business owner, Molly Moon Neitzel of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream said, “As a small business owner who sees her employees struggling with regressive expenses, I support extending the progressive capital gains excise tax to Seattle to eliminate the city’s tax on everyone’s water bills. Councilmember Pedersen’s legislative proposal is an important part of the solution, as we work toward a more fair economic system.”

John Burbank, founder and retired Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute think tank, said, “Introducing a progressive tax to sunset a regressive tax on everyone is a welcome and elegant step forward in addressing economic inequities in Seattle. Lower income households that pay a greater proportion of their income for their utility bills, including many seniors on fixed incomes, will benefit from eliminating the water tax. I appreciate Councilmember Pedersen for swiftly recognizing this opportunity for greater fairness by leveraging the new State law to benefit the people of Seattle with meaningful tax reform.”

LINKS TO MORE INFO ON TAX REFORM:

MEDIA COVERAGE ON TAX REFORM:

  • For Councilmember Pedersen’s press release on June 7, 2023, CLICK HERE. To see the visuals from the press conference, CLICK HERE
  • To watch the June 7, 2023 press conference, CLICK HERE.
  • For the initial article by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
  • For the initial article by the Puget Sound Business Journal, June 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
  • For initial concerns raised by the Washington Policy Center, June 12, 2023, CLICK HERE.
  • To hear journalists discussing the proposal on KUOW‘s “Week in Review,” CLICK HERE and advance it to 9:30 minutes remaining in the 52-minute segment.
  • For KUOW‘s “Seattle Now” podcast “Rethinking Seattle’s regressive taxes,” CLICK HERE.

 

PLEDGE FOR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: To address concerns raised by several constituents:  If City Hall colleagues attempt to introduce new taxes without reducing regressive taxes — including the water utility tax — then I would oppose those one-sided efforts, because a fair and truly “progressive” system needs to remove harmful taxes that impact the lowest income households the most. Seattle is long overdue for real tax reform so that it’s more fair in Seattle.

 

CALL TO ACTION: You can write to your elected officials at City Hall and tell them to stop taxing your drinking water. You can send your email to:

Tell City Hall to Repeal your Water Tax

Sample message: Please stop taxing our drinking water! Completely remove the harmful and regressive 15.54% tax for everyone in Seattle. Progressive reform means ending regressive taxes, too. Support Alex Pedersen’s legislation Council Bill 120602 this year! More information on his website: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/time-for-tax-fairness-in-seattle/  Thank you.

Mid-Year Budget Boondoggle?  Let’s Prioritize Safety Over the “Downtown Disruptor” / “Mobile Money Pit” of the Center City / Cultural Connector Streetcar

Back in November 2022, the Council approved the budgets for this current calendar year of 2023. While our City Budget Office (CBO) is not typically a fan of the City Council proposing changes to their budgets, the CBO sent to the Council more than 150 changes and updates to the existing citywide 2023 budget, several of which are necessary technical updates — while some impact policy.

Here are my prepared remarks from the Finance Committee on July 19, 2023, which highlight my concerns if City Hall tries to spend $1 million on another study for a downtown streetcar:

“Thank you, Chair. Many thanks to our City Council Central Staff — they shine with their analysis all year round and especially during the review of all things budget. I appreciate their analysis pointing out that the ‘deficit’ is only for General Fund and it’s not actually a deficit for the City’s overall budget.

“In reviewing the more than 150 requested changes in this mid-year budget supplemental, I realize there’s a lot of work that’s been done by our City Budget Office and the various departments. I also support nearly all of the proposals for the Downtown Activation Plan and I support expansion of graffiti abatement.

“There is, however, at least one requested change in the approved budget that stands out like a sore budget thumb: Item 7.6 is a proposal from the Executive to spend ONE MILLION DOLLARS to study the expensive First Avenue streetcar proposal, aka the Center City Connector, which has been re-branded as ‘the Cultural Connector.’ As I’ve highlighted previously, I’m concerned that the Center City Connector streetcar proposal is becoming a mobile money pit, because it would cost more to build than originally budgeted, it would cost more to operate than anticipated, and now it continues to cost us money to study it again.

“When people who want to get from Point A to Point B on that single downtown arterial can already use a bus, light rail, or several other means of travel — and when we have so many other transportation needs across the city, including safety projects such as Vision Zero to protect pedestrians — I don’t understand why we would spend another dime to study how to tear up that vital street for two years; the project would end up being a Downtown Disruptor. This item 7.6 is requesting over a million dollars for a study. This would be spending more money to study a project that’s been investigated by the federal government and is nearly $100 million short of meeting its funding goals. Even if City Hall were to convince other levels of government that this single streetcar on a single arterial is a top transportation priority, this expensive, redundant project would tear up that key downtown street for 2 years — that’s not downtown recovery, it’s downtown disruption. Put simply, I don’t think it’s the best use of a million dollars when we have so many urgent transportation safety needs for the City.

“Let’s employ our own critical thinking here and our City Charter authority to amend the budget, by amending and redirecting these funds to more pressing transportation safety priorities, such as keeping more pedestrians safe in Seattle. I look forward to collaboration with anyone else interested in such an amendment to redeploy these dollars toward pedestrian safety.”

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Call to Action: You can ask your City leaders to fix this: Instead of spending another $1 million to study the expensive downtown streetcar, please redirect the funds so that we have more money for sidewalks, crosswalks, and other pedestrian safety measures. Please support the Pedersen-Herbold budget amendment to improve Council Bill 120618. Thank you! You can reach all 9 Councilmembers with this email address: Council@seattle.gov

Redirect Funds to Safety Projects

    • For the mid-year budget supplemental proposal from the Harrell Administration, CLICK HERE for Council Bill 120618. For the more than 150 line items of the 55-page Attachment A, CLICK HERE.
    • For a Seattle Times history of the Seattle streetcars (updated in 2019), CLICK HERE.

     

    MORE ON TAXES AND BUDGETS:

    In case you missed my review of revenues and expenses for City government from May 2023, CLICK HERE.


    LAND USE / ZONING / TREES

    Save Luma the Large Cedar in Wedgwood and More Trees Throughout Seattle:

    Please see our discussion above in the District 4 section of this newsletter.

    More next month about ways we can improve our city laws protecting trees.

    For more on my website, CLICK HERE.

     

    Arborist Leaders:  Apply for Urban Forester Position in Seattle!

    We worked hard to create a citywide Urban Forester Leader. Applications for the position are due August 8, 2023. If you know an arborist who has strategic experience, CLICK HERE for the posting.


    TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

    To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November.

    City Council Passed Our Legislation to Curb Dangerous Drag Racing

    Thanks to everyone who showed up to City Hall or contacted our offices to support our legislation. Here is our press release from July 25, 2023:

     

    Seattle City Council passes transportation safety legislation that discourages dangerous drag racing with automated enforcement

    SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council 8 to 1 passed legislation today to reduce drag racing and dangerous driving. The ordinance, sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle and South Park) and Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle), kickstarts the city’s plans to install speed enforcement cameras in key areas of the city that are heavily impacted by unsafe driving.

    “Our community has been pleading for help for years to stop drag racing. This month’s crash on Alki Avenue Southwest shows just how dangerous conditions have become,” said Councilmember Herbold, who chairs the Public Safety Committee. “I’m proud to have partnered with neighbors and pass this first-of-its kind legislation to make our streets safer.”

    “Automated cameras are an effective enforcement elixir that discourage reckless driving, increase pedestrian safety, and increase efficiency by reducing time-consuming interactions between drivers and our understaffed police department,” said Councilmember Pedersen who chairs the Transportation Committee. “This technology is another tool in our tool belt to reduce collisions and save lives on some of our city’s most dangerous roadways.”

    Anna Zivarts, a Seattle Public Schools parent said, “We have to stop prioritizing the speed of cars over safety and accessibility, especially the safety of students, seniors, people with disabilities and people who can’t afford to drive, and so I’m grateful that City Council has taken action.”

    New Restricted Racing Zones

    This is the first legislation of its kind in Seattle. Washington State authorized cities to use automated camera enforcement in restricted racing zones last year. This legislation designates 10 of those dangerous zones throughout the city. The zones include:

    1. Alki Ave SW between 63rd Ave SW and Harbor Ave. SW.
    2. Harbor Ave SW between Alki Ave. SW and SW Spokane St.
    3. West Marginal Way SW between SW Spokane St and 2nd Ave SW.
    4. Sand Point Way NE between 38th Ave NE and NE 95th St.
    5. NE 65th St between Sand Point Way NE and Magnuson Park.
    6. Roadways inside Magnuson Park including, but not limited to, NE 65th St and Lake Shore Dr NE.
    7. Seaview Ave NW between Golden Gardens Park and 34th Ave NW.
    8. 3rd Ave NW between Leary Way NW and N 145th St.
    9. Martin Luther King Jr Way S between S Massachusetts St and S Henderson St.
    10. Rainier Ave S from S Jackson St south to the city limits.

    (Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted No and stated her reasons at the City Council meeting on July 25, 2023.)

    What’s next?

    The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is in the process of completing the equity analysis as required by the State law prior to installing the enforcement cameras. The Council anticipates the Mayor’s Office will propose additional implementation details in the coming weeks, which should include collaboration between SDOT and our Seattle Police Department.

    # # #

    While some have raised concerns about the ability of the reckless drivers to pay for the traffic tickets if they have relatively low incomes, I believe it’s important that our concern for the victims of the collisions that we are striving to prevent take precedence over the reckless drivers.

    For those who may still have concerns, it is possible that the first speeding offense could be treated as a warning for a mistake, with fines being issued for the second offense which would be more clearly considered reckless.

    Increasing the use of automated enforcement is consistent with my proposal that City Hall adopted last year to double the number of speed cameras in school zones to reduce speeding to protect vulnerable pedestrians. For more benefits of speed enforcement, CLICK HERE for this video column.

    Next Steps:

    _ Adopt the companion legislation, Council Bill 120625, which will set the fines.

    _Urge the leaders of SDOT and SPD to install the cameras as soon as possible: Greg.Spotts@seattle.gov and Adrian.Diaz@seattle.gov

     

    Transportation Equity Report:

    At our Transportation Committee on July 18, 2023, SDOT presented their transportation equity report (CLICK HERE).

     

    Getting More Sidewalks to Aurora Ave North

    At a regional transportation meeting in North Seattle, both King County Metro (buses) and our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented next steps to improve pedestrian safety and transit along Aurora Avenue North: CLICK HERE. Currently there are at least 30 blocks on Aurora Avenue North without sidewalks! I’d like to redirect some money away from another consultant study for the downtown streetcar to install more sidewalks (see discussion on the mid-year supplemental budget).

    Seattle Receives Federal Funds to Support Internet for All

    On July 27, 2020 — exactly three years ago — Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31956 to establish the path for ALL Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is both reliable and affordable: “Internet for All Seattle.”

    Everyone needs access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet for education, jobs, housing opportunities, and even medical care. As required by our resolution, Seattle’s Information Technology Department (ITD) unveiled a citywide Internet for All Action Plan.

    On July 12, 2023, ITD announced that the City received $393,200 to help connect Seattle residents to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet. The funding stems from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program.

    High-speed internet is essential for Seattle residents live, work, and learn,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Improving digital equity is an issue that has been critical to our communities for decades, which is why we’ve championed solutions to close the gap and support those in need. Thanks to federal support and strong local partnerships we are continuing to make great strides in connecting communities who have historically been left behind.

    I also appreciate the leadership of citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson, who oversees ITD in her Economic Development Committee.

    The City’s Digital Equity Program will coordinate outreach efforts by partnering with community-based organizations with Spanish, Vietnamese, and Mandarin language and cultural expertise. Enrollment clinics will be set up in Seattle neighborhoods later this year to make access to this program more widely available. Local partners will include Seattle Housing Authority, the Chinese Information and Service Center, Urban League, and Villa Comunitaria.

    Enrollment in the ACP is now open for households with at least one member qualifying under any of the following criteria:

    • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
    • Participates in specific assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline.
    • Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
    • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision.
    • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
    • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income program.

    To learn more about the ACP and apply, CLICK HERE.

    To explore the City of Seattle’s low-cost home internet options, CLICK HERE.


    WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Ways to Provide Input

    ICYMI:  In case you missed it from last month’s newsletter:

    What Seattle Thinks: A Steady Stream of Statistically Supported Surveys

    Thankfully, it’s been raining surveys in Seattle! To see what Seattle thinks, put away Twitter and TikTok and look at the professionally conducted, statistically valid surveys recently completed. All of these surveys are subject to a relatively small margin of error of less than 5 points (plus or minus).

    _ Here are some key findings from the June 2023 survey of “Seattle residents” commissioned by the Seattle Times:

    • SAFETY: Only 8% believe crime in their neighborhood has decreased. One-third of Seattle residents believe the amount of crime in their neighborhood has increased. Seattle residents identified drug use and gun violence as their “biggest public safety concerns” in Seattle. (CLICK HERE).
    • DRUGS: Nearly 60% “say they support police making arrests for the public use of illegal drugs” (CLICK HERE). (We found identical results in the survey my office commissioned in May 2023; see question 16.)
    • TAXES: 54% support a capital gains excise tax that mirrors the recently upheld State law (even without repealing other taxes) (CLICK HERE). (We would expect even more support if the survey had mentioned the corresponding repeal of City Hall’s tax on your drinking water, which is the essence of my legislative proposal from June 7, 2023.)
    • POLITICIANS: Only 34% of residents support “City Council” as an organization (CLICK HERE). (Note: a separate poll in December 2022 showed a wide range of favorability rankings for each individual Councilmember — with Alex Pedersen earning 59% support.)

    _ To review the June 2023 survey of registered voters (and who confirmed they are likely to vote in November 2023) commissioned by the Downtown Seattle Association, CLICK HERE. For a podcast interviewing the EMC Research pollster about this survey, CLICK HERE.

    • Key Finding: 73% say they are visiting Seattle’s downtown less often with their top reason being crime/safety concerns.

    _ To review the May 2023 survey of Seattle adults commissioned by my office, CLICK HERE. For my analysis of those survey results from last month’s newsletter, CLICK HERE.

    • Key Findings: 75% support transportation impact fees. 73% want Seattle bridges fixed now. The top 3 transportation priorities are (1) repave roads, (2) support public transit, and (3) fix bridges.

    _ To review the April 2023 survey of registered Seattle voters (“The Index”) commissioned by the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, CLICK HERE.

    • Key Finding: 65% don’t trust the Seattle city government to spend their tax dollars responsibly.

     

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

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

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

     

    City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

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

     

    Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

    In-person office hours on most Friday afternoons are back to Magnuson Park’s Building 30 conference room at 6310 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115, just a couple of “blocks” into the park’s main entrance. You may continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE, so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

    With gratitude,

     

     

     

    Councilmember Alex Pedersen
    Seattle City Council, District 4
    Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
    Phone: (206) 684-8804
    Find It, Fix It


    June Updates – Urging City Hall to Stop Taxing Your Drinking Water 💸

    June 29th, 2023

    Friends and Neighbors,

    As we enter the warmer summer months, I answer questions on hot local government issues for the Seattle Channel – including why it’s time for City Hall to stop taxing your drinking water. That and much more in our June newsletter!

    Seattle Channel Interviews Alex Pedersen

    Seattle Channel journalist Brian Callanan asked me to provide insights on a wide range of policy questions, including public safety, progressive tax reform, environmental protections, transportation projects, and more. Seattle Channel is a publicly funded media operation located at City Hall. We rely on the award-winning Seattle Channel to provide full coverage of City Council meetings, mayoral press conferences, educational programming, and the occasional grilling of local government officials.

    To watch the 26-minute interview, CLICK HERE. (Note: the interview was recorded Friday, June 16, 2023 and published online Tuesday, June 20, 2023.)

    NEWSLETTER CONTENTS:

    • District 4: Summer events for Northeast Seattle Seniors; Bryant Elementary at City Hall; Laurelhurst Annual Meeting; Ravenna-Cowen Historic Structures; Fremont Solstice; Public Policy Progress at UW; 11th & 12th Ave Project Input; Wedgwood Arts.
    • Public Safety and Homelessness: One Vote Short to Curb Illegal Drugs in Seattle; Graffiti Damage, Tent City 3 Relocates; Amend Legislation to Protect Pets.
    • Taxes and Budgets: Tax Reform Needed for Fairness — Tell City Hall to Stop Taxing Your Drinking Water.
    • Land Use: updates on home-based business regulations and design review public input legislation.
    • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: Let’s Reduce Dangerous Street Racing; Adjusting to Transit Changes; Water Quality Breakthrough in Wallingford.
    • Providing Input: It’s Been Raining Surveys in Seattle!

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


    DISTRICT 4

    Councilmember Alex Pedersen and Emily Jones, the Executive Director of NEST, across from the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church for a summer concert for Northeast Seattle seniors, June 22, 2023.

    On June 22, 2023, I joined dozens of Northeast Seattle seniors invited by the nonprofit NEST to hear classical music on wheels: The Concert Truck, hosted by the Seattle Chamber Music Society and Wedgwood Presbyterian Church.

    A nonprofit organization founded in 2009, the vision of NEST is “To build and sustain a northeast Seattle community where neighbors engage with and support one another through the transitions of aging.” How do they accomplish this? “By providing a strong support network through volunteers and trusted business referrals, older residents can stay in the homes of their choosing and stay engaged in the neighborhoods they love, for as long as possible.”

     

    Bryant Elementary School Explores Their City Hall

    Councilmember Alex Pedersen appears before one of his toughest audiences: the kindergartners of Bryant Elementary visited their City Hall on June 26, 2023 to ask questions of their elected officials.  Organized by their thoughtful teachers and parents, many of the children from District 4 were sporting green shirts to support our Emerald City. These future city leaders enjoyed exploring City Hall’s famous “blue bridge” and succeeded in staying awake during a very dry committee meeting. Councilmember Pedersen did his best to explain the various responsibilities of a nation founded on the principle of self-government without a monarch — and why there’s grass on City Hall’s roof.


    Laurelhurst Annual Meeting:  Safety First

    Chief of Police Adrian Diaz spoke at the annual Laurelhurst community meeting along with Councilmember Alex Pedersen at the community center on June 5, 2023. They each provided updates to neighborhood residents whose questions focused on public safety and homelessness, the two top concerns of most Seattle residents as confirmed by recent citywide polls. 


    Ravenna-Cowen Historic District Walking Tour

    Councilmember Alex Pedersen joined dozens of historic preservationists of all ages during the June 24, 2023 walking tour that featured historic structures within the Ravenna-Cowen National Historic District. For future walking tours, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

    Public Policy Experts Blossoming in District 4

    Did you know that our City Council District #4 produces the most public policy graduates in Seattle? That’s because we’re home to the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, named after the former Governor and U.S. Senator Daniel J. Evans (who remains among our most famous D4 residents).

    On June 7, 2023, I attended their master’s degree ceremony with my staff, where King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay eloquently delivered the keynote speech with an important final lesson for this year’s highly acclaimed graduates (including Gabby Lacson): Progress moves at the speed of professional relationships. In other words, it’s not just the brilliant ideas or perfect PowerPoints (or, in my case, spreadsheets and long-winded blog posts) that accomplish good things. Progress requires earning the trust and respect of your colleagues and addressing the valid concerns their constituents might have about new proposals. Godspeed graduates and thank you for choosing public policy to forge your future!

     

    11th Ave NE and 12th Ave NE “Safety Project” from SDOT

    I attended two of the community meetings in District 4 where SDOT explained their plans to repave approximately 20 blocks of 11th Avenue NE (which becomes 12th Avenue NE) between the U District and Roosevelt light rail stations. As is typical and prudent, SDOT leverages the opportunity of a street paving to do other work which, in this case, is installing a northbound bike lane to complement the southbound bike lane on Roosevelt Way. (This would be in addition to the existing bike lanes in both directions for much of 15th Ave NE.) The meeting with the largest attendance occurred on June 13, 2023 when several residents raised concerns about the loss of street parking (see the red stripes on the map above), including families with small children, senior citizens, and a veterinarian’s office whose customers typically require a vehicle to travel with their sick pets.

    For historical context, SDOT reminded everyone that this 11th Ave/12th Ave NE bike lane was on the original 2014 Bicycle Master Plan network map (though 15th Ave NE was not).  In addition, this northbound bike lane was in the original design for the “Rapid Ride” J Line project that was supposed to stretch to the new Roosevelt light rail station before it was cut short to the U District due, in part, to King County re-focusing its limited transit funds on equity areas in South King County. Regardless, it would be ideal if SDOT incorporates reasonable input of impacted neighbors and businesses to make modest adjustments so that most people are happier with the project and safety is increased when compared to the current situation. SDOT is already considering moving the bike lane as proposed on the west side of the avenue to the east side of the avenue to reduce conflicts and optimize safety. Coincidentally, some of the parking spaces might be retained by this change.

    Timing: SDOT expects a revised design that quickly incorporates much of the community input before the end of summer.

    For more about the project, CLICK HERE to visit SDOT’s project website and to sign up for updates. You can provide input to SDOT by emailing: dot_11th22thpaving@seattle.gov

    EASTLAKE AVENUE: And now for my “broken record” gripe about SDOT’s plans for Eastlake Avenue:  With the 11th/12th Ave NE project, street parking will at least stay on one side of the street and, ideally, SDOT designers will retain more parking near impacted small businesses. SDOT – and the Mayor’s Office — will be confronting much bigger community challenges, however, with their bike lane plan (embedded into a rapid ride bus project called the “J Line”) to remove ALL parking on BOTH sides of Eastlake Avenue for nearly two miles from the University Bridge to the Fairview Bridge. SDOT is plowing ahead with that disruptive project despite my concerns: it’s an inequitable use of taxpayer funds which are needed more in south Seattle and south King County, it removes bus stops impacting residents of Eastlake with mobility challenges, there’s already a #70 bus (which will be eliminated), and the vast majority of small businesses and most people who actually reside in Eastlake oppose that project. To learn more about the Eastlake Avenue project, CLICK HERE.

     

    Wedgwood Arts Festival

    Visit the annual Wedgwood Art Festival July 8 and 9. The art festival is held on the playground of Our Lady of the Lake Parish School at the cross streets of 38th Ave NE and NE 89th St. For more information on the festival, CLICK HERE.


    Freewheeling at the Fremont Solstice Parade

    Seattle’s District 4 extends to the eastside of the Aurora Bridge (Highway 99), so we benefited from the end point of the Fremont Solstice Parade where colorful cyclists displayed it all near Fremont Brewery on June 17, 2023. It was uplifting to see so many smiling faces enjoying the outdoors together. Even though Councilmember Pedersen rode his bike along the Burke-Gilman trail to reach the Fremont Solstice Parade, he claims to have been properly clothed.

    Fremont Troll or Mt. Crushmore?

    caricature courtesy of The Stranger blog – and presumably Photoshop.

    I want to thank The Stranger for picking a photo when I was having a good hair day and for making my shoulders look so strong!  (Fact Check: only half of the Fremont Troll is located in District 4.) Seriously, though, tax reform is an important issue, so I appreciate the time they spent trying to communicate the topic, even though there are differences of opinion.


    SAFETY AND HOMELESSNESS

    Just 1 More Vote Needed: Illegal Drug Use and Next Steps

    Just one more vote: that’s all that’s technically needed to adopt the State law here in Seattle regarding illegal drug use and possession.

    As many of you saw from media reports, both Councilmember Sara Nelson and I sponsored Council Bill 120586 for our City Attorney, which would have simply adopted in Seattle our State government’s updated law against illegal use and possession of harmful drugs. While several of our colleagues said they were waiting for that decisive action from the State to avoid a patchwork of enforcement across the region, a majority of City Councilmembers nevertheless rejected incorporation of the State law on June 6 with a close 5 to 4 vote. The councilmembers voting to adopt the state law were Juarez, Nelson, Pedersen (me), and Strauss, while councilmembers voting against the ordinance were Herbold, Lewis, Morales, Mosqueda, and Sawant.

    Failing to adopt the State law regarding drug misdemeanors in Seattle makes us an outlier (again) and means our City Attorney cannot take such drug cases to court. This comes after our King County Prosecutor already made it clear multiple times that she would not take such misdemeanor drug cases since King County focuses on felonies instead. Oregon recently experienced worse urban problems when trying to decriminalize drug possession. See the two April 13, 2023 articles from The Economist magazine by CLICKING HERE and HERE.

    To overcome this impasse, Mayor Harrell convened various groups on June 12 in hopes of finding additional common ground. In his prepared remarks the mayor said, “We are committed to addressing the deadly public health crisis playing out on our streets, holding dealers accountable for trafficking illegal drugs harming our communities, and advancing innovative health strategies to help those struggling with substance use disorder. There is a time for appropriate constitutional arrests when people are posing a threat to others; however, when people are a threat only to themselves, they need compassionate treatment. Updating the Seattle Municipal Code to align with recently passed state law makes sense, as does demonstrating how this additional tool will be applied and how it fits in the broader spectrum of treatment and diversion options.” 

    While we wait for additional Councilmembers to vote YES, Seattle is unable to prosecute illegal drug usage in public places and use that as a tool to get more people into treatment and services. I look forward to colleagues allowing for a re-vote as soon as possible to enable Seattle to incorporate the State law into our comprehensive approach to public safety and health.

    MORE INFO:

    • For the Mayor’s June 12, 2023 press release, CLICK HERE.
    • For Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order on fentanyl and initial pieces of his “downtown activation plan” from April 17, 2023, CLICK HERE.
    • For the press release from City Attorney Davison and Councilmembers Nelson and Pedersen from May 16, 2023, CLICK HERE.
    • For a letter of support from the business community May 11, 2023, CLICK HERE.
    • For the 3-page piece of legislation for Seattle (Council Bill 120586), which simply adopts the State version, CLICK HERE.
    • For Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat’s June 21, 2023 column, “Now can we act? WA’s overdose deaths are fastest rising in the nation,” CLICK HERE. For his April 12, 2023 analysis of Bellingham’s tougher actions, CLICK HERE. For his December 3, 2022 column “Between prison and pamphlets: WA looks for an answer to the drug crisis,” CLICK HERE.

     

    Graffiti in Seattle: What the Fubar Happened?

    image from Wikipedia, not graffiti on a wall in Seattle.

    Many people couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw yet another questionable decision from a Seattle-based government official that seemed to legalize more blight and debase the quality of life in our region.

    As initially reported in the Seattle Times on June 14, 2023, “Seattle police have been barred — at least temporarily — from making graffiti-related arrests after a federal judge issued an injunction on the city’s contested property damage law late Tuesday.”

    Huh?  The article continues: “U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman’s order prohibits arrests under the city’s existing law, which four plaintiffs claim violated their First and 14th amendment rights, among other claims, ‘by being both vague and overbroad.’”

    Thankfully, after a joint request from the City Attorney AND the plaintiffs, the judge quickly narrowed her ruling, as reported in the Seattle Times on June 15, 2023: “After confusion around the breadth of an injunction barring Seattle police from making graffiti arrests, a judge has now clarified that other categories of the city’s property destruction law can be enforced.”

    For the Seattle Times article “Judge clarifies graffiti injunction, allows Seattle to make certain arrests,” CLICK HERE.

    We look forward to the Mayor’s Office working with the City Attorney’s Office to revise our local ordinance, as needed, so that damaging or blighting graffiti (that is not considered protected “speech”) can be prevented and the law enforced appropriately. We also look forward to the Mayor’s Office coordinating the various City departments to continue to clean up graffiti and ask that these efforts extend to all neighborhoods in addition to Seattle’s downtown.

     

    Tent City 3 Relocates from Bryant/Wedgwood to Capitol Hill

    As scheduled, the group of people experiencing homelessness that calls itself “Tent City 3” found a new location after its 3-month stay at the Unitarian Church on 35th Avenue NE in the Bryant/Wedgwood area across from the NE Seattle Library. A few months ago, I visited Tent City 3 residents during their 90-day stay adjacent to Husky Stadium (also in District 4), I met with the leaders of their previous host in the U District, and I attended the public input meeting at the Unitarian Church.  For more information about the Unitarian Church’s efforts on 35th Ave NE, CLICK HERE. For my previous blog post on this issue of Tent City 3, CLICK HERE

     

    Should the organizations that receive tax dollars to provide low-income housing be required to fill some of their available vacant units with people experiencing homelessness?

    The professional survey that I commissioned in May 2023 asked 1,000 Seattle residents, “Should the organizations that receive tax dollars to provide low-income housing be required to fill some of their available vacant units with people experiencing homelessness?” A whopping 68% said YES. It would seem that the hundreds of vacant units within the 15,000-unit portfolio of the City’s Office of Housing could have been used to house every individual from Tent City 3. Unfortunately, the existing contracts between the city government and the organizations providing housing subsidized by the city do not require them to prioritize housing-ready individuals like those living outside at Tent City 3. Moreover, the funding provided to Tent City 3 apparently does not require it to provide case management or track the number of people exiting to permanent housing. To rectify these dual shortcomings, I believe there should be (1) a stronger link between Seattle’s Office of Housing and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to prioritize housing-ready individuals experiencing homelessness so that all units are occupied and (2) stronger incentives for groups providing shelter to track data and encourage those living outside to move inside.

     

    MORE ON SAFETY AND HOMELESSNESS

    In case you missed my analysis of 9-1-1 response times, police recruitment, and the revised 5-year plan from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority from May 2023, CLICK HERE.

     

    IF OUR PETS COULD AMEND LEGISLATION: Council Bill 120580 Should Exempt In-Home Services Such as Pet Care

    If our pets could write new laws, they would probably make sure they’re protected. Currently there is a well-intentioned proposal (Council Bill 120580) to limit when and how app-based companies can “deactivate” the independent contractors who use their technology to engage with customers. Essentially the legislation aims to prevent tech companies from “unfairly” pausing or removing the independent workers from the tech platforms, such as the applications you may use on your cell phone to request services / deliveries. As currently written, this new regulation would include companies based in Seattle, such as Rover, that provide not only jobs and tax revenue for our city, but also connect pet sitters/walkers with pet owners.

    Many pet owners wrote to City Council asking us to exempt pet care companies.  Councilmember Sara Nelson crafted Amendment 5a to exempt “marketplace network companies” (such as Rover) to be consistent with recent wage and sick leave regulations. But, unfortunately, her prudent amendment failed by a committee vote of 2 to 3. (Councilmember Nelson and I wanted to exempt companies like Rover, but Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis, and Mosqueda voted against it.) The same negative result defeated my amendment 5b, which would have exempted just pet care companies.  

    I am grateful to committee colleagues who voted on June 27 in favor of my Amendment 2c. That successful amendment expands the legislation’s definition of “egregious misconduct” by adding actions or behavior that could endanger the physical safety of an animal. But pet care service operations and other in-home services are still not sufficiently protected from privacy or safety concerns because they are still included in this legislation limiting deactivations.

    Only about half of the amendments brought forth to the June 27 Public Safety and Human Services Committee were voted on. The committee will deliberate and vote on the remaining amendments and underlying legislation in mid-July 2023.

    CALL TO ACTION: You can share your concerns by emailing City Council at Council@seattle.gov and the Mayor’s Office (Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov and Greg.Wong@seattle.gov), and urge them: “To be consistent with existing wage regulations and to protect vulnerable customers and pets, amend the proposed app-based “deactivation” regulations of Council Bill 120580 by exempting marketplace network companies including in-home and pet care services!”  Feel free to include a picture of your pet as well!

    MORE INFO:

    • To review the draft legislation of Council Bill 120580 and proposed amendments, CLICK HERE.
    • To watch the June 27, 2023 Public Safety and Human Services Committee and discussion of Council Bill 120580, CLICK HERE [timestamp 1:12:23].
    • For the memo from our City Council Central Staff that identifies issues with the proposal, CLICK HERE and, for their May 23, 2023 presentation, CLICK HERE.
    • If you don’t have a pet yet, consider “Kafka” (the doggie in the photo above) as well other dogs, cats, rabbits, and other cute creatures from our Seattle Animal Shelter.


    TAXES AND BUDGETS

    Time to End the Regressive Tax on Your Water: Time for Tax Fairness

    On June 7, 2023, Councilmember Pedersen unveiled his legislation which would – for the first time – eliminate a regressive tax in Seattle by repealing the tax on your drinking water.

    On June 7, 2023, I announced my legislation which would – for the first time – eliminate a regressive tax in Seattle by repealing the tax on your drinking water. To replenish the lost revenue in a fiscally responsible manner, he introduced companion legislation that would add a local 2% to the State’s capital gains tax in Seattle. The Seattle Times then asked residents from June 12 through 16, 2023 for their opinion on just the capital gains excise tax and 54% supported it. Because that poll did not also gauge support for corking the drinking water tax, we predict a gushing of support for our revenue-neutral proposal because people are thirsting for more fairness, rather than just a flood of new taxes.

    CALL TO ACTION: You can write to your elected officials at City Hall and tell them to stop taxing your drinking water. Send your email to:

    Council@seattle.gov

    Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov

    Julie.Dingley@seattle.gov

    Marco.Lowe@seattle.gov


    Message: Please stop taxing our drinking water! Completely remove the harmful and regressive 15.54% tax for everyone in Seattle. Support Alex Pedersen’s legislation Council Bill 120602 this year! More information on his website: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/time-for-tax-fairness-in-seattle/  Thank you.

    To learn more about this effort, here is our detailed press release from June 7, 2023 announcing our legislation to repeal the tax on your drinking water – the first time Seattle would proactively eliminate a regressive tax. Unfortunately, the media headlines focused on the other part of the equation: 2% capital gains excise tax that would be used to replenish the lost revenue in a fiscally responsible manner. As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, I’m also working on a proposal that could reduce property taxes used to pay for transportation infrastructure. It’s all part of trying to achieve real tax reform, so that it’s more fair in Seattle.

     


    Councilmember Pedersen launches bold tax reform to make the system more fair for Seattle

    Pedersen’s fiscally responsible tax reform legislation would, for the first time, eliminate a regressive tax for everyone and offset that water tax revenue with a local 2% capital gains excise tax.

    SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle) announced today a bold tax reform to make our system more fair for Seattle with legislation eliminating a regressive water tax for everyone and replacing it with a 2% local expansion of the State’s new progressive tax on high-end capital gains.

    “Everyone knows the people of Seattle have suffered too long from one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation,” said Councilmember Pedersen, chair of City Council’s Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee. “Because tax reform for tax fairness is overdue in Seattle, I am introducing legislation to eliminate our regressive and arbitrary tax on everyone’s drinking water and replacing it with a reasonable 2% capital gains excise tax on large, non-retirement financial gains to match the new State law. The top 1% can afford to pay this 2%. Adopting a more fair and progressive capital gains tax would ensure no one has to pay taxes for their drinking water in Seattle, making this the first time City Hall has proactively eliminated a regressive tax.

    Matching the new State law, this local tax would apply to only a very small number who gain more than $250,000 in a single year from the sale of assets, such as stocks or bonds, and it would exempt retirement savings and real estate transactions. Using zip code-level information gathered for the state-level capital gains excise tax, a local 2% could generate approximately $50 million annually, which would offset the amount City Hall’s General Fund takes from your water bills each year, so that this tax reform is essentially revenue-neutral. 

    The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) consistently ranks Washington State as one of the most unfair systems in the country, where lower income residents pay a much higher percentage of their household earnings for taxes and fees than wealthier residents.

    Pedersen’s plan for Seattle tax reform would utilize the revenue from the capital gains tax to eliminate one of our most regressive forms of taxation: the utility tax on water. As our system currently stands, households and businesses are not only charged for the cost of the water from Seattle Public Utilities, but also taxed on that same water by City Hall at an arbitrary rate of 15.54%. The revenue from the regressive water tax flows into the city government’s General Fund, which supports various City-funded operations. 

    For a typical household in Seattle, eliminating the water tax is likely to save at least $100 per year.

    Local small business owner, Molly Moon Neitzel of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream said,

    As a small business owner who sees her employees struggling with regressive expenses, I support extending the progressive capital gains excise tax to Seattle to eliminate the city’s tax on everyone’s water bills. Councilmember Pedersen’s legislative proposal is an important part of the solution, as we work toward a more fair economic system.”

    John Burbank, founder and retired Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute think tank, said,

    Introducing a progressive tax to sunset a regressive tax on everyone is a welcome and elegant step forward in addressing economic inequities in Seattle. Lower income households that pay a greater proportion of their income for their utility bills, including many seniors on fixed incomes, will benefit from eliminating the water tax. I appreciate Councilmember Pedersen for swiftly recognizing this opportunity for greater fairness by leveraging the new State law to benefit the people of Seattle with meaningful tax reform.” 

    TIMING: Pedersen’s legislation needs to be adopted before the end of 2023 for Seattle to have authority throughout 2024 to track and tax the high-end, annual capital gains within the city limits and then eliminate the regressive water tax for everyone at the end of 2024. Moreover, City Hall has already endorsed for 2024 its $7.4 billion budget (of which $1.6 billion is for the General Fund), and it will require all of 2024 to quantify the capital gains taxes to be collected to offset the water tax. Put simply, Pedersen’s revenue-neutral tax reform legislation must be adopted in 2023 to impact 2025. Not adopting the legislation in 2023 would essentially signify that City Hall leaders remain okay charging its residents the unnecessary, regressive tax on drinking water.

    Expanding the State’s new excise tax for high-end ($250,000 or more) capital gains that exempt retirement funds and real estate transactions so that it eliminates a regressive tax paid by everyone in Seattle is prudent and fiscally responsible, considering widespread concern about our city government’s growing budgets. Nearly 60% of Seattle voters said their taxes are too high and nearly two-thirds said they don’t trust City Hall to spend their tax dollars responsibly, according to a survey conducted by EMC Research in April 2023. A revenue-neutral tax reform that, for the first time, proactively eliminates a regressive tax can help to rebuild trust with the majority of residents who are skeptical of financial proposals from City Hall.  

    As chair of the City Council committee overseeing Seattle Public Utilities, Councilmember Pedersen held a discussion on June 6, 2023 to highlight this regressive taxation on utilities. He also introduced the concept of using the progressive excise tax to provide relief for regressive taxes in his widely distributed newsletters from April and May 2023.

    LINKS TO MORE INFO

      MEDIA COVERAGE:

      • For Councilmember Pedersen’s press release on June 7, 2023, CLICK HERE. To see the visuals from the press conference, CLICK HERE
      • To watch the June 7, 2023 press conference, CLICK HERE.
      • For the initial article by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
      • For the initial article by the Puget Sound Business Journal, June 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • For initial concerns raised by the Washington Policy Center, June 12, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • To hear journalists discussing the proposal on KUOW‘s “Week in Review,” CLICK HERE and advance it to 9:30 minutes remaining in the 52-minute segment.
      • For KUOW‘s “Seattle Now” podcast “Rethinking Seattle’s regressive taxes,” CLICK HERE.

       

      FEEDBACK: I introduced my legislation to seek feedback, because we would not be voting on such policies until the Fall. Since the announcement of my revenue-neutral legislation, I’ve received two general responses:

      1. Thank you for proposing to get rid of that regressive tax on my drinking water! Finally, one less tax from City Hall.

       

      1. Another tax? Are you out of your ____-ing mind, Brutus/Judas/Karl’?”

      Interestingly, this concern came from people who would NOT be impacted by the State or local capital gains excise tax. They were more concerned about how the business community (which I frequently support) might react to the “headline” of a new excise tax. Here’s a brief attempt to respond:  I hear you AND (a) it’s technically not a “new” tax because the State has already imposed it at 7% and Seattle would simply add 2%; (b) it’s not a tax on business; (c) an excise tax that EXEMPTS retirement and real estate and impacts gains of more than $250,000 — in light of the fact that Washington State still does not have a real income tax – is reasonable; and (d) please remember that, under my proposal, everyone would benefit by removing the tax on your drinking water – which was missed by most headlines. 

      Another question asked was, why not just reduce spending? I agree that City Hall must manage its growing costs much better. That’s an ongoing challenge that can and should happen alongside this revenue-neutral proposal that would — for the first time — eliminate a regressive tax (the water tax) that everyone pays.

      PLEDGE FOR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: To address concerns raised by several constituents:  If City Hall colleagues attempt to introduce new taxes without reducing regressive taxes — including the water utility tax — then I would object to that one-sided taxation, because a fair and truly “progressive” system requires removing harmful taxes that impact the lowest income households the most. Seattle is long overdue for real tax reform, so that it’s more fair in Seattle.

       

      MORE ON TAXES AND BUDGETS:

      In case you missed my review of revenues and expenses for City government from May 2023, CLICK HERE.


      LAND USE / ZONING

      UPDATE ON LEGISLATION FOR “HOME OCCUPATIONS” (BUSINESSES OPERATED OUT OF HOMES):

      I voted against legislation (Council Bill 120520) that makes permanent the policy that relaxed regulations for parking, signage, and activities on those seeking to operate a business out of residential neighborhoods during the pandemic.  The bill passed anyway 7 to 1. Here are my remarks at the City Council meeting on June 27, 2023:

      “Thank you, Council President. As I mentioned during the committee meeting on this legislation, I’ll stay consistent with my previous votes on this topic. Small businesses are already allowed to operate out of homes under Section 23.42.050 of the Seattle Municipal Code. Expanding this concept was originally discussed as a temporary response during the COVID pandemic. In previous communications to constituents and on my website, I listed several reasons for not expanding the businesses that can be operated out of homes during the pandemic. Changing that expansion from a temporary policy during the pandemic to a permanent City law, therefore, is even more problematic, in my opinion.

      In addition, I remain concerned about the uncertainty of impacts on our existing neighborhood business districts and on residential areas. Existing small businesses in our neighborhood business districts often have long-term leases and other significant overhead costs, which can put them at a disadvantage when we relax regulations on home-based businesses. Moreover, with a relatively low level of regulations, some home occupation businesses can significantly impact neighbors. For example, when “car sharing” operations use public streets as their “free” storage area for what is essentially a car rental business, they can cause significant impacts. We’ve had a number of such complaints about this very problem in District 4.

      In addition, the relevant City departments—SDCI, FAS, and SDOT—can do more to monitor the number, locations, and types of businesses taking advantage of this relatively lax regulatory scheme outside of the small business districts. So, regardless of whether this legislation passes today, I plan to work with the departments to prepare a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) for consideration during this fall’s budget season to respond to these concerns. For today, I’ll be voting No on this bill. Thank you.”

      For an alternative viewpoint, see the press release celebrating passage of this legislation: CLICK HERE.

       

      UPDATE ON DESIGN REVIEW (PUBLIC INPUT ON NEW DEVELOPMENTS):

      To save Seattle’s public input process on larger new developments called “Design Review” while that process is being evaluated for improvements, I amended Council Bill 120581 at the Land Use Committee on June 28, 2023 (Amendment 2). My amendment continues the requirement of Design Review for regular for-profit, market-rate projects, but allows a temporary exemption for projects that build their low-income housing units on site. My amendment passed at committee thanks to Councilmembers Morales and Nelson. Hopefully there are no shenanigans at the full City Council that try to reverse this progress. Stand by.

      Here are my remarks at the committee vote:

      “Thank you, Chair. I support the portion of this Council Bill 120581 that provides immediate public benefits which, in my opinion, are providing interim relief from Full Design Review for actual low-income housing units. I recall there was even a press release on June 14 that celebrated the benefits of “affordable housing” parts of this Council Bill. By adopting my Amendment 2, we can keep this bill targeted to benefit low-income housing units, while the Executive completes the Council-mandated review of Seattle’s Design Review program, including the community outreach—especially to disadvantaged communities.

      We are still awaiting the official results of the Statement of Legislative Intent (SDCI-004-A-001) which requested recommendations for improving Seattle’s long-standing Design Review process. Therefore, while we should allow the exemption for “affordable housing” with my amendment today, I don’t think we should stop full design review on the for-profit, market-rate projects until that evaluation reports are completed. The Central Staff memo from June 26 daylights some of the key preliminary findings one of the consultant’s reports. One of those findings is, and I quote: “Design Review is currently the only space for community input. We caution against doing away with Design Review, or replacing it with technical Design Review, without adequately and thoroughly addressing and systematizing where community members have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the planning, permitting, building, and development process.” I want to thank the people who sent emails to our office urging us to do what we can to make Design Review work better and faster and to streamline this bill so that it reduces Design Review just for low-income housing.

      My amendment simply deletes Section F of the bill (which is now Section E3 since we just passed the Chair’s Amendment 1). By deleting just that section in my amendment, we still allow all affordable housing provisions to move forward. In addition to it being premature and benefiting only for-profit developments, the remnants of Section F are problematic because they grandfather in market-rate projects that have already vested PRIOR TO the effective date of the proposed ordinance. I think we need to see a detailed list of the for-profit, market-rate projects that would essentially dodge the fuller public input process of full design review. I want to thank the SDCI department for agreeing to provide that list of projects.

      Unfortunately, the projects subject to the Mandatory Housing Affordability program have constructed only a small percentage of low-income housing on-site under the performance option. (Onsite construction of low-income housing means it gets built 3 years faster than when developers write a check to “pay in-lieu.”) Fortunately, the other sections of the bill before us today provide a welcome incentive to increase the number of units built quickly onsite so that we have more inclusive housing projects with low-income housing right away. I don’t believe there is a compelling reason to limit existing public input on other for-profit projects by granting a similar exemption from Design Review when they will not produce low-income housing while we are still awaiting the evaluation of Design Review. Let’s keep this legislation focused on low-income housing units by adopting my Amendment Two. Thank you.”


      TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

      To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November.


      Help Us Curb Dangerous Drag Racing

      Our transportation committee received a briefing this month on legislation I’m co-sponsoring with Councilmember Lisa Herbold to reduce dangerous drag racing, including the areas I hear a lot about from constituents along Sand Point Way NE and Magnuson Park (see map above).

      CALL TO ACTION TO REDUCE STREET RACING!

      WHAT: You can urge City Council: Please approve Council Bill 120600, which initiates the additional enforcement tool provided by our State government to allow automated speed cameras to reduce street racing on Sand Point Way NE and other arterials.

      HOW: You can send an email to Council@seattle.gov to reach all 9 Councilmembers and cc Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov and Greg.Spotts@seattle.gov and Adrian.Diaz@seatte.gov

      WHEN: Email City Hall any time. At our Transportation Committee meeting on July 18, 2023 we will consider amendments to Council Bill 120600. That is the local authorization ordinance needed to initiate new State authority for traffic enforcement cameras where there is dangerous drag racing. 

      Council Bill 120600 identifies specific arterials that are being used as dangerous racing zones. I want to thank all the constituents along Sand Point Way who have contacted both my office and the Police Department’s North Precinct to ask for City Hall action to address this problem and to support this Council Bill.

      As you may know, automated camera enforcement can increase community safety by enforcing speed limits. Using cameras has the added benefit of requiring face-to-face interactions between drivers and our police department, which remains understaffed.

      While some have raised concerns about the ability of the reckless drivers to pay for the traffic tickets because they may be lower income, I believe it’s important to lift up our concern for the victims of the collisions that we are striving to prevent.

      For those who may still have concerns, it is possible that the first speeding offense could be treated as a warning for a mistake, with fines being issued for the second offense when it’s clearly reckless.

      Increasing the use of automated enforcement is consistent with my proposal that City Hall adopted last year to double speed cameras in school zones to reduce speeding to protect vulnerable pedestrians.

      MORE INFO:

      • To review Council Bill 120600, CLICK HERE.
      • For coverage by the West Seattle Blog – which also mentions Northeast Seattle 😊 –, CLICK HERE.

       

      Despite Bus Line Cuts and Changes, Transit Remains Good Option for Many

      As reported in our previous newsletter, June is “Ride Transit Month” and there have been mixed news about public transit in our region.  Thankfully, we’re seeing Sound Transit take seriously the demands from riders for more safety at stations. The number of bus trips on King County Metro continues to tick upward, although at much lower levels than pre-pandemic ridership, due primarily to many people still working from home. It was impressive that King County Metro was able to keep so many routes running to serve vital workers for as long as it has, despite the dramatically lower ridership levels overall. If you take the bus to get around town, it’s probably been stressful following the various scheduling changes as King County Metro struggles to keep routes open due, in large part, to a shortage in bus drivers.

      The bottom-line, I believe, is that — despite the recent challenges — public transit remains a relatively affordable and safe way to get around town, if you are able to use it.

      • For an article on Sound Transit station safety, CLICK HERE.
      • For an article on the shortage of bus drivers at King County Metro, CLICK HERE.
      • For an article on Metro suspending more bus routes, CLICK HERE.
      • To plan your trip on King County Metro, CLICK HERE. The King County Metro trip planner will suggest a connection to Sound Transit light rail, if that’s convenient. To plan your trip on Sound Transit, CLICK HERE.

      Transit Taxes: In addition to the sales taxes subsidizing a large part of Sound Transit’s budget, Seattle residents pay a higher sales tax to supplement bus service from King County Metro in Seattle. Approved by Seattle City Hall and then Seattle voters in 2020, that regressive tax expires in 2026. Seattle is due for massive tax reform, so that the low-income families no longer pay a relatively high percentage of their household income for services they might not even be accessing. For greater fairness, regional leaders should consider a diversity of funding sources, which should include experimenting with higher fares for wealthier transit riders. For more about the need for tax reform and financial fairness in Seattle, CLICK HERE.

       

      A Breakthrough in Wallingford! Ship Canal Water Quality Project

      After finishing its deep drilling all the way from Ballard, the 18-foot diameter tunnel boring machine, “MudHoney” popped out of its hole with a splash in Wallingford in June 2023!   While this mega project makes progress, City Hall and Seattle Public Utilities need to keep an eye on costs, which we share with the King County government.

      For transparency and accountability, we required a monitoring update at my committee on December 12, 2022 where SPU acknowledged that the project is over budget – total costs are now expected to increase from the 2018 estimate of $570 million (with 65% confidence) to up to $650 million. Key reasons SPU cites are higher than expected inflation, COVID pandemic slowdowns, and needing to break through a mega boulder. Post-COVID, SPU expects to be able to better manage costs with the remaining work to be completed on the project. Fortunately, SPU confirmed it can absorb the increased costs without raising customer rates.

      • For more information from Seattle Public Utilities about this massive underground storage project in North Seattle to protect our waterways from nasty stormwater runoff, CLICK HERE.
      • For a June 27, 2023 Seattle Times article analyzing the project’s progress, CLICK HERE.


      WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Ways to Provide Input

      What Seattle Thinks: A Steady Stream of Statistically Supported Surveys

      Thankfully, it’s been raining surveys in Seattle! To see what Seattle thinks, put away Twitter and TikTok and look at the professionally conducted, statistically valid surveys recently completed. All of these surveys are subject to a relatively small margin of error of less than 5 points (plus or minus).

      _ June 2023 survey of “Seattle residents” commissioned by the Seattle Times. Key Findings:

      • SAFETY: Only 8% believe crime in their neighborhood has decreased. One-third of Seattle residents believe the amount of crime in their neighborhood has increased. Seattle residents identified drug use and gun violence as their “biggest public safety concerns” in Seattle. (CLICK HERE).
      • DRUGS: Nearly 60% “say they support police making arrests for the public use of illegal drugs” (CLICK HERE). (We found identical results in the survey my office commissioned in May 2023; see question 16.)
      • TAXES: 54% support a capital gains excise tax that mirrors the recently upheld State law (even without repealing other taxes) (CLICK HERE). (We would expect even more support if the survey had mentioned the corresponding repeal of City Hall’s tax on your drinking water, which is the essence of my legislative proposal from June 7, 2023.)
      • POLITICIANS: Only 34% of residents support “City Council” as an organization (CLICK HERE). (Note: a separate poll in December 2022 showed a wide range of favorability rankings for each individual Councilmember — with Alex Pedersen earning 59% support.)

      _ June 2023 survey of registered voters (who confirmed they are likely to vote in November 2023) commissioned by the Downtown Seattle Association, CLICK HERE. For a podcast interviewing the EMC Research pollster about this survey, CLICK HERE.

      • Key Finding: 73% say they are visiting Seattle’s downtown less often with their top reason being crime/safety concerns.

      _ May 2023 survey of Seattle adults commissioned by my office, CLICK HERE. For my analysis of those survey results from last month’s newsletter, CLICK HERE.

      • Key Findings: 75% support transportation impact fees. 73% want Seattle bridges fixed now. The top 3 transportation priorities are (1) repave roads, (2) support public transit, and (3) fix bridges.

      _ April 2023 survey of registered Seattle voters (“The Index”) commissioned by the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, CLICK HERE.

      • Key Finding: 65% don’t trust the Seattle city government to spend their tax dollars responsibly.

       

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

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

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

       

      City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

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

       

      Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

      In-person office hours on most Friday afternoons are back to Magnuson Park’s Building 30 conference room at 6310 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115, just a couple of “blocks” into the park’s main entrance. You may continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE, so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

      With gratitude,

       

       

       

      Councilmember Alex Pedersen
      Seattle City Council, District 4

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


      Strengthening Seattle’s Tree Ordinances

      June 24th, 2023

      “There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It’s called a tree.”George Monbiot

      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.”  I believe trees should be treated as valuable infrastructure because they provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are seeing them removed more often. Saving and planting more trees will help to address the disparities of heat islands exacerbated by climate change. 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. 

      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.

      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 a proposed tree protection ordinance to the City Council as required by the resolution. On February 25, 2022, the Harrell Administration forwarded to the City Council a tree protection draft bill crafted by SDCI during the Durkan Administration, which had several shortcomings. A full year later, on March 7, 2023, Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Strauss formally introduced a revised “tree protection ordinance” proposal, which ended up warranting more than 60 amendment requests. (See below for updates and disappointments about that legislation.)

      To report illegal tree cutting / removal on private property: If you observe what you think is a violation of Seattle’s tree code on private property, please report it to the Code Compliance Division of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) online or call the Code Compliance line at (206) 615-0808. (Open Mon, Thurs, Fri 8 am – 4:30 pm and Tues, Wed 10 am – 4:30 pm.) Unfortunately, Code Compliance is currently staffed only to respond to complaints during business hours of the work week; messages will be addressed as soon as possible during business hours. The Seattle Police Department generally will not respond to suspected tree code violations. To confirm whether the tree cutter / tree service provider / arborist is properly registered with the City of Seattle, CLICK HERE for the new Tree Service Provider Directory that our recent law required. If you have the street name and want to make sure notice of the tree removal was properly provided, CLICK HERE. For more info on tree protection enforcement, CLICK HERE. If you conclude that the tree cutting or removal activity is improper, please contact Code Compliance even if the trees have already been removed.

      New Tree Cutter Registry Ends “Wild West” of Tree Cutting: Before diving into the chronological updates below about efforts (and failures) for a larger tree protection ordinance, a quick word about a Council Bill that my office crafted and introduced in October 2021 which is making a small, but mighty improvement to the “Wild West” of tree cutting in Seattle: Council Bill 120207 / Ordinance 126554 (CLICK HERE).

      That new registration legislation improves transparency and accountability by requiring any tree cutters seeking to do business on private property in Seattle to register with the city government — and that same law enables the city government to remove bad actors from that registry. This new Tree Service Provider Directory, which finally went into effect November 10, 2022 was a necessary step forward as City Hall considered a more comprehensive tree protection bill. For the article entitled “Seattle Bill Aims to End ‘Wild West’ of Tree Cutting” from the Seattle TimesCLICK HERE.

      While my registration legislation is in effect today and doing its small part to protect Seattle’s existing tree canopy, it was unfortunately delayed by a year: while I introduced the legislation in October 2021, it was not passed by the Land Use Committee until 5 months later (March 2022) and only after the implementation date was pushed out by another 8 months to November 2022. The chair of the Land Use Committee Dan Strauss, in response to requests from tree service providers being regulated by that legislation, also introduced and passed in February 2023 technical amendments and other changes to the original CB 120207 / Ordinance 126554 with a new CB 120509 / Ordinance 126777. This difficulty in adopting and implementing a simple registration accountability law foreshadowed the upcoming impediments to passing more meaningful tree protection legislation.



      September 19, 2023: Surprise Procedural Victory Advances Legislation to Protect Culturally Significant Trees like “Luma

      After the legislation I crafted with the Snoqualmie Tribe to protect culturally modified trees (CMTs) did not appear on the Seattle City Council’s “Introduction and Referral Calendar” (IRC) on September 5th, 12th, or 19th, I daylighted the legislation by having a presentation at my committee. But legislation needs to be formally introduced before we can amend and approve it. Therefore, to advance the legislation rather than just talking about it, I leveraged our parliamentary procedures to call for a special vote on September 19 to advance it. Thanks to the calls and emails of support from the Chairman of the Snoqualmie Tribe and dozens of tree advocates, a majority of Councilmembers voted to advance the legislation for consideration. Many thanks to Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis, Morales, and Sawant for voting YES to enable this simple bill to move forward for discussion. Now that it’s formally “introduced” and referred directly to the full City Council, Council Bill 120670 (formerly TMP-9902) will be voted on by the full City Council, ideally by no later than November of this year.

      To watch the September 19 full City Council meeting (public comment and vote on the IRC), CLICK HERE. To watch the September 19, 2023 presentation at the Transportation Committee, CLICK HERE (and advance to minute 1:28:09).

      To be frank, this CMT legislation we advanced is very focused and, therefore, very far away from correcting all the flaws in the tree legislation approved by the City Council in a 6 to 1 vote in May 2023. The CMT legislation does not even address all of the risks to large significant trees like Luma, because I was encouraged to strip out three related provisions so that the legislation focused solely on CMTs. (I removed my proposed restrictions on new driveways and I removed the dripline measurement to supplement the tree protection area. That was after I had to exclude reforms to the lot boundary adjustment / lot splitting loophole because that requires a change in State law.) The legislative proposal remaining is small, but vital:

      CITY OF SEATTLE

      Title: AN ORDINANCE relating to tree protections; adding new provisions related to trees that are part of an archaeological site; and amending Sections 25.11.060 and 25.11.130 of the Seattle Municipal Code.

      WHEREAS, Seattle’s urban forest contains many large trees of exceptional benefit and value, including the existence of previously unidentified culturally modified trees, a category of archaeological resource of particular importance to the Indigenous peoples who have resided in the Puget Sound area, including the entirety of the land area of The City of Seattle since time immemorial; and

      WHEREAS, real estate development must comply with State Law, including chapter 27.53 of the Revised Code of Washington regarding archeological sites and resources, as well as consultation obligations with Tribal governments to protect culturally modified trees and other Tribal archeological sites; and

      WHEREAS, Resolution 31902 states that “a healthy urban forest growing on public and private land promotes a clean, healthy, resilient, and safe environment in the places where people live, learn, work, and play, and reinforces Seattle’s identity and legacy as a forested, livable city”; and

      WHEREAS, Resolution 31902 also states that “The City of Seattle values the important services the urban forest provides to all in Seattle, such as increasing resiliency to climate change, managing stormwater runoff and erosion, enhancing public health, by cleaning our air and water, cooling riparian corridors, mitigating the heat island effect, and improving our shoreline and other wildlife habitat…”; and

      WHEREAS, appropriate infill site planning allows for the construction of additional “middle housing” (RCW 36.70A.030) while retaining substantial existing large trees to provide numerous public health and environmental benefits that can take many years to replace if removed; and

      WHEREAS, the City Council passed Council Bill 120534 on May 23, 2023, by a vote of six to one, and Mayor Bruce Harrell signed it into law on May 31, 2023, to become Ordinance 126821, “AN ORDINANCE relating to tree protection;” and

      WHEREAS, the amendment in this ordinance to Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 25.11 is exempt from State Environmental Policy Act review; NOW, THEREFORE,

      BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY OF SEATTLE AS FOLLOWS:

      Section 1. Section 25.11.060 of the Seattle Municipal Code, enacted by Ordinance 126821, is amended as follows:

      25.11.060 Requirements for trees when development is proposed

      * * *

      E. Prior to approving the removal of any Tier 2 or Tier 3 tree, the Director shall: (1) notify the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) of the requested tree removal; and (2) receive confirmation from DAHP whether the tree is part of an archaeological site subject to requirements of chapter 27.53 RCW. If the tree is not part of an archaeological site, the Director may approve the removal of the tree. If an archaeological site would be impacted by the removal of the tree, and the applicant wants to proceed with the impact to the archaeological site, the applicant is responsible for obtaining approval for its removal from DAHP prior to the Director approving the removal of any such tree.

      Section 2. Section 25.11.130 of the Seattle Municipal Code, last amended by Ordinance 126821, is amended as follows:

      25.11.130 Definitions

      * * *

      Culturally modified tree” means a tree that has been determined by the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to be an archaeological site or part of one subject to requirements of chapter 27.53 RCW.

      * * *

      Section 3. This ordinance shall take effect and be in force 30 days after its approval by the Mayor, but if not approved and returned by the Mayor within ten days after presentation, it shall take effect as provided by Seattle Municipal Code Section 1.04.020.


      August 31, 2023 (and Sept 14, 2023): Councilmember Pedersen Submitted Bill to Amend Tree Ordinance to Prevent More Threats to Important Trees Like Luma; His Legislative Fix Still Awaits Action.

      Hearing the calls for action among those who rallied to defend the magnificent cedar tree “Luma” from chainsaws, I took time during the Council’s “recess” to draft legislation and consult with the Snoqualmie Tribe to prevent more threats to such important trees. My new legislation, which I originally submitted August 30, 2023, is just a few pages long and is STILL awaiting formal acceptance onto the Council’s Introduction & Referral Calendar (IRC) by the Chair of the Land Use Committee.

      On May 23, 2023, a majority of the City Council passed Council Bill 120534 by a vote of six to one. As many of you know, I voted against that bill because it failed to address serious concerns raised by the Urban Forestry Commission and others. That large piece of legislation impacting trees was originally drafted by the Harrell Administration and the Mayor signed the final version into law on May 31, 2023, to become Ordinance 126821, “AN ORDINANCE relating to tree protection…”

      Due to my vote being the only vote against Council Bill 120534, I believe it’s unrealistic to achieve drastic legislative changes this year. That said, I wanted at least to introduce legislation to prevent future Luma threats by incorporating three reasonable improvements:

      • Proactively acknowledge that important trees like Luma — “culturally modified trees” (CMTs) — exist throughout Seattle, as indicated by Tribal governments and the State’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 27.53 already exists to consider such archaeological sites/objects so, at the very least, the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) needs to incorporate that reality into its review of development applications. Our Seattle Municipal Code should reflect this.
      • September 14, 2023 Update: This portion removed to ensure faster acceptance from Council colleagues: Prevent new driveways designed for vehicles (off-street parking) from resulting in the removal of exceptional trees (now referred to as “Tier 2” trees).
      • September 14, 2023 Update: This portion removed to ensure faster acceptance from Council colleagues: Require a “tree protection area” that uses the method that best protects trees: the dripline method or the circular radius method — whichever method is more likely to retain the tree.

      As you may recall, in the case of the Luma tree, a “lot boundary adjustment” changed the tree from being safe on the border of the property to being “in the way” of the new development and subject to the ax. Therefore, I had wanted to require lot boundary adjustments to prioritize protection of these trees. Unfortunately, additional research by City government staff indicates that State law prevents the City of Seattle—or any other city in the state—from imposing such “development standards” on “lot boundary adjustments.” The problematic State law exists in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section 58.17.040(6) [CLICK HERE].  Therefore, the Governor and State legislators would need to amend that provision to save trees facing the chainsaw due to lot boundary adjustments.  

      • For Councilmember Pedersen’s Council Bill to address what we learned from Luma regarding Culturally Modified Trees, CLICK HERE.
      • For the Summary and Fiscal Note that accompanies Councilmember Pedersen’s Council Bill, CLICK HERE.

      [For the original August 30, 2023 version that included the two additional tree protections regarding driveways and driplines, CLICK HERE, and for the Summary & Fiscal Note that accompanied lengthier Council Bill by Councilmember Pedersen, CLICK HERE.]

      Note: Before it’s allowed onto the Council’s IRC, the Council Bill is assigned a TMP (temporary) number of #9902 in the Council’s online legislation system called “Legistar.”


      August 9, 2023: Agreement Reached to Save “Luma,” the Exceptional Cedar in Northeast Seattle; More Work To Do To Save More Trees Throughout our City.

      SEATTLE – Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) issued the following statement celebrating today’s announced agreement to save Luma, the magnificent cedar tree in Northeast Seattle, so it is not cut down as part of a development project: 

      Today we celebrate the agreement to save the magnificent Luma cedar tree in Northeast Seattle, and tomorrow we have much work to do to improve tree protections throughout our city. I want to thank Mayor Harrell and all those who took actions to save this exceptional tree, including the tree advocates and Tribal Governments who understand that mature trees provide valuable public health benefits, environmental sustainability, and deep cultural significance — and we must do more to save more of these trees in the face of increasing urban heat from the increasing climate crisis.” 

      — Councilmember Alex Pedersen

      For the press release from the development team Rock House Builders (owner), Legacy Group Capital (lender & consultant), and Bad Boyz (general contractor), CLICK HERE. Their press release stated, “On behalf of the Owner and Builder, LGC will work to develop plans to protect Luma…” Their press release also stated, “‘Legacy Group Capital is eager to work with the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe and [the State’s] Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation on a re-design that protects their Cultural Resource, Luma, and minimizes the financial impact for Victor and Joe,’ said Scott Rerucha, CEO of LGC. ‘We also hope to develop a stronger relationship with the Tribe, as we’ll be relying on their expertise to identify [Culturally Modified Trees] moving forward.‘”


      July 25, 2023: a “Forest” of Tree Supporters Show Up to City Council Chambers at City Hall

      For coverage of the July 25, 2023 Council meeting meeting by KOMO News and quotes from Councilmembers, CLICK HERE.


      July 21, 2023: The Kids, Neighbors, Environmentalists and the Snoqualmie Tribe All Agree: (1) Save “Luma,” the Massive Magnificent Cedar Tree in Wedgwood and (2) Improve Seattle’s Tree “Protection” Ordinance So This Doesn’t Happen Again!

      This morning I visited “Luma” (the tree), “Droplet” (the tree saver), and a Wedgwood neighbor who is a Snoqualmie tribal leader.

      JULY 19 SNOQUALMIE TRIBE LETTER TO CITY: The Snoqualmie Tribe sent a letter, dated July 19, 2023. to city government officials stating, “We represent the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, a federally-recognized sovereign Indian tribe with inherent sovereign rights and reserved rights as a signatory to the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855. On behalf of the Tribe, we are writing to provide formal notice to the City of Seattle that the ’exceptional’ western red cedar located at 3849 NE 88th Street is a culturally modified tree (“CMT”) that delineated an ancient indigenous trail system connecting Puget Sound to Lake Washington, and an archaeological site subject to special protections under Washington State law. The Tribe has two specific asks in this letter. First, and most pressingly, we demand the City permanently withdraw or cancel development permit issued for the site that would allow this “exceptional” CMT to be felled as part of the proposed construction project by Legacy Capital. Second, we further demand consultation with the Tribe related to this CMT and the development of comprehensive measures to protect other CMTs within the City at the highest levels of City government…The focus of this letter is the “exceptional” CMT that is about to be felled on the City’s watch and because of the City’s negligence and incompetence...The Tribe is shocked that you informed us that the City lacks a review process or other means for the City to take action to protect the newly discovered and identified archaeological site and the CMT. The Tribe is also surprised to learn from the City that there was no process when the permit was issued in the first instance to conduct an environmental analysis which would have included a cultural resource review.” For the Snoqualmie Tribe’s entire July 19, 2023 letter urging City leaders to save this exceptional tree, CLICK HERE.

      JULY 20 RESPONSE FROM SDCI: For the response from the Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), dated July 20, 2023, CLICK HERE. SDCI attempts to punt the problem to the State government, specifically to the State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). The letter from the SDCI Director states, “The City does not have the authority to withdraw or rescind the final approved permit. Only recently, on July 18, 2023, and after the permit became final, did DAHP determine, consistent with the Tribe, that the tree is a cultural resource subject to chapter 27.53 RCW.In situations of an inadvertent discovery of a cultural resource or site discovered after a local project permit is issued, DAHP has been given exclusive authority to act. Under chapter 27.53 RCW, the State legislature has made it unlawful for any person to knowingly remove an archaeological object from any historic or prehistoric archaeological resource or site, or to damage or destroy such cultural resource or site, without first obtaining a permit from DAHP. I understand that DAHP has already issued a letter to the property owner and the permit applicant informing them that DAHP and the Tribe have jointly determined that the tree is a culturally modified tree that is a cultural resource and subject to the requirements of chapter 27.53 RCW. Chapter 27.53 RCW requires the property owner to apply for and obtain a permit from DAHP before any further damage to the tree occurs.”

      JULY 20 FOLLOW-UP REQUEST FROM SNOQUALMIE TRIBE TO CITY: The Snoqualmie Tribe sent to City Hall a follow-up letter, dated July 20, 2023, asking for a pause to the new tree ordinance. Their letter states, the Tree Ordinance was written and passed without any input from Tribal governments. This is unacceptable. However, the City Council can act to ensure that this oversight is remedied quickly, and before other trees that are culturally and archaeologically important to tribes are desecrated. The Tribe requests that the City Council ask the Mayor to exercise his authority to issue an Executive Order pausing application of the Tree Ordinance until meaningful government-to-government consultation takes place with tribal governments. This pause will enable the City and tribes to identify appropriate amendments to the Tree Ordinance.” For the Snoqualmie Tribe’s entire July 20, 2023 letter asking for improvements to the City’s tree regulations, CLICK HERE.

      STATE GOVERMENT: State legislators of the 46th Legislative District are aware now of the situation. While we await direction from our State government leaders — including the State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) — I believe our City’s executive leadership could get creative in encouraging the property owner and developer to redraw their recent lot boundary adjustment (lot split) to spare this exceptional tree and then ensuring rapid approval of revised permits, as needed. The City government should also consider amending the newly adopted tree ordinance (which I voted against because I agreed with the Urban Forestry Commission that it was too weak with “the likelihood of canopy inequities persisting or worsening.”) The crisis threatening this exceptional cedar tree is an opportunity to tweak the new law so that housing and trees really can co-exist, incorporate more amendments from the Urban Forestry Commission, and appropriately consult with the impacted indigenous tribes.

      Unfortunately, neither current nor pending City regulations would have fully protected this exceptional tree from a developer loophole in city government’s code. Developers continue to have the ability to split a single lot (lot boundary adjustment) into two smaller pieces, and then argue that the existing tree now takes up too much of the smaller lot and needs to be chopped down. To improve the city’s new tree legislation taking effect August 1, 2023 (Ordinance 126821), I had introduced amendments to optimize tree retention during lot-splitting maneuvers, but City Council colleagues voted them down, perhaps because we did not explain sufficiently their significance for tree protections. (See “Group 1” amendments, especially C3 on page 36 of 64. In addition, several amendments recommended by the Urban Forestry Commission and sponsored by me, would have helped, but were rejected by my colleagues as well.)

      As the City Councilmember representing this geographic area, I continue to reach out to other City of Seattle and State government officials, urging them to support the tribe and the hundreds of tree advocates striving to save these trees. Thank you to the tree service providers (arborists) who said NO to sawing down this massive magnificent cedar in Northeast Seattle that symbolizes the loss of so many trees in our warming city.

      To honor the pleas of the community, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and environmentalists, our Seattle and State leaders must do everything they can to save this massive and magnificent cedar to prove that we appreciate the public health and environmental benefits of the urban forest and to prove that we can build housing and save trees at the same time.”

      — Alex Pedersen, who represents Northeast Seattle on the City Council

      Some Media Coverage of Luma the Tree:


      July 6, 2023: SDCI Publishes Draft “Director’s Rules” on Exceptional Trees (“Tier 2”) and In-Lieu Fees with Comments Due July 21, 2023

      The Harrell Administration’s new tree “protection” ordinance, which goes into effect this summer, left two key items to be finalized by so-called “Director’s Rules,” which are regulations or rules that must be followed. Per the ordinance, the “Director,” in this case, is the Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). The two draft rules are DDR 7-2023 “Designation of Tier 2 Trees” and DDR 8-2023 “Payment in Lieu of tree replacement. For the public notices for both Director’s Rules, CLICK HERE. I was tardy in posting this information onto our blog but, fortunately, several tree advocates were paying attention and submitted some comments in time. Key comments from tree advocates included asking SDCI to retain the descriptor “Exceptional Tree” for Tier 2 trees to lift up the importance of these trees to public health and the environment and to increase the In-Lieu Fee to cover the complete costs of a new tree. Advocates also requested a standalone Director’s Rule for Heritage Trees (Tier 1 trees) to highlight their special rights for preservation. During discussion of the tree “protection” ordinance, I put forward an amendment to increase the in-lieu fee and to embed that baseline fee into the ordinance, but my Council colleagues — along with several other suggestions I advanced for the Urban Forestry Commission — rejected it, unfortunately. Therefore, to ensure a sufficient in-lieu fee payment, it is smart to concentrate advocacy efforts toward the best possible Director’s Rules.


      June 24, 2023: Vocal Tree Supporters and Experts Are Awakening to the Downsides of the Seattle’s New Tree Ordinance

      Published in the South Seattle Emerald today was an Op Ed by Susan Su entitled, “Seattle’s Tree Ordinance is an Affront to Climate Justice.” To read her concerns, CLICK HERE. Susan Su is a climate venture investor focused on backing technologies to solve climate change, and an adviser to several climate-focused nonprofits. She is also a mom and a Seattle resident.


      May 23, 2023: City Council Adopts Ordinance Putting More Seattle Trees at Risk; Pedersen Lone No Vote; Mayor Harrell quietly signs it into law May 31, 2023.

      illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

      Today is sad day for Seattle’s trees: the City Council approved an ordinance that the Urban Forestry Commission says delivers “the likelihood of canopy inequities persisting or worsening.” The UFC asked for Council to postpone the decision, so amendments could be discussed with the full City Council during June and July. To honor that request from the UFC, I made a motion to postpone to July 25. When it was clear that motion to postpone would not pass, I amended my motion to a shorter June 27 (just 30 days), arguing that we could amend the effective date implementation start day from the current 60 days to 30 days, thereby losing ZERO TIME. A majority of my colleagues still voted NO on that reasonable compromise motion, though Councilmember Herbold supported it with me. Then the Council voted on the final bill to update the tree “protection” regulations (Council Bill 120534).

      • Voting in Favor of CB 120534: Herbold, Lewis, Morales, Mosqueda, Nelson, and the sponsor Strauss.
      • Voting Against: Pedersen.
      • Absent: Juarez, Sawant.

      With that 6 to 1 approval, the bill went to Mayor Bruce Harrell who quietly signed it into law on May 31, 2023. As he sponsored the original bill with Land Use Chair Strauss, his signature is expected. The new law will be implemented 60 days later. Get ready to hear an increase in chain saws just in time for summer heat waves when everyone needs that shade the most.

      Here are my remarks at today’s City Council meeting:

      MOTION TO POSTPONE. At the request of the Urban Forestry Commission, I move to postpone this item, Council Bill 120534, until our full City Council meeting on July 25, 2023, which is the last Tuesday in July, approximately 60 days from today. (See Rule IV.I in the Council Rules per Reso 32051).

      I have faith in the City’s Urban Forestry Commission with their expertise and their care. The letter from the Urban Forestry Commission, dated May 17, 2023, stated, “Given the flawed and rushed process, the likelihood of canopy inequities persisting or worsening, and the limited reporting requirements, the UFC asks the Council to: Defer voting on the bill until the end of July to allow Councilmember conversations with the UFC and other stakeholders...”

      _ Providing more time is important not only to honor the request of a respected City commission, but also to honor our own Seattle Municipal Code. As stated in the Urban Forestry Commissions May 17 letter, “The Mayor’s draft ordinance was transmitted to the City Council on March 7, 2023, and referred to the Land Use Committee on March 22, 2023. These actions occurred without prior review and recommendations by the UFC. This appears to be in violation of SMC 3.72.050.A.3, which states that it is the responsibility of the UFC to ‘provide recommendations on legislation concerning urban forestry management, sustainability and protection of associated trees…PRIOR TO its introduction and referral to any Council committee.‘”

      RATIONALE FOR VOTING NO ON THE BILL (after motion to postpone failed): Colleagues, I believe it’s vital that we clarify that, while this bill might “regulate” and “define” and “designate” more trees, it does NOT absolutely protect them. This bill still allows these trees to be ripped out and destroyed, so I believe that’s the opposite of “protection.” I’ve issued several statements about the many public health and environmental benefits of conserving mature, healthy trees throughout Seattle — trees are vital environmental infrastructure in the face of the heat domes of climate change — and I’ve made several attempts to support the most substantive amendments requested by our Urban Forestry Commission. Rather than restating those positions here today, I’ll simply read a key excerpt from the Seattle Times editorial board from this past weekend, which stated: “The Seattle City Council is on the verge of a very big mistake that would make Stumptown a more accurate moniker for Seattle than the Emerald City. On Tuesday [today], the full council is set to consider a new tree protection ordinance that recently passed the Land Use Committee. [The] Trouble is, …[the] process produced a pro-developer tree removal measure instead of one that actually preserves and grows trees. The council should vote it down and start over. As written, CB 120534 will almost certainly result in diminished tree canopy, flying in the face of the city’s stated environmental goals…” “If this bill passes, next year there will be less shade and higher street-level temperatures.”

      More Info:

      • For the Seattle Channel video of today’s May 23, 2023 Council meeting with lots of passionate public comment, CLICK HERE.
      • For the May 23, 2023 press release from Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Strauss in support of their bill, CLICK HERE. (Editorial Comment: As I stated in my remarks, while this bill might “regulate” and “define” and “designate” more trees, it does NOT truly “protect” them. This bill still allows these trees to be ripped out and destroyed, so I believe that’s the opposite of “protection.”)

      May 17 – 19, 2023: Urban Forestry Commission Urges Council to Pause/Fix Tree Bill

      During their May 17, 2023 meeting, Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) criticized the Mayor and City Council for failing to consult them in advance as required by the Seattle Municipal Code and concluded that, due to the tree bill (CB 120534) that advanced by a vote of 4 to 1 out of the Land Use Committee on May 4, 2023, “canopy inequities may persist or worsen.” I was the lone vote against the bill because the Council committee rejected so many of the substantive pro-tree amendment recommendations I had sponsored for the UFC. (For more on that, see the May 4, 2023 entry in this ongoing blog…)

      The UFC’s letter said, “Given the flawed and rushed process, the likelihood of canopy inequities persisting or worsening, and the limited reporting requirements, the UFC asks the Council to…Defer voting on the bill until the end of July to allow Councilmember conversations with the UFC and other stakeholders.

      The Seattle Times followed up with an editorial critical of the amended legislation. Their editorial stated,

      “The Seattle City Council is on the verge of a very big mistake that would make Stumptown a more accurate moniker for Seattle than the Emerald City. On Tuesday, the full council is set to consider a new tree protection ordinance that recently passed the Land Use Committee. Trouble is, a highly flawed legislative process produced a pro-developer tree removal measure instead of one that actually preserves and grows trees. The council should vote it down and start over. As written, CB 120534 will almost certainly result in diminished tree canopy, flying in the face of the city’s stated environmental goals…

      “How bad is it? Developers would be able to build on 85% of the lot in low-rise and other zones. Considering the Legislature just passed a bill eliminating all traditional single-family zones across the state including Seattle, it’s unclear whether this would apply to essentially every lot in the city. Another amendment gives developers the ability to totally clear-cut and build on 100% of lots in mid-rise, commercial and other zones. These two provisions alone will undoubtedly result in the loss of Seattle tree canopy. Think about the recent heat wave. If this bill passes, next year there will be less shade and higher street-level temperatures….

      “It comes down to this: Trees don’t give campaign contributions. But the people who want to cut them down do….

      “Council members should have the courage to say they got it wrong. A bad process produces bad results. There is no dishonor in a do-over. It’s better than leaving a legacy of stumps.”

      Seattle Times editorial board, May 19, 2023

      More Info:

      • For the May 17, 2023 letter from the Urban Forestry Commission urging a delay to allow for additional amendments needed to protect trees, CLICK HERE.
      • For the May 19, 2023 editorial by the Seattle Times, entitled, “Seattle’s proposed tree ordinance is the legislative equivalent of a chain saw,” CLICK HERE.
      • For a May 19, 2023 article by KNKX public radio, CLICK HERE.

      May 4, 2023: City Council’s Land Use Committee Rejects Most Pro-Tree Amendments and Advances Tree “Protection” Bill Anyway

      Unfortunately, the City Council’s Land Use Committee rejected several substantive pro-tree amendments recommended by the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) and sponsored by Councilmember Pedersen including:

      1. Rejected the Removal of the “85% Developer Guarantee.” A key problem with the 85% developer guarantee is that it allows developers to remove mature trees if the conservation of those trees interferes with the developer’s ability to cover the 85% of the lot within Seattle’s “low-rise zones” (the remaining 15% is not sufficient to support trees in many cases). The committee then added an 100% developer guarantee allowing developers to cover 100% of lots in Midrise (MR), Commercial (C and NC), and Seattle Mixed (SM) zones. These provisions mean developments in these zones are unlikely now to retain or grow any trees of significant public health or climate benefit. Rather than providing a generous guarantee to developers for how much concrete they can pour on a lot (impervious surfaces), we should have simply allowed the various other flexible design provisions in the tree protection ordinance govern how we protect trees. Put simply, we should be adopting a tree protection law, rather than a profits protection law. (pro-tree / UFC Amendment A6): REJECTED BY COUNCIL’S LAND USE COMMITTEE.
      2. Rejected the Request for an Inch-for-Inch Replacement of Trees Removed by Developers, rather than allowing them to replace mature trees with “sticks.” For example, if a developer rips out a 24-inch regulated tree, then they should replace it with six 4-inch trees (6 x 4 = 24). (pro-tree / UFC Amendment E4). REJECTED BY COUNCIL’S LAND USE COMMITTEE.
      3. Rejected Increase of the In-Lieu Fee to a Minimum of $4,000 per Tree and memorialize that in the ordinance, rather than hoping an administrative “Director’s Rule” does it better later. (pro-tree / UFC Amendment E6). REJECTED BY COUNCIL’S LAND USE COMMITTEE.
      4. Rejected Additional Reporting Requirements and Assurances to Consult the New City Urban Forester Position created last year by the City Council to be based in the Office of Sustainability & Environment (rather than in SDCI where the fees from developer permit applications sustain operations). The Land Use Committee’s No vote on additional reporting to include consultation with the City Urban Forester was perplexing. The City Urban Forester position was approved November 2022 via Council Budget Action OSE-005-B-001-2023 and, as noted in that budget action, the Executive (in response to a 2021 Statement of Legislative Intent) agreed the City Urban Forester would, “work with executive leadership and staff across urban forestry departments to establish and/or affirm citywide and department-specific strategy intended to support a healthy and robust tree canopy and urban forest in Seattle; provide an on-going assessment on the efficacy of policies and programs in meeting these goals; and recommend changes as needed to decision-makers.” The Council Budget Action from 2022 further stated that OSE is expected to “ensure that this position: (1) advances racial equity and environmental justice; (2) oversees and implements the proposed Tree Canopy Equity and Resilience Plan and Seattle’s 2020 Urban Forest Management Plan as one of its core functions; and (3) supports development of policies that will help the City achieve its goals for an enhanced, healthy tree canopy and increased diversity of housing options for Seattle’s residents.” Therefore, omitting the City Urban Forester position from the tree “protection” ordinance makes no sense. (pro-tree UFC Amendment B4). REJECTED BY COUNCIL’S LAND USE COMMITTEE.

      Also: the Committee Watered Down the Tree Cutter Registration Law. In addition to rejecting several substantive pro-tree requests by the Urban Forestry Commission, the committee watered down the law we recently adopted to increase transparency and accountability and to end the “wild west” of tree cutting in Seattle. Specifically, the committee reduced the ways in which bad actors can be removed from the tree service provider registry (passing Amendment F3) and they weakened the definition of “reportable work” so they can remove up to 25% of a tree instead of just 15% without reporting it (passing Amendment F4).

      The purpose of Council Bill 120534 was purportedly to implement Resolution 31902 from 2019, which stated:

      • a healthy urban forest growing on public and private land promotes a clean, healthy, resilient, and safe environment in the places where people live, learn, work, and play, and reinforces Seattle’s identity and legacy as a forested, livable city
      • “The City of Seattle (“City”) values the important services the urban forest provides to all in Seattle, such as increasing resiliency to climate change, managing stormwater runoff and erosion, enhancing public health, by cleaning our air and water, cooling riparian corridors, mitigating the heat island effect, and improving our shoreline and other wildlife habitat...”

      If that were the purpose, why was the Urban Forestry Commission not properly consulted by the Mayor’s Office and other leaders before Council Bill 120534 was introduced, and why did the Land Use Committee reject so many of the UFC’s substantive recommendations for a healthy urban forest?

      Due mainly to committee rejecting so many of the substantive pro-tree amendment recommendations from the Urban Forestry Commission that he sponsored, Councilmember Pedersen voted NO on the amended bill (CB 120534), which nevertheless passed out of the Land Use Committee by a vote of 4 to 1. The Councilmembers who voted in favor of the bill were the Chair and legislation’s sponsor Dan Strauss, Vice Chair Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda, and Sara Nelson.

      Next Steps: The full City Council (adding Councilmembers Herbold, Juarez, Lewis, and Sawant) will vote on the final bill Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

      I’m disappointed that the net impact of this so-called tree ‘protection’ legislation will be a death sentence for hundreds of trees throughout our city, even after City Hall has proof our Emerald City recently lost hundreds of acres of trees and our residents continue to suffer the harsh heat of climate change. The rhetoric that this new law “protects” more trees does not hold water, because the law simply redefines and regulates trees differently, rather than actually installing the stronger protections needed to advance the important public health and environmental benefits of a healthy urban forest. Unfortunately, we’ve waited all these years to witness City Hall produce more of a ‘profits protection bill’ than a tree protections bill. If City Hall leaders had heeded the expertise of the Urban Forestry Commission, we could have made real progress after all these years, instead of cutting down the vision of a healthy, growing urban tree canopy for all to enjoy. “

      — Councilmember Alex Pedersen

      MORE INFO:

      • For the legislative agenda of the May 4, 2023 Land Use Committee with links to the amendments to Council Bill 120534 and other materials, CLICK HERE.
      • For the summary list of amendments and how each Councilmember voted, CLICK HERE.
      • NEW: For a “tracked changes” version of Council Bill 120534 (which indicates how the amendments approved by a majority of the Land Use Committee were incorporated), CLICK HERE. (And, for the 8 supplemental requests of the executive branch regarding this tree “protection” ordinance, CLICK HERE).
      • Regarding the two-part video of the May 4, 2023 Land Use Committee discussion and votes, for session 1, CLICK HERE and for session 2, CLICK HERE.
      • For the May 3, 2023 letter from the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) with their updated recommendations on the pending amendments, CLICK HERE. For the Urban Forestry letter, dated April 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • For the April 25, 2023 Seattle Times editorial urging passage of the amendments noted above, CLICK HERE.
      • For a KUOW news article May 5, 2023 analyzing the committee action entitled “As Seattle loses tree canopy, a city council bill may let developers cut down more,” CLICK HERE.
      • For Councilmember Pedersen’s blog, go to: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/strengthening-seattles-tree-ordinance/  

      April 21, 2023: Tsunami of 61 Amendments! Committee Considers Chair’s Substitute Bill (with 13 amendments) and Reveals 48 Additional Amendments

      After removing a couple of substantive amendments from the Committee Chair’s proposed initial changes to the Harrell Administration’s “tree protection” bill (CB 120534), the committee narrowly “adopted” the Chair’s substitute bill with technical changes as the new baseline bill. Over the next three weeks, we will consider approximately 50 substantive amendments with a public hearing April 24, 2023 and a robust committee debate on April 26 (see full amended schedule in previous blog post below).

      There are several important amendments recommended by the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC), which I plan to advance or support. Here are a few of the key amendments needed:

      • Remove the 85% developer guarantee. The various other provisions in the tree protection ordinance should govern how we protect trees, rather than providing an arbitrary and blanket guarantee to developers. Let’s be sure to adopt a tree protection law, rather than a profits protection law. (Amendment A6).
      • Require an Inch-for-Inch replacement of trees removed by developers, rather than allowing them to replace mature trees with “sticks.” (Amendment E4). For example, if a developer rips out a 24-inch regulated tree, then they should replace it with six 4-inch trees (6 x 4 = 24).
      • Increase the In-Lieu Fee to a minimum of $4,000 per tree and memorialize that in the ordinance, rather than hoping a “Director’s Rule” does it later. (As noted during the committee meeting, the version originally published in the Central Staff memo — Amendment E6 — needs to be corrected / changed from $2,833 to $4,000, which would then make it consistent with the UFC letter from April 7, 2023).
      • Empower the new City Urban Forester position created last year within the Office of Sustainability & Environment. (initial draft of Amendment B4 needs to be beefed up).
      • Think Trees First: Add a new section to request that SDCI modify its practices to consider trees at the beginning of the permit review process — before any trees are ripped out. (Amendment C1).
      • Protect the tree service provider registry law we recently adopted to increase transparency and accountability and end the “wild west” of tree cutting in Seattle. (Reject the content from amendment #10 originally proposed in the substitute bill. At my request on April 21, 2023, the Chair agreed to remove that provision — to be debated later. I oppose watering down that law by allowing tree cutters to remove Tier 3 and 4 trees with impunity.)

      MORE INFO:

      • For the Committee agenda with supporting materials, including the 62-page City Council Central Staff memo with the Chair’s proposed substitute baseline bill (with 13 mostly technical amendments) — PLUS the list of 48 potential other amendments to the Harrell Administration bill, (after page 54 of the memo) — CLICK HERE.
      • To watch the video of today’s (April 21, 2023) Land Use Committee, CLICK HERE.

      April 11, 2023: Suggested Amendments to the Tree Protection Legislation from Urban Forestry Commission

      I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please!”

      “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
      Nothing is going to get better. It’s not
      .”

      -from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

      I’m very grateful to the Urban Forestry Commission for cramming in so many hours last week to rapidly review the Harrell-Strauss tree legislation and to send their suggestions to the City Council. While I’m still reviewing their letter with their suggested amendments, I wanted to make the document publicly available because I said I would be interested in supporting any reasonable suggestions they put forward. For the Urban Forestry letter, dated April 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.

      The UFC is disappointed with the City’s policy development process relating to CB 120534. From the UFC perspective, the proposed legislation appears to have been developed behind closed doors without substantive participation by the Commission and other stakeholders. The March 2023 draft is substantially different from the February 2022 draft the UFC had seen last and made a substantial list of recommendations on. The timeline established by the City Council for acting on the proposal is relatively short given the complexity of the policy and the implications for our city. The UFC does not feel there has been adequate time for all interested stakeholders, including this Commission, to reflect and make well-informed recommendations.”

      — from the April 7th letter the City Council received from the Urban Forestry Commission

      I hear and appreciate the Urban Forestry Commission, and so I want to make sure we work to amend the initial draft of this ordinance to incorporate their suggested amendments.

      In the meantime, where in the heck is the City Urban Forester strategic advisor the City Council funded back in November 2022? That position needs to start at the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) and be given authority within the new tree protection ordinance because, currently, most tree removal decisions are overseen by the City department that focuses on developer requests.


      March 30, 2023: Schedule for Tree Protection Legislation from Harrell-Strauss; Ways to Provide Input; Initial Concerns

      Current Schedule/Next Steps (as amended by Committee Chair 4/21/2023):

      • Wed, March 29, 2023: the five City Councilmembers of the Land Use Committee meet again on this tree protection legislation. For the presentations by SDCI, CLICK HERE (March 29) and HERE (March 22).
      • Wed, April 5: Urban Forestry Commission (hopefully) finalizes its suggested amendments.
      • Fri, April 7 at 2:00 pm: the five City Councilmembers of the Land Use Committee meet again on this tree protection legislation.
      • Tue, April 11 18: Internal deadline for Committee members to send proposed amendments to City Council’s Central Staff for finalizing.
      • Fri, April 21 at 2:00 pm: Committee votes on Chair’s proposed substitute bill with “technical” amendments.
      • Mon, April 24 at 10:30 am: public hearing (but best to opine before this date).
      • Wed, April 26 at 2:00 pm: a special Land Use Committee votes on the amended bill amendments. • Thu, May 4 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Vote amended bill out of Land Use Committee.
      • Tue, May 9 or 16 2 at 2:00 pm: full Council is likely to vote on the bill.

      Be alert for late-breaking amendments from the four Councilmembers not on the Land Use Committee!

      3 Ways to Raise Your Voice:

      1. Call into the Council Meeting: You can register online two hours ahead of each meeting. Then call in to be prepared to speak on your telephone when the meeting starts. For instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE or use this website: http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment
      2. Speak in person: You could also come to City Hall to speak in person. (Arrive at least a few minutes before his committee starts to complete the Sign-In Sheet.)
      3. Email: The email addresses of the members of the Land Use Committee are: Dan.Strauss@seattle.gov, Tammy.Morales@seattle.gov, Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov, Sara.Nelson@seattle.gov, Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. To send an e-mail to all nine Councilmembers, you can use this single email address: Council@seattle.gov.

      Initial Concerns: Here are some thematic concerns raised, thus far, from many tree advocates:

      • Amendments are needed to protect more trees (requiring landowners / architects / developers to prioritize the retention of trees, preserving more of each property lot to retain existing trees, and protecting trees between 6 inches and 12 inches in diameter);
      • Amendments are needed to require collection of MORE data EARLIER about all the trees on a property before any cutting or approvals begin;
      • Amendments are needed to require replacement trees to have a total and immediate diameter girth similar to that of the removed tree, rather than waiting decades for the “canopy” of the replacement tree to catch up to what was chopped down years earlier. (For example, if the developer rips out a 24-inch tree and they propose to replace it with a two-inch tree, the City should require the planting on site or nearby approximately 12 two-inch trees to equal the 24-inches removed);
      • Amendments are needed to provide a strong oversight role for the new Urban Forester position, which is already housed appropriately at the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE); and
      • Amendments are needed to prevent a new “in-lieu” fee from creating an incentive to chop instead of designing to conserve trees. SDCI estimates the amount of money raised would be less than $200,000 per year. Tree infrastructure is so valuable that we should simply make that small, but mighty investment from our General Fund.
      a logo used by the nonprofit Friends of Urban Forests

      In addition to the forthcoming suggestions from the Urban Forestry Commission, there is a Seattle-based nonprofit called Friends of Urban Forests, which already posted its recommended amendments on March 22, 2023:

      Key provisions that need to be revised or added to the draft ordinance:  

      1.  Require 20% lot allowance for “tree preservation and tree planting areas” in multifamily areas and 40% lot allowance for 1-4 units in the neighborhood residential zone.  Portland passed legislation in 2020 to allow up to 4plexes  in their neighborhoods after the state mandated zoning updates. Portland responded in Nov 2022 to update the tree protection legislation.  
      2.  Remove the guaranteed “85% lot development area” provision for lowrise, midrise, commercial and Seattle mixed zones  If the current middle housing legislation passes in Olympia, almost all of Seattle would be up zoned by this change, with a likely significant loss of tree canopy city wide. The city needs flexibility to evaluate development and for protecting trees lot by lot, not one size fits all circumstances. 
      3.  Require a Tree Inventory of all trees 6” DSH and larger and a Tree Landscaping Plan be submitted by developers as Portland Oregon does prior to any building permits being approved. This information fits with collecting in lieu fees prior to issuing building permits and facilitates reporting and tracking of tree loss and replacement, rather than city workers having to pull this information from site plans. Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order asked for data on trees removed and replaced. Getting this information up front from developers is the best way to do this rather than taxpayers paying city workers enter data from site plans.
      4.  Require developers throughout the total development process to maximize the retention of existing trees 6” DSH and larger with adequate space for trees to grow and survive. The current draft removes consideration of protecting 6”-12” DSH trees and also removes them from site plans. Keep them on the site plans, Tree 6” DSH and larger represent 45% of trees in the NR zone according to Seattle’s Ecosystem Values Report. Most of these trees are established potential replacement trees for existing large trees that die. Trees 12”DSH and larger only represent 18% of the trees in the NR zone. A diversity of ages and species for trees is essential for a healthy urban forest. 
      5.   Retain definitions and use of exceptional and significant trees. Remove the confusing and biased proposed new classification of trees as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4. The use and understanding of trees as exceptional has been in the tree ordinance since 2001 and described in more detail in the 2008 Director’s Rule. 16-2008. Significant trees are understood to be those 6” DSH and larger that are not exceptional. Many other cities, including in this region, use these definitions.  
      6.  Require for replacement 2 trees for 12-24″ DSH trees removed, 3 trees for 24 – 36″ DSH and 4 trees for above 36″ DSH for more equivalency of the increasing value of services trees provide as they increase in size. One for one replacement is no equivalency for what is lost as trees increase in size.   
      7. Require that tree replacement numbers increase with the size and canopy volume of the removed tree. such that in 25 years or less they will reach equivalent canopy volume lost – either on site or pay a replacement fee that also increases with the size of the tree removed. Just requiring replacement with a tree or trees that “results upon maturity, in a canopy cover, that is roughly proportional to the canopy cover prior to removal” ignores the services the tree  provides and would have continued to provide if not removed.  The fact that removing an 80-year-old tree takes 80 years to reach any equivalency to what was lost, needs to be considered in responding to the climate crisis and climate resiliency needs. No language is added to specifically consider the size of trees removed and the ecosystems services lost when a  new tree is planted as a reason to increase the required number of trees to be replanted or higher in lieu fees if planted off site. 
      8.  All replacement in lieu fees and fines should go into a One Seattle Tree Fund as stated in Mayor Harrell’s ‘s Executive Order. It should be a dedicated Tree Planting and Preservation Fund like Portland, Oregon has (not into SDCI’s budget). The Fund should be added to this draft. The Fund should report yearly on its budget to the City Council and Mayor. The One Seattle Tree Fund should be overseen by the City Urban Forester located in OSE because the distribution of funds would be interdepartmental. Allow the One Seattle Tree Fund (Tree Planting and Preservation Fund) to also accept fines, donations, grants, purchase land, set up covenants and for educational purposes as Portland, Oregon does. 
      9. The role of the new City Forester position created by the Seattle City Council in OSE should be defined in this ordinance. 
      10. Create an Urban Forestry Division within SDCI with additional staff as recommended in a separate budget provision or expand the Urban Forestry oversight staff and responsibility in OSE for independent oversight of trees. 
      11. Expand the existing Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Tree Removal and Replacement Permit Program using the Accela database system to include SDCI to cover all significant trees 6” DSH and larger, and all exceptional trees, on private property in all land use zones, removed both during development and outside development. The proposed ordinance remains a complaint-based system relying on citizens which has been proven to not be effective in code compliance. SDCI only has 2 arborists who are mostly deskbound.to check site plans and in the field. 
      12. Require SDCI to submit quarterly reports to the Office of Sustainability and Environment on tree removal and replacement as required by other City Departments and as required yearly by Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order. 
      13. Increase in lieu to require the $17.89/square inch in-lieu fees to start with 12″ DSH trees rather than 24″ DSH trees.  In-Lieu fees need to adequately cover the city’s additional cost of planting and maintaining the trees for 5 years. 
      14. Extend ordinance to cover all land use zones, including Highrise, Industrial, Downtown and Institutions.
      15. Allow city certified inspectors to enter property if necessary to ascertain any illegal tree activity 
      16. Require removal of invasive plants, like ivy, scotch broom, and holly from development sites to help stop the spread of invasive species in our city that add to maintenance costs and replacement of dying trees. 
      17. Expand the required tree protection covenant to include a replacement requirement for a tree that dies. Make it a permanent “protected tree planting site” for the life of the building. 
      18. Remove or clarify language of tree drip line “may be irregular in shape to reflect variation in branch outer limits” Dripline is used to determine tree protection area and branches shortened in some areas may not reflect root structure or may have been removed in certain areas if tree has been limbed up. 
      19. Require that maintenance of relocated and replacement trees include “watering as needed” 
      20. Require street trees be planted if ADU’s are added to a lot. ADU’s, particularly Detached ADU’s, reduce space for trees on site and increase tree removal and are currently exempt from original lot coverage limits in NR zone. 
      21. Reduce from a 1000 square feet addition to a 500 square feet addition to an existing structure as the threshold requiring planting of street trees
      22. SDCI Director shall have authority to reduce or waive any fees assessed by this ordinance, taking into account homeowner’s financial circumstances or ability to pay. 
      23. Split purpose and intent section. Add to intent “address climate resiliency and reduce heat island impacts across the city.” 
      24. Require removal of invasive plants, like ivy, scotch broom, and holly from development sites to help stop the spread of invasive species in our city that add to maintenance costs and replacement of dying trees.”

      March 7, 2023: Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Strauss introduce revised proposal as “tree protection ordinance” and Mayor issues related Executive Order

      • For the new Council Bill for tree policies, as proposed by Mayor Bruce Harrell and Councilmember Dan Strauss, CLICK HERE for CB 120534. For the related fiscal bill (CB 120535), CLICK HERE. (Update: Those are the versions officially introduced March 20, 2023 via Council’s Introduction & Referral Calendar. For the older version from the March 7 press release, CLICK HERE.)
      • To compare the March 7, 2023 (Harrell-Strauss version) to the Feb 2022 (Durkan-SDCI-SEPA version), CLICK HERE. Is the new version stronger for trees? Review the comparison and decide.
      • For the 4-page Executive Order issued by Mayor Harrell on March 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • For the draft Director’s Rule for proposed In-Lieu Fees, CLICK HERE.
      • For the draft Director’s Rule listing the “Exceptional Trees” now called “Tier 2 Trees,” CLICK HERE.
      • For the 18-page “Director’s Report,” that explains some of the proposed changes, CLICK HERE.
      • For a 4-page “Expanded Summary of Code Changes,” CLICK HERE.
      • For their joint press release announcing their bill and executive order, CLICK HERE.
      • For the proposed in-lieu fee table, see the Director’s Rule, but here’s the main table of proposed fees:
      proposed “in-lieu fee” as shown in the draft Director’s Rule

      Our Council office is reviewing this new proposal, and I look forward to input from Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission (UFC). See below for UFC’s July 20, 2022 concerns and suggested amendments for the February 2022 bill crafted by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) under the Durkan Administration.

      Here is my initial reaction:

      Our Emerald City’s goal was to increase tree canopy coverage before suffering from increased heat waves, so the terrible loss of 255 acres of precious trees proves Seattle has been heading in the wrong direction as many of us had warned. City Hall must take bolder action to preserve and plant trees because large trees are desperately needed infrastructure to cool communities, address inequities, remove carbon, reduce stormwater, and improve health. While our new law to register tree-removal companies was an important step to end the ‘wild west of tree cutting’ last year, we must implement a comprehensive tree protection ordinance this year that truly protects trees. The devil is in the details to ensure new policies actually protect more trees, rather than accidentally adding loopholes that lead to chainsaws or creating perverse incentives that allow developers to cut down big healthy trees to generate money for City Hall to plant little new trees.”

      — Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen

      It’s important to note that “Regulation” does not mean “Protection.” Just because more trees might be “regulated” going forward, doesn’t mean they will be saved from destruction. Also, “Replacement” does mean “Parity.” As the proposal is currently written, a large 24-inch tree can be replaced with a 2-inch tree.


      February 28, 2023: Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment issues final report on loss of 255 acres of trees.

      As we already reported last August, data confirmed Seattle sadly lost 255 acres of trees (see August 24, 2022 blog post). The Office of Sustainability & Environment issued the final report today.

      This final report on tree canopy states, “As shown in Table 1, Neighborhood Residential contributes more to the city’s canopy than any other…For this reason, gains and losses in this area play an outsized role on the city’s overall canopy. The net loss of 87 acres (1.2% relative loss) made up over a third of the city’s overall canopy loss during the assessment period.”

      More than 40% the tree loss occurred on residential properties [that 41% comprises 87 acres of neighborhood residential (34% of 255 acres) and 18 acres of multifamily (7% of 255 acres)]. Further, due to significantly higher rates of tree loss when land is zoned for higher density development, converting neighborhood residential to multifamily, as proposed by new pending State laws and as likely with future changes to our City’s Comprehensive Plan, could accelerate tree loss without a stronger tree protection ordinance. Additional tree protections are needed because under the current tree ordinance, the rate of loss has been 66% greater in multifamily zones (which includes “low rise”) than in neighborhood residential, formerly known as single family (the 2.0% MF loss rate is 66% more than the 1.2% SF loss rate).

      People obviously live in the residential areas and so they more directly benefit from the cooling, drainage filtration, and public health powers of mature trees than having to travel to a park. If trees were just about carbon sequestration (rather than also cooling, drainage, and public health), then perhaps we could just protect and plant trees in parks.

      Moreover, it’s not an either / or proposition. Skilled and creative architects and developers can cluster the 3 or so units more closely together and retain the trees on the periphery of a lot. Or build stacked flats rather than condos, which are better for seniors since they can have the ground floor units.

      For a Seattle Times article on this tree canopy report, CLICK HERE.


      February 28, 2023: Council adopts technical improvements to Tree Service Provider (Arborist) Registration Law

      Today the City Council unanimously adopted Council Bill 120509 which made relatively minor changes to the original tree service provider (arborist) registration Ordinance 126554 (formerly known as CB 120207). Changes included requiring posted notice at the tree location during the day of commercial tree work, but moving the advanced notice to an online system with more days of advanced notice when the tree is to be removed. For a summary of the changes adopted, CLICK HERE and HERE. I appreciated the active input by the Urban Forestry Commission in making sure the 2023 changes did not unduly weaken the original 2022 law which ended the “wild west of tree cutting in Seattle.”


      February 8, 2023: Land Use Chair Proposes Amendments to Tree Service Provider (Arborist) Registration Law

      On February 7, 2023, the Chair of the City Council’s Land Use Committee introduced Council Bill 120509 to amend the law that requires “tree service providers” to register with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) — and that department publishes the registry online for the public. The City adopted the original law in 2022 (Ordinance 126554, formerly known as Council Bill 120207). The Land Use Committee will discuss the Chair’s proposed amendments (via his Council Bill 120509) on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.

      People can provide input in several ways:

      A key change in the Chair’s bill, as introduced, would require notice to be posted only on-line rather than at the physical location where a tree would be heavily pruned or removed. On the plus side, the bill would clarify that the vehicles of the tree cutters must clearly display the name & phone number of their company and the City-issued registration number.

      Personally, I have been fine with the original law we passed to require tree cutters to register. That bill was originally available for several months so that tree service providers and others could provide input at that time: it was introduced October 2021, adopted in March 2022, and did not go into effect until November 2022.

      For me, any changes to the registration law would need to be okay with the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC). On January 4, 2023, the UFC sent its feedback on a December 8, 2022 draft of the Chair’s proposed amendments that could have watered down the law’s definition of “heavy pruning,” but, thankfully, the actual bill the Chair introduced February 7, 2023 (CB 120509) omitted that proposal. Therefore, the introduced version of Council Bill 120509 seems to boil down to the key change in the public noticing provisions. It’s interesting to note that SDOT provides 14 calendar days advanced notice for a proposed tree removal on public property and physically posts that notice, but the new bill would not only move notification to just a website, but also provide a notice of just 3 business days. Perhaps we could require notice of 3 business days for heavy pruning (“reportable work”), but more advanced notice for tree removal — and in all cases, require a physical posting the day of the activity. That could help to mitigate the concerns raised by the Summary/Fiscal Note about equity: “Shifting public notices to online only may disadvantage residents who do not have access to a smartphone or computer…An online notice system is more likely to be less accessible to low-income residents, who have lower rates of technology adoption generally.”


      January 4, 2023: UFC sends letter to SDCI Reiterating Concerns / Goals for Forthcoming Tree Protection Ordinance

      “Dear Chandra [SDCI staff], The Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) thanks you for your December 7, 2022, briefing regarding the status of the tree and urban forest protection ordinance update (SMC 25.11).


      “You shared that you and your colleagues reviewed and considered all recommendations from the
      UFC, as well as from many other stakeholders. The UFC acknowledges and appreciates the time
      invested in reviewing community input.


      “The UFC would support the changes as enumerated during your briefing, though the Commission
      reserves its endorsements until the full text of the revised draft is available. The UFC’s summary of
      the proposed changes shared at the December 7 meeting are at the bottom of this letter. While the
      UFC believes the revisions that you shared would improve the ordinance, the City must be bolder in
      its efforts to protect and enhance tree canopy.


      “With the results from the updated tree canopy assessment in hand, it is clear that the current
      regulatory, financial, and educational structures in place for urban forest governance in Seattle are
      not sufficient to achieve the City’s stated canopy goals. Worse, they appear to have perpetuated a
      harmful legacy of disproportionately failing Seattle’s most disadvantaged communities.


      “The 2021 canopy assessment shows that Seattle’s urban forest is in decline. Between 2016 to 2021,
      the city saw a net loss of 255 acres of canopy. Tree loss occurred everywhere, across all land use
      types. But the most disadvantaged communities experienced relative canopy losses eight-fold
      greater than the least disadvantaged communities (-4.1% and -0.5% respectively).

      “Our best chance to reverse canopy loss and address tree canopy inequity is right now. The UFC
      repeats its calls to further strengthen the tree code by:
      • Reducing tree removal allowances outside of development;
      • Increasing tree replacement requirements;
      • Requiring tree inventories and tree landscape plans for development projects; and
      • Emphasizing that maximizing tree retention is a goal and expectation of new development.


      “This is not a comprehensive list of recommendations, just a few reiterations of some of the
      recommendations that the UFC considers important related to recent updates to the ordinance.”

      For the UFC Letter dated January 4, 2023, CLICK HERE.


      August 24, 2022: Disturbing Data: Seattle Lost 255 Acres of Trees Since 2016!

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

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

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


      August 23, 2022: Saving Seattle’s Trees: Registration Website is Up for “Tree Service Providers”

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

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


      August 22, 2022: Hearing Examiner Overrules Developers that Challenged Tree Protections

      The City Hearing Examiner affirmed the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI)’s decision to issue a “Determination of Non-Significance” (DNS) for their proposed tree protection ordinance. The Hearing Examiner’s decision removes a major obstacle to the long-held goal of adopting stronger tree protections.

      I am very pleased that the City Hearing Examiner rejected the appeal by some real estate developers that, unfortunately, resulted in yet another delay in our efforts to strengthen Seattle’s tree protection ordinance. We already know trees provide numerous public health and environmental benefits, which include reducing the harmful heat island impacts of climate change. More trees need to be protected and planted now, especially in low income communities. I look forward to working with the Urban Forestry Commission and other stakeholders to finally implement an effective tree ordinance for our ‘Emerald City.’”

      Councilmember Alex Pedersen, (District 4, Northeast Seattle)

      URBAN FORESTY COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS: Regarding next steps on tree protections, I am interested in incorporating into new legislation nearly all of the recommendations of the Urban Forestry Commission (see below for the UFC recommendations from their July 20, 2022 & March 9, 2022 letters).

      CONCERNS ABOUT IN-LIEU FEE: I’m very concerned that the so-called “in-lieu fee” proposal from SDCI will have the perverse effect of losing more trees, because it would enable real estate developers to simply pay a modest fee in exchange for ripping out mature trees that are 12 inches or more in in diameter. When testifying at City Council in December 2019, the manager of Portland’s urban forest programs cautioned Seattle about an in-lieu payment scheme because the fee often fails to discourage for-profit developers from just writing a check to chop the tree. I agree with the UFC’s goal in dedicating a source of funds for new trees, but I believe we should use funds from sources other than those generated by the removal of existing trees. Trees are vital infrastructure we must protect in the midst of climate change and, to pay for new trees desperately needed in lower income areas, we can use other City funding or fees.


      JULY 20, 2022: Urban Forestry Commission updates/supplements their March 9, 2022 recommendations for changes to SDCI’s proposed tree protection ordinance.

      As a supplement and update to their March 9, 2022 list of recommendations, the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) sent a letter, dated July 20, 2022, to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) with recommendations on how to improve SDCI’s proposed tree protection ordinance. For the July 20, 2022 letter, CLICK HERE, and for the March 9 letter, CLICK HERE (and see earlier blog post entry). While the UFC appreciates that SDCI’s proposed “Director’s Rule,” which accompanies SDCI’s tree regulation bill as proposed in February 2022, would expand the definition of “exceptional tree” from 24 inches in diameter at standard height (DSH) to 30 inches, the UFC noted several concerns and made several recommendations. Here is a summary of concerns and recommendations raised in both UFC letters to SDCI:

      1. MORE EXISTING TREES ON SITE PLANS: Require all trees 6 inches or greater in diameter at standard height to be shown on developer site plans. Currently, the Seattle Municipal Code section 23.22.020 requires trees 6” or greater on preliminary plat applications, but SMC 25.11.050 requires only “exceptional trees” and potential exceptional trees on subsequent site plans. SDCI’s proposed ordinance would require all exceptional trees and trees greater than 12” to be on site plans, but the UFC wants all trees 6” or greater on site plans to help the City capture important data and bring SMC 25.11 into better alignment with other code provisions. (Also in UFC’s March 9, 2022 letter.)
      2. INCH-FOR-INCH REPLACEMENT TREES: Require an inch-for-inch replacement of any trees 6 inches or greater in diameter removed as part of the development process. Therefore, if a 30” DBH tree is removed, at least 30” of new tree(s) are required as replacement; for example: 5 replacement trees average 6″ DBH. (March 9, 2022 letter suggested a different calculation, but had the same point which is that the SDCI’s suggested replacement version is insufficient. As stated by the UFC March 9, 2022 letter, “The long growth time required for replacement trees to attain the stature of the tree removed results in a lag during which the values and services provided by the replacement tree are far less that what the removed tree previously provided to people and wildlife.”
      3. RESILIENT REPLACEMENT TREES: Incentivize replacement with trees that are conifers (rather than deciduous), native to the area, and resilient to climate change.
      4. ADEQUATE ROOM – REPLACEMENT TREES: Require adequate soil volume for roots and space for canopy for replacement trees.
      5. ADEQUATE ROOM – PROTECTING EXISTING TREES: Use “critical root zone” to measure total area needed for tree protection rather than the “drip line,” as currently used.
      6. ESTABLISHMENT PERIOD – REPLACEMENT TREES: Require a five-year establishment period and assign responsibility to ensure successful, sustained survival of the replacement trees.
      7. ASSISTANCE FOR REPLACEMENT TREES: Make available assistance to property owners responsible for successful establishment of replacement trees if they would be unduly burdened.
      8. PROTECT REPLACEMENT TREES: Ensure replacement trees are protected and not removed, by potentially designating them as “exceptional trees.”
      9. ROBUST IN-LIEU FEES: Establish “a robust payment-in-lieu program that adequately establishes prices based both on tree size and on their ecosystem services and community values lost, and ensures adequate funding to support the trees throughout [a] five-year establishment period.” (For SDCI’s “in-lieu fee” proposal as of February 2022, CLICK HERE for SDCI’s draft Director’s Rule and CLICK HERE for SDCI’s proposed tree protection ordinance, then go to page 25 under proposed new section 25.11.095).
      10. ESTABLISH TREE FUND: “Establish a dedicated Tree Replacement and Maintenance fund (so that funds [from fines or a new in-lieu fee] do not go into the SDCI budget as fines currently do). Allow this [separate, new] Fund to not just accept in lieu fees, but [also] accept donations, fines, and grants, and be used to purchase land, set up covenants, and for educational purposes. Portland [Oregon] has this type of Fund.
      11. REPLACE HAZARDOUS TREES: Generally require replacement of removed hazardous trees.
      12. REQUIRE INVENTORY AND PLAN: “Require a Tree Inventory of all trees 6″ DSH and larger and a Tree Landscaping Plan prior to any building permits being approved.”
      13. USE ARBORISTS: “Require and/or incentivize developers to hire certified Arborists to guide them through the project development process.”
      14. MAXIMIZE TREES – REQUIREMENT: Require property owners and real estate developers to maximize retention of trees (not just exceptional trees) “throughout the total development process with adequate room to grow.” (Per UFC Chair Joshua Morris, This is stated as an expectation in the subdivision platting process (SMC 23.22.054 A), so why would it not also be an expectation during development? Why maximize tree retention in subdivision if it is generally acceptable to scrape lots for new construction? Stating this expectation in SMC 25.11 would bring the tree protection code into alignment with other code.)
      15. MAXIMIZE TREES – INCENTIVES: “Provide incentives to developers for tree retention, such as increased building height and reduced parking requirements.”
      16. ONE-YEAR BEFORE PROPERTY PURCHASE: “Require tree replacement or in lieu fees by developers for trees removed one year prior to property purchase.” (Note: This could help to close the common loophole of property owners and developers colluding early in the process by having the property owner remove trees before the sale or redevelopment of their property officially “starts” with the City government.)
      17. REDUCE TREE REMOVAL SEPARATE FROM DEVELOPMENT: Reduce the number of significant, non-exceptional trees a landowner is permitted to remove to two such trees every three years (instead of maintaining the current allowance to remove three trees per year). UFC would like to know how SDCI justifies the current high removal allowances. (Also in UFC’s March 9, 2022 letter.)
      18. LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS DESERVE TREES, TOO: Low-income residents deserve the benefits of trees, so do NOT exempt “affordable housing” projects from the stronger tree protection requirements.
      19. REQUIRE PERMITS TO TRACK TREE REMOVALS: Implement a system that requires permit requests and approvals prior to removing trees. Tracking the removals will provide valuable data and increase transparency. The lack of a tracking and permitting systems for tree removal requests has contributed to the City government’s poor job in tracking tree loss in real time. “Expand the existing Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Tree Removal and Replacement Permit Program, which uses the Accela database system, to include all significant trees 6″ DBH and larger, all exceptional trees, on private property in all land use zones, both during development and outside development.” Learn from the systems used by Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC. (Also in UFC’s March 9, 2022 letter.)
      20. QUARTERLY REPORTS: “Require SDCI to submit quarterly reports to the Office of Sustainability and Environment on tree removal and replacement…” This can help improve accountability and transparency.
      21. COVER ENTIRE CITY: Tree protections from the ordinance should “cover all land use types in the city,” including industrial and downtown areas.

      The UFC’s March 9, 2022 letter, had the following additional recommendations:

      • Retain meaningful community input: Delete SDCI’s proposal to make tree decisions a “Type 1” decision. Changing to a “Type 1” decision gives all power to SDCI with no public input and removes the ability for any appeals to a neutral Hearing Examiner. (SDCI has since clarified to the UFC that this change is to more easily route site plans for arborist review within the department, but will community members still be able to appeal through the Hearing Examiner as they currently can?)
      • Require posting a notice of the impending tree removal on-site and online two weeks prior to removal, to be consistent with the requirements used by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). (Notice for private property will be required now under the new Tree Service Provider Registration law that goes into effect November 10, 2022, but for only three business days of notice rather than for two weeks. Ideally, posting requirements for tree work would be consistent for public and private property and across departments — and for longer than 3 business days).
      • Clarify language for removing “non-exceptional trees” greater than 12 inches in diameter at standard height (DSH). (SDCI’s draft legislation would limit removal of non-exceptional trees between 6”-12” DSH when no development is proposed, but it doesn’t mention non-exceptional trees between 12”-24”. If the intent is, ideally, that removal of the trees between 12″-24″ would be prohibited, that needs to be explicitly addressed to avoid ambiguity and confusion.)

      March 29, 2022: 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: 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.


      MARCH 9, 2022: Urban Forestry Commission issues initial recommendations on SDCI’s proposed bill (NOTE: for most up-to-date info, see July 20, 2022 entry instead)

      While the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) appreciates that SDCI’s proposed “Director’s Rule,” which accompanies SDCI’s tree regulation bill as proposed in February 2022, would expand the definition of “exceptional tree” from 24 inches in diameter at standard height (DSH) to 30 inches, the UFC noted in a letter dated March 9 2022 several concerns and recommendations: CLICK HERE. For the full list of UFC’s recommendations, see July 20, 2022 blog post, which includes both the UFC’s March 9 recommendations AND the UFC’s July 20, 2022 recommendations — with any conflicts relying on the newer July 20, 2022 letter, as suggested by UFC Chair Joshua Morris. Here is a summary of the March 9, 2022 letter to SDCI (updates from the July 20, 2022 letter are noted):

      1. Provide some protections for trees 6 inches or greater in diameter at standard height in locations other than on undeveloped lots. (The UFC believes that all trees 6” or greater in diameter at standard height should be shown on site plans and that replacement should be required of any such trees removed in the development process.)
      2. Retain meaningful community input: Delete SDCI’s proposal to make tree decisions a “Type 1” decision. Changing to a “Type 1” decision gives all power to SDCI with no public input and removes the ability for any appeals to a neutral Hearing Examiner. (SDCI has since clarified to the UFC that this change is to more easily route site plans for arborist review within the department, but will community members still be able to appeal through the Hearing Examiner as they currently can?)
      3. Require developers to document on their site plans all trees 6 inches or greater in diameter at standard height (DSH). (Seattle Municipal Code 23.22.020 currently requires trees 6” or greater on preliminary plat applications, but SMC 25.11.050 currently requires only exceptional trees and potential exceptional trees on subsequent site plans. SDCI’s draft legislation would require all exceptional trees and trees greater than 12” to be on site plans, but the UFC believes that requiring all trees 6” or greater on site plans would help the City capture important data and bring SMC 25.11 into better alignment with other code.)
      4. Implement a system that requires permit requests and approvals prior to removing trees and make such permit costs affordable. The lack of a tracking and permitting systems for tree removal requests has contributed to the City government’s poor job in tracking tree loss in real time. Learn from the systems used by Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC.
      5. Require posting a notice of the impending tree removal on-site and online two weeks prior to removal, to be consistent with the requirements used by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). (Notice for private property will be required now under the new Tree Service Provider Registration law that goes into effect November 10, 2022, but for only three business days of notice rather than for two weeks. Ideally, posting requirements for tree work would be consistent for public and private property and across departments — and for longer than 3 business days).
      6. State the expectation that the landowners and real estate developers maximize tree retention throughout their development process. (This is stated as an expectation in the subdivision platting process (SMC 23.22.054 A), so why would it not also be an expectation during development? Why maximize tree retention in subdivision if it is generally acceptable to scrape lots for new construction? Stating this expectation in SMC 25.11 would bring the tree protection code into alignment with other code.)
      7. Clarify language for removing “non-exceptional trees” greater than 12 inches in diameter at standard height (DSH). (SDCI’s draft legislation would limit removal of non-exceptional trees between 6”-12” DSH when no development is proposed, but it doesn’t mention non-exceptional trees between 12”-24”. If the intent is, ideally, that removal of the trees between 12″-24″ would be prohibited, that needs to be explicitly addressed to avoid ambiguity and confusion.)
      8. Reduce the number of significant, non-exceptional trees a landowner is permitted to remove to two such trees every three years (instead of maintaining the current allowance to remove three trees per year). (UFC would like to know what scenarios the City imagines to justify the current high removal allowances.)
      9. Recognize that canopy coverage does not capture all the benefits of trees. Revise/tighten/make stronger the proposal for replacement trees to “result, upon maturity, in a canopy cover that is at roughly proportional to the canopy cover prior to tree removal,” because such a proposal would allow large mature trees with modest canopy spread to be replaced with less valuable short trees with similar canopy width. (The UFC draft ordinance proposed that canopy volume be replaced within 25 years, for example. This issue/concern is also connected to replacement requirements. The 1:1 required in SCDI’s draft legislation is too low to recover lost canopy quickly enough.)
      10. Require at least 2 for 1 replacement for ANY tree 6 inches or greater in diameter at standard height, including hazardous trees and City street trees (inside and outside of real estate development) and require a larger number of replacement trees when removing larger existing trees. As stated by the UFC March 9, 2022 letter, “The long growth time required for replacement trees to attain the stature of the tree removed results in a lag during which the values and services provided by the replacement tree are far less that what the removed tree previously provided to people and wildlife.” (UPDATE: The most recent UFC letter from July 20, 2022 recommends requiring inch-for-inch replacement. Therefore, if a 30” DBH tree is removed, 30” are required to be replaced; for example: 5 replacement trees average 6″ DBH.)

      February 25, 2022: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Tree Cutter Registration Bill Introduced!

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


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

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

      See the timeline getting pushed back with each quarterly update:

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

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

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


      September 23, 2021 (Update from our newsletter):

      Tree Protection Legislation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


      August 23, 2021 (Update from our newsletter):

      Supporting Trees at Yesler Terrace

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

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

      illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

      Recent evidence about the importance of trees:

      • Environmental Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • Climate Mitigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


      April 27, 2021 (from our newsletter):

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

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

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


      March 24, 2021 (Land Use Committee):

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

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

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

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


      December 18, 2020 (from our newsletter):

      Prodded bureaucracy to speed protections of trees.

      Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission

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


      November 23, 2020 (from our newsletter):

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


      December 20, 2019 (original post and newsletter):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


      This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 49347663268_ca05ce73f2_k-cropped-1024x754.jpg
      I was honored to have the living legend Ron Sims swear me into office to start my 4-year term January 2020. Because I was elected to a seat the previously elected Councilmember left early, I actually started the job at the end of November 2019. This enabled me to chair the previous Land Use Committee in December 2019, with a focus on protecting our Emerald City’s trees. Since January 2020, however, that Committee has been chaired by Councilmember Dan Strauss and I serve as a member (I chair the Transportation and Utilities 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.”


      Time for Tax Fairness in Seattle – Time to Repeal the Tax on Your Drinking Water

      June 7th, 2023
      photo by Joseph Peha, City of Seattle Legislative Department, 6/7/2023


      August 18, 2023: Seattle Times Editorial Board Calls Pedersen’s Tax Reform “a solid idea.”

      The Seattle Times editorial board called Pedersen’s tax reform proposal “a solid idea.” Here’s the excerpt:

      “Big picture, I don’t believe City Hall has a revenue problem. It has a spending problem,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen during a council meeting. He cited several drivers of Seattle budget woes, including increasing wages for city government employees and ballooning pension costs.

      Pedersen has suggested instituting a capital-gains tax to replace the regressive tax on drinking water. It’s a solid idea that has garnered support from Chief Seattle Club, Solid Ground and Low Income Housing Institute, among others.”

      For the entire editorial published in the Seattle Times August 18, 2023, CLICK HERE.


      June 7 through August 4, 2023: More nonprofits and the SPU Customer Review Panel Endorse the Repeal of City Hall’s Tax on Drinking Water

      Scroll down for the additional endorsements…


      June 7, 2023: The Announcement: our press release has most of the key information about my proposal:

      Councilmember Pedersen launches bold tax reform to make the system more fair for Seattle

      Pedersen’s fiscally responsible tax reform legislation would, for the first time, eliminate a regressive tax for everyone and offset that water tax revenue with a local 2% capital gains excise tax. 

      SEATTLE – Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle) announced today a bold tax reform to make our system more fair for Seattle with legislation eliminating a regressive water tax for everyone and replacing it with a 2% local expansion of the State’s new progressive tax on high-end capital gains. 

      “Everyone knows the people of Seattle have suffered too long from one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation,” said Councilmember Pedersen, chair of City Council’s Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee. “Because tax reform for tax fairness is overdue in Seattle, I am introducing legislation to eliminate our regressive and arbitrary tax on everyone’s drinking water and replacing it with a reasonable 2% capital gains excise tax on large, non-retirement financial gains to match the new State law. The top 1% can afford to pay this 2%. Adopting a more fair and progressive capital gains tax would ensure no one has to pay taxes for their drinking water in Seattle, making this the first time City Hall has proactively eliminated a regressive tax.” 

      Matching the new State law, this local tax would apply to only a very small number who gain more than $250,000 in a single year from the sale of assets, such as stocks or bonds, and it would exempt retirement savings and real estate transactions. Using zip code-level information gathered for the state-level capital gains excise tax, a local 2% could generate approximately $50 million annually, which would offset the amount City Hall’s General Fund takes from your water bills each year, so that this tax reform is essentially revenue-neutral.  

      The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) consistently ranks Washington State as one of the most unfair systems in the country, where lower income residents pay a much higher percentage of their household earnings for taxes and fees than wealthier residents. 

      Washington State has the most regressive taxes in the country

      Pedersen’s plan for Seattle tax reform would utilize the revenue from the capital gains tax to eliminate one of our most regressive forms of taxation: the utility tax on water. As our system currently stands, households and businesses are not only charged for the cost of the water from Seattle Public Utilities, but also taxed on that same water by City Hall at an arbitrary rate of 15.54%. The revenue from the regressive water tax flows into the city government’s General Fund, which supports various City-funded operations.  

      For a typical household in Seattle, eliminating the water tax is likely to save at least $100 per year.

      Support from Key Stakeholders:

      NEW: Derrick Belgarde, Executive Director of the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club said, “Seattle’s water utility tax places a disproportionate burden on low-income communities and our members. Repealing this regressive tax will allow more of our members’ income to be focused on their healing & recovery as they move forward on a journey to being healthy & housed in supportive environments. We must break down all barriers that create homelessness or housing instability without limiting our resources to address these crises in our urban Native Communities.

      Derrick Belgarde, Chief Seattle Club

      NEW: Shalimar Gonzales, CEO of the nonprofit Solid Ground said: “There are many barriers to ending poverty that we must break down together and that includes the repeal of regressive taxes and fees that burden lower income households. Consistent with our nonprofit’s mission, I support policymakers repealing Seattle’s utility tax on drinking water and believe replenishing that revenue with a local capital gains excise tax is a solid option.”

      Shalimar Gonzales, Solid Ground

      NEW: Joe Thompson, Executive Director of Mercy Housing Northwest confirmed their nonprofit endorses this effort: “Our affordable housing communities have been especially burdened by escalating costs for necessities like utilities. We support the effort toward a more fair and equitable approach through the repeal of this regressive tax on drinking water.

      NEW: Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) said, “The affordable apartment buildings and tiny homes that our nonprofit LIHI builds and manages for low-income people are currently burdened by the city’s water utility tax, so we support local leaders repealing that regressive cost as they seek to make Seattle’s tax system more fair.”

      NEW: Marcia Wright-Soika, Executive Director, of the nonprofit FamilyWorks reported that her board approved the following statement of support: “The vast majority of families we serve every day through FamilyWorks’ food banks and resource centers are marginalized by economic injustice. We support efforts to bring relief to low-income families and neighbors by repealing regressive taxes, such as the tax on our drinking water. We hope policymakers center just and progressive revenue options as the pathway to make our city affordable and inclusive for all.”

      Marcia Wright-Soika, FamilyWorks

      Local small business owner, Molly Moon Neitzel of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream said, “As a small business owner who sees her employees struggling with regressive expenses, I support extending the progressive capital gains excise tax to Seattle to eliminate the city’s tax on everyone’s water bills. Councilmember Pedersen’s legislative proposal is an important part of the solution, as we work toward a more fair economic system.” 

      John Burbank,  founder and retired Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute think tank, said, “Introducing a progressive tax to sunset a regressive tax on everyone is a welcome and elegant step forward in addressing economic inequities in Seattle. Lower income households that pay a greater proportion of their income for their utility bills, including many seniors on fixed incomes, will benefit from eliminating the water tax. I appreciate Councilmember Pedersen for swiftly recognizing this opportunity for greater fairness by leveraging the new State law to benefit the people of Seattle with meaningful tax reform.”  

      As members of the Seattle Public Utilities Customer Review Panel, we strongly support the proposed legislation to eliminate the 15.5% utility tax on the sale of water currently imposed on our city residents and businessesUtility taxes are a regressive form of taxation and disproportionately affect lower income households as they pay a greater share of their income for essential utility services. This creates an affordability challenge for these customers, including many seniors on fixed incomes who do not qualify for the utility discount program for water, sewer and solid waste services. It also increases the cost of doing business for the many small commercial businesses that are integral to the quality of life in our local neighborhoods.”

      For the full letter of support from the Customer Review Panel of Seattle Public Utilities, dated August 4, 2023, CLICK HERE.

      Timing:

      Pedersen’s legislation needs to be adopted before the end of 2023 for Seattle to have authority throughout 2024 to track and tax the high-end, annual capital gains within the city limits and then eliminate the regressive water tax for everyone at the end of 2024. Moreover, City Hall has already endorsed for 2024 its $7.4 billion budget (of which $1.6 billion is for the General Fund), and it will require all of 2024 to quantify the capital gains taxes to be collected to offset the water tax. Put simply, Pedersen’s revenue-neutral tax reform legislation must be adopted in 2023 to impact 2025. Not adopting the legislation in 2023 would essentially signify that City Hall leaders remain okay charging its residents the unnecessary, regressive tax on drinking water. 

      Expanding the State’s new excise tax for high-end ($250,000 or more) capital gains that exempt retirement funds and real estate transactions so that it eliminates a regressive tax paid by everyone in Seattle is prudent and fiscally responsible, considering widespread concern about our city government’s growing budgets. Nearly 60% of Seattle voters said their taxes are too high and nearly two-thirds said they don’t trust City Hall to spend their tax dollars responsibly, according to a survey conducted by EMC Research in April 2023. A revenue-neutral tax reform that, for the first time, proactively eliminates a regressive tax can help to rebuild trust with the majority of residents who are skeptical of financial proposals from City Hall.   

      As chair of the City Council committee overseeing Seattle Public Utilities, Councilmember Pedersen held a discussion on June 6, 2023 to highlight this regressive taxation on utilities. He also introduced the concept of using the progressive excise tax to provide relief for regressive taxes in his widely distributed newsletters from April and May 2023. 

      Links to more information:  

      # # #

      Media coverage:

      • For my press release on June 7, 2023, CLICK HERE. To see the visuals from the presser, CLICK HERE
      • To watch the June 7, 2023 press conference, CLICK HERE.
      • For the initial article by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
      • For the initial article by the Puget Sound Business Journal, June 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • For initial concerns raised by the Washington Policy Center, June 12, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • To hear journalists discussing the proposal on KUOW‘s “Week in Review,” CLICK HERE and advance it to 9:30 minutes remaining in the 52-minute segment.
      • For KUOW‘s “Seattle Now” podcast “Rethinking Seattle’s regressive taxes,” CLICK HERE.

      May 31, 2023: Tax Reform Needed For FairnessLet’s Stop Taxing Your Drinking Water!

      Here’s an except from our newsletter on May 31, 2023. (Hint: read our entire e-newsletter to learn what’s on my mind! To subscribe, CLICK HERE.)

      Did you know that City Hall taxes your drinking water? It’s called a “Utility Tax” and it’s authorized under State law. But that doesn’t make it right. For greater fairness, we need tax reform in Seattle, starting with our drinking water.

      For years, Seattle politicians have been decrying regressive taxes and yet we continue to charge regressive utility taxes, including on our drinking water. Why? Because our City’s General Fund uses those utility taxes to fund city government operations. Of the approximately $186 million City Hall takes from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light, approximately $37 million comes from your drinking water bill – an arbitrary tax above and beyond the actual drinking water charges from SPU.

      For drinking water, residential customers pay a 15.5% tax. While the annual water tax cost for the typical Seattle household is difficult to calculate, figures from previous reports and recent increases indicate it exceeds $100 per year. And that extra water tax is regressive, which means lower-income households pay a greater portion of their household income for this tax. The “Utility Discount Program” is insufficient not only because most eligible families don’t use it, but also because it covers only part of the bill with the remaining portion still a regressive charge by City Hall.

      As noted earlier, our Washington State Supreme Court recently allowed the State’s new capital gains excise tax to remain. Thankfully, its first round of collections generated much more than expected, as reported recently by the Seattle Times. The State’s new capital gains excise tax exempts retirement accounts and real estate sales and applies a 7% charge only to capital gains of more than $250,000. (For Frequently Asked Questions about that new excise tax, CLICK HERE.)

      An additional 1% to 2% charge of that new capital gains excise tax here in Seattle could remove the water tax paid by all Seattle residents. Instead of just talking about tax reform, let’s do it. We can start by ending the regressive water tax here in Seattle.

      For a link to that newsletter, CLICK HERE.


      April 26, 2023: New Progressive Taxes Should Be Used to End Regressive Taxes

      Here’s an except from our newsletter on April 26, 2023. (Hint: read our entire e-newsletter to learn what’s on my mind! To subscribe, CLICK HERE.)

      April Revenue Forecast: City Hall Can Still Pay the Bills, For Now

      [Note: These April 2023 forecast figures include minor presented in May 2023.]

      FORECASTING OFFICE: Your city government is likely to enjoy a small budget “surplus” at the end of this calendar year (2023), according to the revised estimates from Seattle’s Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasting. Earlier this month, the forecasting office presented its updated estimates for the revenues available to operate your city government and to deliver its services and programs. The relatively new forecasting office was wisely conceived by previous City Council President Lorena Gonzalez with Ordinance 126395, which I fully supported in 2021 to provide more transparency and accountability with the revenue estimates used by our budget policymakers. Instead of blindly relying on revenue estimates from the executive branch of government, the new office is governed equally by the executive and legislative branches. The forecast updated in April helps the City Budget Director (who reports to the Mayor) and the City Council Finance Committee to determine whether any mid-year budget adjustments are needed. The forecast updated in August helps the Mayor to finalize his budget request for the next calendar year. The forecast updated in November is used by the City Council to finalize its budget amendments and to ensure it will be in balance, as required by State law.

      SMALL 2024 DEFICIT: You might hear of a small $9 million deficit. To clarify, that’s over the two-year period (“biennium”) through 2024 and after subtracting grants that we receive from other levels of government for specific purposes (i.e. those grants are not cash that we can move around to plug holes in other parts of our budget, so it often makes sense to “exclude” them from the analysis). The negative $9 million is a logical number to highlight, and it’s good news, because it’s small relative to our total budget.

      SURPLUSES: To show the bigger picture (and the existing “surplus”), I have combined and rearranged the revenue estimates (in the table above). You can see that, in 2023, our most flexible General Fund expects a surplus of $74 million. After combining the General Fund with the other funding sources (both positive and negative), we expect a net surplus of $34 million (including grants) and $6.6 million (excluding grants).

      NEW REVENUE NEEDED? If we have a surplus this year, why did the Mayor and Budget Chair establish a “Revenue Stabilization Workgroup”? Good question! As city government personnel costs continue to increase at an unsustainable level, we expect larger deficits to return in 2025. But rather than going back to the well of the general taxpayer of Seattle, why not just better manage our costs? If that’s not possible, we know the Washington State Supreme Court recently allowed the State’s new capital gains excise tax to remain. Perhaps Seattle will consider a similar local measure here, although that could put Seattle at a disadvantage relative to other cities.

      Regardless, I believe City Hall should apply any new progressive revenue to reducing regressive taxes that we already pay, rather than spending it on additional costs of government. For example, if we introduce a new “progressive” tax in Seattle, we should use it to reduce the sales tax paid today by everyone (especially low-income residents) to boost our bus service and/or to reduce utility taxes that burden our electric and water bills, and/or to reduce the property taxes Seattle homeowners and renters pay to build low-income housing or large transportation projects.


      May Survey Listens to Seattle

      May 31st, 2023

      Friends and Neighbors,

      In this month’s newsletter from City Hall and Northeast Seattle, we unveil new citywide survey results along with our regular riveting topics. Please click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:

      • District 4:  Eastlake Finishes Pedestrian Path; Hawthorne Hills / View Ridge Crime Prevention Meeting; D4 “National Night Out” Block Parties; Magnuson Park Aviation History and Low-Income Housing Future; U District Street Fair; Wallingford Farmers Market.
      • Public Safety and Homelessness:  Curbing Illegal Drugs in Seattle; Police Staffing Efforts Lagging; 9-1-1 Response Times Worsen; Low-Income Housing Funding Discussion Continues; Big Changes for Regional Homelessness Authority; Don’t “Deactivate” Pet Protections.
      • Taxes and Budgets: City Revenues Sufficient for Now; Tax Reform Needed for Fairness; Let’s Stop Taxing Your Drinking Water.
      • Land Use Policies Impacting Seattle: New Law Imperils Seattle Trees (in my opinion); Reasonable Updates to Maritime-Industrial Lands.
      • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: Seattle Wants Roads and Bridges Fixed; June is “Ride Transit Month”; New Leadership for Transportation Choices Coalition.
      • Memorial Day: 270 words to remember.
      • Providing Input.

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


      NEW SURVEY RESULTS FOR SEATTLE: YES, WE HEAR YOU!

      We hear you, Seattle! This past month, we had a professional survey firm gather the views from a representative sample of Seattle residents on numerous issues (with a focus on transportation), and we’re sharing the results. This experiment in listening is important because, unlike the input policymakers receive from social media, bloggers, paid activists, or the loudest lobbyists, this survey is a statistically valid representation of the entire adult Seattle population. No survey is perfect, but we’re trying!

      This new survey revealed the views of Seattle residents on pressing transportation and related topics, including 75% support for impact fees to pay for transportation infrastructure. Conducted May 5 through May 13, 2023, the survey asked several questions of 1,000 Seattle adults, including 500 live interviews by SurveyUSA, an independent professional firm used recently by the Seattle Times. With so many respondents, the margin of error is less than 4 points (plus or minus).

      “I believe City Hall can hear Seattle residents more clearly and frequently with professional surveys that gather statistically valid input to cut through social media echo chambers and go beyond paid lobbyists and interest groups,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who asked for the survey. “Just as several other local governments poll their residents, Seattle City Hall can benefit from conducting its own statistically valid surveys, so we hear directly how the broader population is feeling about key issues, such as how best to pay for transportation priorities.”

      In Seattle, surveys are typically conducted by political campaigns and not available to the public or policymakers. One recent exception is the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which periodically conducts a statistically valid survey (“The Index”) and generously makes the results available to the public. The added benefit of City Hall also conducting its own surveys, however, is that your government officials will choose the questions and the frequency of asking them.

      Here are some key findings from our May survey:

      IMPACT FEE SUPPORT: For this survey, the question that earned the largest super-majority of 75% was about a new funding source for transportation infrastructure: impact fees.

      The survey question: “Seattle may consider imposing fees on new real estate development projects to help pay for the city’s growing needs for transportation infrastructure. (For example, a real estate developer may have to pay $8,000 to the City government on a condominium project the developer hopes to sell for $800,000.) Would you support or oppose these transportation impact fees on new real estate developments to help pay for transportation infrastructure?

      • Support:      75% (includes 42% strongly support)
      • Oppose:          18%
      • Not sure:        7%

      Notably, no other public survey has asked this important question about impact fees, which are already collected in approximately 70 other Washington State cities. (Currently, a group of for-profit real estate developers is challenging City Hall’s efforts to pursue impact fees to pay for transportation infrastructure, which means City Hall would otherwise need to increase regressive sales taxes and/or property taxes.)

      TRANSPORTATION PRIORITIES: The survey also found that the top 3 transportation priorities receiving majority support were: fixing roads, supporting transit, and fixing bridges. The survey question: Thinking now about transportation in Seattle. Of the following, which three transportation investments do you think are the most important for Seattle to make? 

      • Fixing potholes and repaving roads for all vehicles: 66% picked among their top 3.
      • Supporting buses and other public transit: 64% picked among their top 3.
      • Fixing Seattle’s older bridges: 52% picked among top 3.
      • Installing new sidewalks and crosswalks: 30% picked among top 3.
      • Building bike lanes for safer streets: 27% picked among top 3.
      • Prioritizing freight to transport food, household products, and other items: 17% picked among top 3.
      • Something else: 6%
      • None of the above: 1%

      [Note: As Chair of the City’s Transportation Committee, Councilmember Pedersen remains committed to Seattle’s Vision Zero goals to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.]

      BRIDGES NOW: The question that garnered the second highest super-majority showed people want City Hall to take quicker action to fix bridges. The survey question: “After the West Seattle Bridge cracked and closed, the city ordered an audit of all Seattle bridges, which found several bridges in poor condition. Do you think the Mayor and the Seattle Department of Transportation should do more to fix Seattle’s worst bridges this year or should they wait until they have additional data on all bridges?

      • Fix Bridges This Year:            73%
      • Wait for Data:                                 21%
      • Not Sure:                                         6%

      (Interesting “cross tab”: Even for people who did not pick bridges among their top 3 transportation priorities, 67% said fix bridges this year.)

      More About This Survey:

      In addition to several other timely questions on local government topics, the independent survey firm gathered standard demographic information on each of the 1,000 respondents, such as age, gender, race, income, etc. This enables the public and policymakers to cross reference the answers on the topical questions with the demographic information. For example, these “crosstabs” show that respondents who have lower incomes or reside in South Seattle were much more likely to choose filling potholes / repaving roads over other transportation priorities.

      Links:

      Since I’m not running for re-election, it’s not feasible to doorbell every day to hear directly from a cross-section of constituents and much of my role, even as a district Councilmember, is to consider policies impacting the entire city. So, for this survey, the respondents are adults (18 and older) from across the city. The concept of this survey and the actual questions to be asked were reviewed and approved in advance by the Executive Director of Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission (SEEC).


      DISTRICT 4

      Eastlake Ribbon-Cutting for Pedestrian Path

      On Sunday, May 7, 2023, City Councilmember Alex Pedersen “got his steps in” at the ribbon cutting of the new East Howe Plaza Steps in the Eastlake neighborhood. The Councilmember joined a few vigorous souls (and dogs) who climbed the approximately 1,000 steps from Lake Union up to Capitol Hill’s 10TH Avenue to celebrate the new public-private partnership pedestrian porosity pathway project – pow!  This community-led project fulfills the vision of connecting the pedestrian pathways from Capitol Hill along East Howe Street under I-5, down the hill through the Eastlake neighborhood to the Lake Union waterfront near 1910 Fairview Avenue East. This is a timely community connection, because redistricting is moving Eastlake from District 4 into District 3 for next year’s Councilmembers. This project was a long collaboration among the Eastlake Community Council, the private sector owners of the adjacent properties (which will provide ongoing maintenance), the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (which provided initial design funding), and the Seattle Department of Transportation / Transportation Committee chaired by Councilmember Pedersen (which granted approvals via Council Bill 120281 adopted in April 2022 and Resolution 31988 adopted in March 2021). The new pathway is another fun reason to explore the Eastlake neighborhood. To get more involved in your neighborhood, contact your community council.

      Hawthorne Hills / View Ridge Crime Prevention Tips

      View Ridge Community Council President Robert Johnson and North Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Sarah Lawson lead a discussion on crime prevention tips in May.

      The Hawthorne Hills Community Council and the View Ridge Community Council hosted an informative  crime prevention tips meeting on May 3, 2023 at the Northeast branch of Seattle Public Library.  Crime Prevention Coordinators are important civilian positions for our comprehensive approach to public safety and my office is proud to have secured funding for two of them back in 2021 because our North Precinct is the largest.  To join your community council, CLICK HERE.

      Community Safety + Fun with Neighbors = National Night Out August 1: Register Your Block Now

      Look forward to the annual “National Night Out” on Tuesday, August 1, when neighbors once again block off their street to enjoy food and to build those neighborly relations that can help to spot and prevent criminal activity with improved communication and trust. Each year I attend several of these block parties in District 4 and I hope to again this year. To register your block or to see where nearby locations are, CLICK HERE.

      Magnuson Park Aviation History:  Upcoming 100th Anniversary of Flight Around the World

      Did you know that Magnuson Park in our District 4 was a starting point for the first successful flight around the world nearly 100 years ago in 1924?  Most people forget that the more famous flight of Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic happened three years AFTER the little-known U.S. Army aviators circled the globe.

      According to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, “On April 6, 1924, eight U.S. Army Air Service pilots and mechanics in four airplanes left Seattle, Washington, to carry out the first circumnavigation of the globe by air. They completed the journey 175 days later on September 28, after making 74 stops and covering about 27,550 miles. The airplanes were named for American cities and carried a flight number: Seattle (1), Chicago (2), Boston (3), and New Orleans (4)…Only the Chicago, flown by Lts. Lowell Smith and Leslie Arnold, and the New Orleans, flown by Lts. Erik Nelson and John Harding Jr., completed the entire journey.”  For a city that’s also home to Boeing, CLICK HERE for more pioneering events in aviation history.

      • To watch the interview of historian Felix Banel on King 5 News from May 10, 2023, CLICK HERE.
      • For the Friends of Magnuson Park website, CLICK HERE.
      • For an old video of the flight, CLICK HERE.
      • For the 2021 aviation murals by kids project, CLICK HERE.

      Magnuson Park: Home to More Low-Income Housing

      Magnuson Park is already home to 850 low-income residents who reside in the housing provided by two nonprofits, Mercy Housing and Solid Ground.  Now, the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI), led by Sharon Lee, has built 22 “cottages” just east of NE 65th Street in the park. For more information about Sand Point Cottages, CLICK HERE. As usual, State Representative Frank Chopp helped to make it happen. As many politicians talk and talk about shortages of housing, Rep Chopp gets it done project by project — and not with shallow promises of “affordable housing” with rents at 80% of area median income (AMI) or higher — which are actually the same as market rates – but with rents well below market that serve people experiencing homelessness (0 to 30% AMI).

      U District Street Fair / One Seattle Day of Service

      Gabby Lacson and Hannah Thoreson represented our District 4 Council office at the U District Street Fair during the “One Seattle Day of Service” on May 20, 2023. They enjoyed the fact that the NE 45th Street I-5 crossing project – which was funded (twice) by the City Council — earned among the most votes from the public in the non-scientific but fun survey. That provides yet another reason we look forward to SDOT / WSDOT hurrying to construct that pedestrian safety project that connects Wallingford to the U District!

      Wallingford Farmers Market Returns for Summer

        Councilmember Pedersen’s diet required him to use this photo from 2022, so that he didn’t have an excuse to eat 10 popsicles this year at the Wallingford Farmers Market, which is open this summer on Wednesday evenings.

        Wallingford’s summer farmers market returned May 24 next to the Meridian Playground (N 50th Street and Merdian Ave N) and will be open every Wednesday 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. through September.  In our District 4, you can also enjoy the University District Farmers Market every Saturday morning throughout the year.

        • For the official website of the Wallingford Farmer’s Market, CLICK HERE.
        • For the article about this year’s market in Wallyhood, CLICK HERE.

        (For minor land use changes proposed by the Harrell Administration for the southern shoreline of Wallingford, see “Land Use” section below.)


        SAFETY AND HOMELESSNESS

        Finally Curbing Use of Illegal Drugs in Seattle

        When our State legislature failed to agree on a law to address illegal drugs in Washington State, I stood with City Attorney Ann Davison and citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson on April 27, 2023 to introduce a local law to curb the use of those harmful drugs in Seattle. After the Governor called back the State Legislature for a special session to fill the gap for drug possession laws, we updated our legislation (Council Bill 120586) to reflect the statewide compromise. By reflecting the statewide compromise, this new version successfully prevents the “patchwork” or “piecemeal” approach that other Seattle officials raised as their concern when we introduced our original proposal to fill the gap.

        Swift action by the Seattle City Council is needed because the State law goes into effect July 1, and it typically takes 30 days for our city ordinances to go into effect.

        CALL TO ACTION: You can contact your City Council by emailing Council@seattle.gov and asking them to Please avoid a gap in illegal drug laws and prevent a piecemeal patchwork by adopting the statewide law here in Seattle (Council Bill 120586), as introduced by Councilmembers Nelson and Pedersen on behalf of our City Attorney.

        State law (RCW 39.34.180) makes cities such as Seattle responsible for charging all misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors occurring in their jurisdiction. The Seattle City Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors in Seattle, but can charge cases only under the Seattle Municipal Code. In order to charge cases of drug possession or public drug use, therefore, the Seattle City Council needs to adopt the new state law into the Seattle Municipal Code.

        • As King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion stated on April 28, 2023, Even if our State Legislature successfully adopts a statewide fix, local ordinances will still be necessary to give appropriate jurisdiction to municipal prosecutors.”
        • As Mayor Harrell’s Office communicated to KIRO 7 News on May 17, 2023, …After each legislative session, the City Council amends the City’s criminal code to be consistent with changes the Legislature has made, and we support amending our local laws to comply with state law…With this law in place, the Legislature has provided an additional pathway that may help direct those in need to the treatment they deserve…
        • As confirmed on May 24, 2023 by the non-partisan Municipal Research & Services Center, “Cities must adopt or incorporate state statutes into their municipal code in order to prosecute misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases in city municipal court.

        Now that the State has acted, the ball is clearly in Seattle’s court, as a charter city, to take swift action to be consistent with the State.

        Oregon recently experienced worse urban problems when trying to decriminalize drug possession. See the two April 13, 2023 articles from The Economist magazine by CLICKING HERE and HERE.

        Implementing the law prohibiting use of harmful illegal drugs in public is not a complete solution to the public health and safety crisis facing Seattle, but it’s a necessary tool within a comprehensive approach that includes prevention and treatment.

        The State legislation tacked on $19.6 million more in spending than a prior version, for about $62.9 million total. The additions include $9 million toward the Office of Public Defense to provide public defenders in certain areas for people charged with possession or use in a public place. It’s not clear how much of that funding would flow to King County or Seattle.

        Here is our press release from May 16, 2023:

        “[On May 16, 2023], City Attorney Davison with Councilmembers Nelson and Pedersen submitted updated legislation to prohibit drug possession and drug use in public places. The bill follows the Washington State Legislature’s passage of 2E2SSB 5536 in special session. The proposed legislation would bring Seattle into conformity with the State law. Conforming legislation is required in order for public drug use and drug possession to be charged by the Seattle City Attorney.

        The proposed legislation can be found here: SCAO Controlled Substances Ordinance Proposal

        Seattle residents, local leaders and our elected officials have made it clear that enough is enough. The epidemic of drug use on our streets must be addressed. I’m gratified that the State has arrived at a bipartisan agreement and now it is time for Seattle to adopt those laws,” said City Attorney Ann Davison. “We need to use all the tools available to us at both a State and local level to move more people into treatment. Every day we delay, more lives are lost to substances.”

        Councilmember Sara Nelson said, “The time for complacency on public drug use is over and we must use all the tools at our disposal to interrupt the cycle of addiction and help move people into recovery. Now that Olympia has appropriated resources for treatment and adopted a fix for Blake, we’re bringing our legislation into alignment to remove any further cause for inaction on the most critical public health and public safety issue of our time.

        Councilmember Alex Pedersen said, “Thankfully, State government leaders confirmed it’s not okay for people to smoke fentanyl or to use other illegal drugs in our public spaces or on our public transit, and the laws on the books need to reflect those basic public health and safety standards. Last month, we proactively introduced a stopgap safety measure for Seattle, and now we’ve updated it to match the State’s strong actions this week, so there’s no longer any excuse for City Hall inaction. The time for excuses is over and the time for action is now.”

        On April 27, Davison, Nelson, and Pedersen introduced a Seattle bill to prohibit public use of illegal drugs to fill the gap in the law when the State Legislature initially adjourned without a statewide fix. Their Seattle proposal was similar to proposals from other fast-acting jurisdictions across the state, which were also eager to take appropriate and responsible action to fill the legal gap. Governor Inslee called State legislators back for a special session to craft a state-level measure, which they adopted today, May 16.

        On May 11, several neighborhood and citywide business and civic groups sent a letter to the Seattle City Council stating, “We urge the City Council to address this public health emergency head on and with the urgency it demands.”

        MORE INFO:

        • For our May 16, 2023 press release, CLICK HERE. For our April 27, 2023 press release, CLICK HERE.
        • For Seattle Times coverage of the State legislature’s adoption of their Gross Misdemeanor compromise on May 16, 2023, CLICK HERE. For video coverage from KIRO 7 News that includes Governor Inslee’s statement and highlights a recovery program, CLICK HERE.
        • For a KIRO 7 News interview with CM Pedersen May 17, 2023, CLICK HERE.
        • For the Seattle Times coverage of the City Attorney’s revised ordinance on May 19, 2023, CLICK HERE.
        • For a KING 5 News interview of our City Attorney Ann Davison May 25, 2023, CLICK HERE.
        • For a letter of support from the business community 5/11/2023, CLICK HERE.
        • For the 3-page piece of legislation for Seattle (Council Bill 120586), which simply adopts the State version, CLICK HERE.
        • For the May 24, 2023 analysis by the nonpartisan Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC), CLICK HERE.
        • For the Seattle Times editorial from May 30, 2023 which states, “The Seattle City Council should pass a proposed ordinance prohibiting drug possession and use in public places.” CLICK HERE.
        • For the Seattle Times April 16, 2023 article, “How fentanyl became Seattle’s most urgent public health crisis,” CLICK HERE.
        • For Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat’s recent analysis of Bellingham’s tougher actions, CLICK HERE (April 12, 2023) and for his December 3, 2022 column “Between prison and pamphlets: WA looks for an answer to the drug crisis,” CLICK HERE.
        • For Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order on fentanyl and initial pieces of his “downtown activation plan” from April 17, 2023, CLICK HERE.
        • For the compelling editorial cartoon by David Horsey that visualizes the harm of doing nothing for people under the grip of illegal drug addiction (April 14, 2023), CLICK HERE.

        Police Hiring Efforts Falling Behind?

        The Mayor’s Office efforts to have SPD increase recruitment and retention there are falling behind with a net loss of 2 officers when we’re trying to increase the net number of officers by 400 to make up for the ones lost during the unproductive defund rhetoric of 2020-2021.  Why is the new recruitment and retention effort falling behind? A key indicator of this back-sliding is that it’s taking too long to get the money out the door.

        By the end of the first 25% of this year, the executive branch had spent only 6% of the funds provided by the City Council. What are the reasons for the sluggish investments? Our City Council Central Staff reports, “The Mayor’s staff has indicated that the delay in spending is due to the implementation of an updated marketing plan that takes advantage of new staff, existing capabilities, and initial advertising analytics to attract new recruits effectively and cost-efficiently. This updated marketing plan allows the City to test, iterate, and improve initial messaging and tactics over the first half of the year, and then be more confident that increased spending in the second half of the year will drive results. The SPD staffing crisis is a significant and urgent challenge, but the City is following best-practices to be a responsible steward of public dollars and make evidence-based marketing decisions. While this approach will take longer to ramp up, the Mayor’s Office believes it will ultimately lead to better results per marketing dollar compared to an initially proposed plan.

        In politics, experienced practitioners listen intently and then quickly test, deploy, and revise their messaging within a matter of days or weeks rather than months. This same urgency should be applied to our police staffing crisis. The lack of results thus far to recruit and retain in a way that produces a net gain instead of a net loss is directly impacting our constituents in a negative way with unacceptably longer response times in North Seattle, as shown in the table below.

        I previously reported on the expected net reduction of police officers in my March 31, 2023 newsletter (CLICK HERE), and the May 23, 2023 presentation from City Council’s Central Staff analysts confirms it (CLICK HERE).

        9-1-1 Response Times Too High

          As the table of 9-1-1 response times proves, our North Precinct has a troubling 9-minute median response time from police to the biggest public safety emergencies.  For example, if a burglar is breaking into your home while your family is there, the median response time is 9 minutes. These lengthy response times for our North Precinct:

          • Far exceed the best practice standard for safe response,
          • Remain the highest in the City, and
          • Have worsened since 2022 and 2020.

          The already high response times getting worse in the North Precinct is unacceptable, and I have asked the Mayor’s Office and SPD leadership to explain why this is happening and what they are doing to remedy the situation.  I believe we need a second police precinct from which to deploy patrol cars in the North Precinct because it is, by far, the largest geographic area in Seattle, among the five precincts with 40% of its population.

          For the May 23, 2023 presentation from City Council’s Central Staff analysts, CLICK HERE. For a pre-pandemic article on SPD response times implying that the longer response times in the North Precinct have a long history, CLICK HERE.

          Low-Income Housing Levy Proposal: Discussion Continues

          The latest City Council committee meeting to discuss Mayor Harrell’s proposal to expand Seattle’s programs to create low-income housing was scheduled for May 31, 2023 at 9:30 a.m., with a public hearing at 4:30 p.m. For a link to that committee agenda, CLICK HERE. For the recent 24-page analysis by our City Council Central Staff, CLICK HERE.  For my previous coverage on this topic, CLICK HERE. If you’re reading our newsletter after that May 31 meeting, no worries — final committee action is scheduled for June 7 and 21. For the latest schedule, CLICK HERE.

          CEO of King County Regional Homelessness Authority Leaving June 30, 2023

          This dangerous, long-term encampment under I-5 near a public elementary school (at NE 42nd Street (between 5th Ave NE and Pasadena Place NE) became a symbol of KCHRA’s shortcomings in reducing harmful, visible homelessness — and even riled the Governor.

          This month, Marc Dones, the head of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), announced their resignation. I’m hopeful we can attract a strong administrative leader who can navigate and improve our region’s provider-driven political arena to deliver results that bring more people inside faster. It’s important for me to note my continued support for KCRHA, not only because we still need a regional solution to this regional problem, but also because previous organizational structures failed to take quick action and deliver results.  Like a start-up organization ready for its next level of leadership, KCRHA is ready with staff, funding, and lessons learned — poised to reduce visible homelessness.  To do this, I believe it should focus on getting people inside faster, rather than trying to placate every stakeholder or getting distracted by expensive and grandiose goals. Few things counter the complaints and critics faster than visible success.

          • For KCRHA’s May 16, 2023 statement on the resignation, CLICK HERE.
          • For the official joint reaction from Seattle Mayor Harrell and King County Executive Constantine, CLICK HERE.
          • For a critique of KCRHA by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat on May 20, 2023, CLICK HERE.
          • For a more upbeat Op Ed about KCRHA written by three leaders from business, nonprofit, and philanthropy, CLICK HERE.
          • For the Seattle Times May 26, 2023 editorial entitled, “Double down on homelessness authority’s founding principles and update CEO’s job description,” CLICK HERE.

           

          KCRHA Leaders to Vote Revisions to 5-Year Plan to Reduce Homelessness:

          Note: KCRHA’s budget does not include the locally funded Seattle Housing Levy that creates additional low-income housing units each year and the federally funded Seattle Housing Authority that operates public housing (such as Yesler Terrace) and provides Section 8 vouchers.

          On June 1, 2023, the Governing Committee of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority will vote on its 5-Year Plan to Reduce Homelessness, after that plan was heavily revised by KCRHA staff and recommended by the “Implementation Board.” These latest revisions better prioritize existing funds, provide more specifics on short-term goals, and focus actions on a unifying, overarching goal: “to Bring Unsheltered People Inside as Quickly as Possible to Prevent Death and Further Harm.”

          For one of the best summaries of what in the heck is going on with KCRHA’s revised 5-year plan, CLICK HERE for the May 18, 2023 Seattle Times article by Greg Kim. That article states, “The King County Regional Homelessness Authority has scaled back the ambitions of its five-year plan after officials and residents balked at the $10 billion to $12 billion figure proposed in January. If adopted, this would be a foundational document guiding the authority’s work going forward, and this new iteration replaces an emphasis on the huge amount of need with a list of actions the authority can take now to make the homelessness system more efficient… Now, items are prioritized based on what would get funded first with any new revenue. The biggest-ticket items include adding shelter with individual rooms, shelter for people with severe medical, mental and substance use disorder needs, and raising wages for front-line workers.”

          Mayor Harrell as well as City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis play a key role as members of the Governing Committee. Because Seattle is contributing the bulk of the funds and suffering the bulk of unsheltered homelessness, we should not be shy about requesting improvements to the sluggish pace of results and any inadequacies of future plans. I support this regional approach and want it to succeed. Success will continue to require active engagement from that Governing Committee. For example, oversight will be improved by adoption of Andrew Lewis’ Resolution (2023-04) requiring KCRHA staff to produce a more practical and short-term “Operational Plan” and to report on those operations frequently.

          Seattle has seen several plans to reduce homelessness come and go. The fact is we don’t need to wait for yet another plan to reduce homelessness. City Hall can get the data we need to optimize use of the 16,000 units subsidized by the City’s Office of Housing portfolio to accept more housing-ready individuals from tiny home villages and enhanced shelters who have been waiting for a permanent unit. That effort would then enable City and regional homelessness officials to move more people who have been suffering unsheltered in parks, greenways, and sidewalks into safe tiny home villages and enhanced shelters.

          More Info:

          • 5-Year Plan Versions: For the initial 133-page draft 5-year plan from KCRHA staff posted on January 18, 2023, CLICK HERE. For the 22-slide PowerPoint summarizing the many important revisions from KCRHA staff on April 20, 2023, CLICK HERE. For the not-very-helpful 12-slide PowerPoint summarizing the revised 5-year plan, CLICK HERE. For the 100-page revised draft 5-year plan (which includes 40 pages of appendices) as recommended by KCRHA’s Implementation Board and presented June 1, 2023 for a vote to the Governing Committee, CLICK HERE.
          • For the June 1, 2023 agenda of the Governing Committee (which was very hard to find online!) CLICK HERE. For links to the meeting materials (such as the Operation Plan Resolution), CLICK HERE. Note: It’s hard to find the actual revised 5-year plan, so here is the link again to that 100-page document (CLICK HERE).
          • For my initial (January 2023) critique of KCRHA staff’s initial 5-year plan (too slow and too expensive), CLICK HERE.
          • For the concerns from the Seattle Times editorial board published on February 21, 2023 (focused on the unrealistic cost of KCRHA’s plan), CLICK HERE.
          • For the excellent Op-Ed by Sharon Lee and Pastor Robert Jeffrey, Sr. published March 10, 2023 in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
          • For an excellent summary of the revisions to the KCRHA 5-year plan, CLICK HERE for the May 18, 2023 Seattle Times article by Greg Kim.

          IF OUR PETS COULD WRITE LEGISLATION: Don’t Let Council Bill 120580 “Deactivate” Protections for our Pets

          If our pets could write new laws, they would probably make sure they’re protected. Currently there is a well-intentioned proposal to limit when app-based companies can “deactivate” the independent contractors who use their technology to engage with customers. The legislative proposal is just in draft form right now, but here’s one of the things that should be added: pets. The law aims to balance the rights of the companies with fairness toward the independent workers, so those workers are not unfairly deactivated from using the application for the services they provide. This includes companies based in Seattle, such as Rover, that provide not only jobs and tax revenue for our city, but also connect pet sitters/walkers with pet owners. Currently the legislation does not define misconduct against pets as a reason for deactivating. Protections for pets should be added.

          CALL TO ACTION: If you have concerns, you can email City Council at Council@seattle.gov to tell them, “Protect pets, too, with the app-based labor standards of Council Bill 120580! Don’t let the legislation inadvertently ‘de-activate’ protections for our pets!”  Feel free to include a picture of your pet as well!

          MORE INFO:

          • To review the draft legislation of Council Bill 120580, CLICK HERE.
          • For the memo from our City Council Central Staff that identifies issues with the proposal, CLICK HERE and, for their May 23, 2023 presentation, CLICK HERE. For the current draft definitions of “Egregious Misconduct,” go to slides 7-10. Note: This analysis does not yet include pets.
          • If you don’t have a pet yet, consider “Kafka” (the doggie in the photo above) as well other dogs, cats, rabbits, and other cute creatures from our Seattle Animal Shelter.

          TAXES AND BUDGETS

          April Revenue Forecast Updated/Confirmed: City Hall Can Still Pay the Bills, For Now

          April Revenue Forecast Updated/Confirmed: City Hall Can Still Pay the Bills, For Now

          In my April 26, 2023 newsletter, I analyzed the latest forecast of City revenues, which showed a relatively small surplus of $6 million this year (2023) when combining our large, flexible General Fund with other funds such as the new JumpStart Payroll Tax Fund (and after subtracting restrictive federal grants).  That small surplus becomes a small deficit of approximately $6 million by the end of 2024. This April 2023 information was updated with only minor changes during a May 17, 2023 meeting of our City Council’s Finance Committee, showing the 2024 deficit as slightly higher at $9 million, which is still a drop in the bucket out of the annual $2 billion overall non-capital, non-utility revenues. If, however, labor negotiations result in additional pay increases for all City government employees (who currently average $100,000 annually, not including health benefits and pensions), the budget deficits are expected to grow in 2025 and beyond.  Future deficits could be mitigated somewhat by miscellaneous reserves and, presumably, City Hall could tap the approximately $20 million still unspent for vague “participatory budgeting.”

          More Info:

          Unfortunately, both presentations continue to separate the General Fund from the other funding sources, so we rarely see a single table that answers the comprehensive, yet basic question, “Will our City government have a deficit or a surplus?” As a policymaker, I have to ask for the combined information separately and/or do it myself (combining slides 12 and 14 from the May 17, 2023 presentation from the Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasting as shown above).

           

          NEW REVENUE NEEDED? If we have a surplus this year, why did the Mayor and Budget Chair establish a “Revenue Stabilization Workgroup” in October 2022? Good question! As city government personnel costs continue to increase at an unsustainable level, we expect larger deficits to return in 2025. But rather than going back to the well of the general taxpayer of Seattle, why not just better manage our costs?

          As I noted last month, the Washington State Supreme Court recently allowed the State’s new capital gains excise tax to remain. The State’s new capital gains excise tax exempts retirement accounts and real estate sales and applies only to capital gains of more than $250,000. (For Frequently Asked Questions about that new excise tax, CLICK HERE.) Perhaps Seattle will consider a similar local measure here, although that could put Seattle at a disadvantage relative to other cities. Regardless, I believe City Hall should apply any new progressive revenue to reducing regressive taxes that we already pay, rather than spending it on additional costs of government. For example, if we introduce a new progressive tax in Seattle, I believe we should use it first to reduce the regressive utility taxes (see below) and the regressive sales tax paid today by everyone, and we should use it to reduce property tax increases paid by Seattle homeowners and renters.

           

          Tax Reform Needed For Fairness: Let’s Stop Taxing Your Drinking Water!

          Did you know that City Hall taxes your drinking water? It’s called a “Utility Tax” and it’s authorized under State law. But that doesn’t make it right. For greater fairness, we need tax reform in Seattle, starting with our drinking water.

          For years, Seattle politicians have been decrying regressive taxes and yet we continue to charge regressive utility taxes, including on our drinking water. Why? Because our City’s General Fund uses those utility taxes to fund city government operations. Of the approximately $186 million City Hall takes from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light, approximately $37 million comes from your drinking water bill – an arbitrary tax above and beyond the actual drinking water charges from SPU.

          For drinking water, residential customers pay a 15.5% tax. While the annual water tax cost for the typical Seattle household is difficult to calculate, figures from previous reports and recent increases indicate it exceeds $100 per year. And that extra water tax is regressive, which means lower-income households pay a greater portion of their household income for this tax. The “Utility Discount Program” is insufficient not only because most eligible families don’t use it, but also because it covers only part of the bill with the remaining portion still a regressive charge by City Hall.

          As noted earlier, our Washington State Supreme Court recently allowed the State’s new capital gains excise tax to remain. Thankfully, its first round of collections generated much more than expected, as reported recently by the Seattle Times. The State’s new capital gains excise tax exempts retirement accounts and real estate sales and applies a 7% charge only to capital gains of more than $250,000. (For Frequently Asked Questions about that new excise tax, CLICK HERE.)

          An additional 1% to 2% charge of that new capital gains excise tax here in Seattle could remove the water tax paid by all Seattle residents. Instead of just talking about tax reform, let’s do it. We can start by ending the regressive water tax here in Seattle.


          LAND USE POLICIES IMPACTING SEATTLE

          City Council Adopts Ordinance Putting More Seattle Trees at Risk; Pedersen Lone No Vote

          illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

          May 23, 2023 was sad day for Seattle’s trees: in a vote of 6 to 1, the City Council approved a harmful tree ordinance despite “…the flawed and rushed process, the likelihood of canopy inequities persisting or worsening, and the limited reporting requirements…”, as criticized by the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC). The UFC urged Councilmembers to postpone the decision, so that amendments could be discussed with the full City Council during June and July. To honor that request from the UFC, I made a motion to postpone to July 25. When it was clear that the motion to postpone would not pass, I amended my motion to June 27 (just 30 days), arguing that we could amend the implementation start date from the current 60 days to 30 days, thereby losing ZERO TIME. A majority of my colleagues still voted NO on that reasonable compromise motion, although Councilmember Herbold supported it with me. Then the Council approved the fateful, final bill to update the tree “protection” regulations (Council Bill 120534).

          • Voting in Favor of CB 120534: Herbold, Lewis, Morales, Mosqueda, Nelson, and the sponsor Strauss.
          • Voting Against: Pedersen.
          • Absent: Juarez, Sawant.

          With that 6 to 1 approval, the bill went to Mayor Bruce Harrell to sign into law. As he transmitted the original bill with Land Use Chair Strauss, his signature was expected.

          The Seattle Times editorial board summed it up: Think about the recent heat wave. If this bill passes, next year there will be less shade and higher street-level temperatures…It comes down to this: Trees don’t give campaign contributions. But the people who want to cut them down do…”

          Get ready to hear an increase in chain saws just in time for summer heat waves when everyone needs that shade the most.

          Despite the outcome, I greatly appreciate the hard work by our City Council Central Staff as well as by all legislative aides who worked quickly to analyze the complex bill and tsunami of 61 amendments.

          Here are my remarks at the May 23, 2023 City Council meeting:

          MOTION TO POSTPONE. At the request of the Urban Forestry Commission, I move to postpone this item, Council Bill 120534, until our full City Council meeting on July 25, 2023, which is the last Tuesday in July, approximately 60 days from today.

          I have faith in the City’s Urban Forestry Commission with their expertise and their care. The letter from the Urban Forestry Commission, dated May 17, 2023, stated, Given the flawed and rushed process, the likelihood of canopy inequities persisting or worsening, and the limited reporting requirements, the UFC asks the Council to: Defer voting on the bill until the end of July to allow Councilmember conversations with the UFC and other stakeholders...”

          Providing more time is important not only to honor the request of a respected City commission, but also to honor our own Seattle Municipal Code. As stated in the Urban Forestry Commission’s May 17 letter, “The Mayor’s draft ordinance was transmitted to the City Council on March 7, 2023, and referred to the Land Use Committee on March 22, 2023. These actions occurred without prior review and recommendations by the UFC. This appears to be in violation of SMC 3.72.050.A.3, which states that it is the responsibility of the UFC to ‘provide recommendations on legislation concerning urban forestry management, sustainability and protection of associated trees…PRIOR TO its introduction and referral to any Council committee.‘”

          RATIONALE FOR VOTING NO ON THE BILL (after motion to postpone failed): Colleagues, I believe it’s vital that we clarify that, while this bill might “regulate” and “define” and “designate” more trees, it does NOT absolutely protect them. This bill still allows these trees to be ripped out and destroyed, so I believe that’s the opposite of “protection.” I’ve issued several statements about the many public health and environmental benefits of conserving mature, healthy trees throughout Seattle — trees are vital environmental infrastructure in the face of the heat domes of climate change — and I’ve made several attempts to support the most substantive amendments requested by our Urban Forestry Commission.

          Rather than restating those positions here today, I’ll simply read a key excerpt from the Seattle Times editorial board from this past weekend, which stated: “The Seattle City Council is on the verge of a very big mistake that would make Stumptown a more accurate moniker for Seattle than the Emerald City. On Tuesday [today], the full council is set to consider a new tree protection ordinance that recently passed the Land Use Committee. [The] Trouble is, …[the] process produced a pro-developer tree removal measure instead of one that actually preserves and grows trees. The council should vote it down and start over. As written, CB 120534 will almost certainly result in diminished tree canopy, flying in the face of the city’s stated environmental goals…” “If this bill passes, next year there will be less shade and higher street-level temperatures.”

          Here are my remarks after the Land Use Committee rejected several of the amendments I carried to support the Urban Forestry Commission on May 4, 2023:

          I’m disappointed that the net impact of this so-called tree ‘protection’ legislation will be a death sentence for hundreds of trees throughout our city, even after City Hall has proof our Emerald City recently lost hundreds of acres of trees and our residents continue to suffer the harsh heat of climate change. The rhetoric that this new law “protects” more trees does not hold water, because the law simply redefines and regulates trees differently, rather than actually installing the stronger protections needed to advance the important public health and environmental benefits of a healthy urban forest. Unfortunately, we’ve waited all these years to witness City Hall produce more of a ‘profits protection bill’ than a tree protections bill. If City Hall leaders had heeded the expertise of the Urban Forestry Commission, we could have made real progress after all these years, instead of cutting down the vision of a healthy, growing urban tree canopy for all to enjoy. “

          More Info:

          • For the Seattle Channel video of the May 23, 2023 Council meeting with lots of passionate public comment, CLICK HERE.
          • For the May 17, 2023 letter from the Urban Forestry Commission urging a delay to allow for additional amendments needed to protect trees, CLICK HERE.
          • For the May 19, 2023 editorial by the Seattle Times, entitled, “Seattle’s proposed tree ordinance is the legislative equivalent of a chain saw,” CLICK HERE.
          • For a May 19, 2023 article by KNKX public radio, CLICK HERE.
          • Alternative viewpoint:
            • For the May 23, 2023 press release from Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Strauss in support of their bill, CLICK HERE. (Editorial Comment: As I stated in my remarks, while this bill might “regulate” and “define” and “designate” more trees, it does NOT fully “protect” them. Calling them “protections” is misleading. Their legislation still allows most of these trees to be ripped out and destroyed, so I believe that’s the opposite of “protection.”)
            • For bloggers who vocally opposed my amendments to protect trees that I sponsored to honor the expertise of the Urban Forestry Commission, CLICK HERE and HERE. Unfortunately, those bloggers seem to conflate carrying the recommendations of the UFC with opposing additional housing development, which is untrue and flies in the face of my record of financing thousands of low-income housing units over the past decade and serving on the advisory group that sparked the doubling of the Seattle Housing Levy in 2016.
          • For the legislative agenda of the May 4, 2023 Land Use Committee with links to the amendments to Council Bill 120534 and other materials, CLICK HERE.
          • For the summary list of Land Use Committee amendments and how each Councilmember voted, CLICK HERE.
          • NEW: For a “tracked changes” version of Council Bill 120534 (which indicates how the amendments approved by a majority of the Land Use Committee were incorporated), CLICK HERE. (And, for the 8 supplemental requests of the executive branch regarding this tree “protection” ordinance, CLICK HERE).
          • Regarding the two-part video of the May 4, 2023 Land Use Committee discussion and votes, for session 1, CLICK HERE and for session 2, CLICK HERE.
          • For the May 3, 2023 letter from the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) with their updated recommendations on the pending amendments, CLICK HERE. For the Urban Forestry letter, dated April 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
          • For the April 25, 2023 Seattle Times editorial urging passage of my UFC-related amendments, CLICK HERE.
          • For a KUOW news article May 5, 2023 analyzing the committee action entitled “As Seattle loses tree canopy, a city council bill may let developers cut down more,” CLICK HERE.
          • For Councilmember Pedersen’s blog, go to: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/strengthening-seattles-tree-ordinance/

           

          Maritime-Industrial Lands: Reasonable Updates Proposed by Harrell Administration

          Big picture, I strongly support protecting the zoning that maintains our maritime industrial economy because that zoning fosters good, long-term jobs to Seattle residents without college degrees and sustains existing Seattle-based businesses and our regional Port. Thanks to a thorough stakeholder process led by experienced professionals, it appears the Harrell Administration has crafted a reasonable balance in opening alternative uses for just some of that land not actively used today by maritime industrial jobs or freight routes, while strengthening protections of key remaining maritime industrial geographies.

          As usual, the devil is in the details, and I’d expect strong opposition to any amendments that would upset the delicately crafted balance, such as any new sweetheart deals for landowners jockeying to increase their land values or profit potential. Real estate developers have already racked up big wins in Seattle recently:  our State’s elected officials aggressively pre-empted our city to trump density decisions in “neighborhood residential” zones and the Harrell Administration got a majority of my colleagues to adopt relatively weak tree legislation that guarantees developers 85% hardscape on all low-rise lots and 100% hardscape on higher density areas, leaving little to no room for large trees in those areas in the midst of climate change heat waves. With a new legislative landscape already benefiting them greatly, developers seeking to remove more of the zoning that provides permanent industrial and maritime jobs so they can profit with new developments is likely a non-starter for policymakers prioritizing equity and preserving existing, permanent jobs.

          Most of this land use action is near the Port, SODO, Interbay, and along working waterways outside of our District 4. Because the Harrell Administration (and committee chair) are proposing to change parts of “southern” Wallingford from “Industrial Buffer” to a new zone called “Urban Industrial” that allows new housing, however, I asked several questions about this on behalf of Wallingford and its protected shoreline. It appears that the State’s shoreline protections are sufficient to prevent harm to that small area, though it’s still unclear why the change was proposed. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to support the legislation if there are no harmful amendments.

          One of the major downsides of rushing to approve all five bills of this legislative package is that a final vote by the Council on Council Bill 120568 would prematurely consume the once-a-year opportunity to amend Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan. Councilmember Lisa Herbold and I had been hoping to ensure the Harrell Administration has the option to charge impact fees to profit-driven real estate developers (instead of raising your property taxes) to generate a source of revenue for transportation infrastructure, and that progressive tax reform requires a small annual amendment to the Comp Plan. While a recent survey shows 75% of Seattle adults support charging developers impact fees to help pay for transportation infrastructure, that effort is tied up in a legal appeal by some developers and their attorneys. Rushing this legislative package that includes the Comp Plan amendments for maritime-industrial / residential lands would require us to pursue alternative paths to make the progressive funding option of impact fees available for transportation infrastructure.

          More Info:

          • For the general website on this issue from the Office of Community Planning & Development (OPCD), CLICK HERE.
          • For the “Director’s Report” from the Office of Community Planning & Development (OPCD), CLICK HERE.
          • For links to the five pieces of legislation as posted on the May 24, 2023 public hearing of the Council’s Land Use Committee, CLICK HERE.

          TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

          To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November.

          Rocky Road Conditions Need More Attention from City Hall

          Recent photos of another hole in the northbound ramp to State Highway 99 were a disturbing reminder of our region’s aging infrastructure.  While that was another problem for our Washington State Department of Transportation to solve, we have major infrastructure shortcomings to address here in Seattle, too.

          Although Seattle’s pothole crew amazingly filled 50% more potholes in 2022 than in 2021, our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) spends less than 1% of its $700 million annual budget on repairing potholes. How much a department requests for a program indicates its level of priority so, if SDOT is spending 99% of transportation funding on other things, then SDOT has not made potholes a priority.

          It’s no surprise to most people in Seattle and businesses throughout Seattle that our infrastructure has been neglected… “We need to manage our costs better and not build expensive new projects when we can’t take care of the ones we have,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of the Seattle Transportation Committee, which oversees a budget of $700 million. (King 5 News interview, May 17, 2023)

          (Note: Councilmember Pedersen has asked SDOT to fix the road featured in the King 5 news story.)

          There are several good reasons to invest more to fix potholes and improve road conditions. Potholes negatively impact nearly all modes of transportation including cars, buses, biking, and walking. In addition, it’s a priority for Seattleites.

          Listening to the People: Fixing potholes and repaving roads was the top priority of those responding to our statistically valid sample of 1,000 Seattle adults this month (with even higher percentages in South Seattle). Here is the question we asked: Thinking now about transportation in Seattle. Of the following, which three transportation investments do you think are the most important for Seattle to make?

          • Fixing potholes and repaving roads for all vehicles: 66% picked among their top 3.
          • Supporting buses and other public transit: 64% picked among their top 3.
          • Fixing Seattle’s older bridges: 52% picked among top 3.
          • Installing new sidewalks and crosswalks: 30% picked among top 3.
          • Building bike lanes for safer streets: 27% picked among top 3.
          • Something else: 6%
          • None of the above: 1%

          [Note: As Chair of the City’s Transportation Committee, I remain committed to Seattle’s Vision Zero goals to substantially reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Therefore, I will continue to encourage greater investments in crosswalks, automated speed camera enforcement, getting people experiencing homelessness inside, and other investments.]

          What to do? To reflect what the vast majority of Seattle residents actually want (see the survey results), I would like to see SDOT’s proposed budget for 2024 shift spending away from shiny new, nice-to-have ribbon-cuttings like the expensive, redundant “center city connector,” which would be a mobile money pit disrupting downtown by tearing up the streets for two years. Let’s instead get back to the basics in addressing maintenance backlogs for roads and bridges that carry multiple modes of transportation, including buses.

           

          June is “Ride Transit Month”

          June is “Ride Transit Month.” If you don’t normally take the bus or light rail, see if you can achieve the goal of just 5 days in June to try it out. Hey, we’ll even count the West Seattle Water Taxi! At first, it’s an adventure. Then you’ll increasingly enjoy reading your book instead of fighting traffic and you’ll wonder why you ever drove yourself. Of course, I realize not everyone can do this all the time because it depends on your circumstances and logistics. While King County Metro buses and Sound Transit light rail are struggling to increase ridership after the pandemic, you are welcome.  But see what you can do in June because Mother Earth will appreciate it.

          For more info and to “take the pledge” (no pressure!), CLICK HERE. To plan your trip on King County Metro, CLICK HERE.  The King County Metro trip planner will suggest a connection to Sound Transit light rail, if that’s convenient. To plan your trip on Sound Transit, CLICK HERE.

           

          Transportation Choices Coalition Announces 2023 Priorities

          Kelsey Mesher was recently elevated to the position of Executive Director at an influential nonprofit group that advocates for statewide transportation investments, with an emphasis on public transit: the Transportation Choices Coalition.

          The statewide nonprofit Transportation Choices Coalition announced its policy priorities for 2023, which include addressing the shortage of transit operators, improving the safety of transit riders and operators, and encouraging equitable and efficient delivery of expanded rail lines and stations from Sound Transit.

           

          73% Say, Fix Seattle Bridges Now!

          University Bridge in 2018. Photo source: Wikipedia.

          We’ve heard the excuses for years.  “We’re not ready with our bridge plans.” “Let’s wait until 2025 — if we can convince taxpayers to renew the property tax levy for transportation in November 2024.” “Let’s finish our asset management assessments before we fix our bridges.” But Seattle clearly wants action now.

          Listening to the People: 73% say fix our bridges now! Here’s the question we asked a statistically valid sample of 1,000 Seattle adults in a professional survey this month: “After the West Seattle Bridge cracked and closed, the city ordered an audit of all Seattle bridges, which found several bridges in poor condition. Do you think the Mayor and the Seattle Department of Transportation should do more to fix Seattle’s worst bridges this year, or should they wait until they have additional data on all bridges?” 73% said fix our bridges now.  Fascinating Finding:  of the people who did NOT pick bridges among their top 3 transportation investments, even 67% of them still said, Fix Bridges Now.

          We are hopeful that in SDOT’s upcoming budget request for 2024, they will — for the first time — allocate for bridge maintenance at least the bare minimum dollars called for by the City Auditor’s 2020 report on the disturbing condition of Seattle’s bridges. In addition, SDOT needs to accelerate its seismic upgrade plans for the three City-owned ship canal bridges: Ballard and Fremont bridges (which SDOT removed from their priority seismic list) and the University Bridge (ranked among City’s worst).

          Volunteer Opportunities for Transportation Policy

          The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has openings for volunteer community members for the following advisory boards:

          Applications are due by Sunday, June 4 by 11:59 p.m. Apply through the City Clerk’s website (CLICK HERE). You can apply to multiple boards at the same time.  For more information, please visit this SDOT blog post (CLICK HERE).


          MEMORIAL DAY

          Memorial Day events originated shortly after the U.S. Civil War. While Abraham Lincoln’s historic speech was delivered prior to the creation of the holiday, the Gettysburg Address remains strongly connected to that day of remembrance. Sometimes we get lost in the celebrations and ceremonies, so here are those powerful words dedicating a sacred cemetery:

          “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

          Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

          But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

          The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,

          that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,

          that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,

          that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and

          that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

          — Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania


          WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Ways to Provide Input

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

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

          City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

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

           

          Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

          In-person office hours on most Friday afternoons are back to Magnuson Park’s Building 30 conference room at 6310 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115, just a couple of “blocks” into the park’s main entrance. You may continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE, so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

          With gratitude,

                   

           

           

          Councilmember Alex Pedersen

          Seattle City Council, District 4

          Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov

          Phone: (206) 684-8804

          Find It, Fix It

           


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

          May 26th, 2023

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

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

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

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



          May 26, 2023: Mayor Harrell Issues Directive to City Departments, Following Though on Council Requests to Phase Out Gas-Fueled Leaf Blowers in Seattle

          Here’s an excerpt from Mayor Bruce Harrell’s May 26, 2023 press release, after he directed our city government departments to implement provisions adopted by the City Council — the budget proviso adopted in November 2022 and the Resolution adopted in September 2022:

          SEATTLE (May 26, 2023) – Today, Mayor Harrell announced a new directive to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers by City departments and support the transition to electric leaf blowers.  

          The directive follows the adoption of Resolution 32064 which requested, in part, that City departments develop a plan to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. 

          These gas-powered leaf blowers aren’t just a nuisance; they impact our neighborhoods – and the workers who operate them – through air and noise pollution,” said Mayor Harrell.…This effort provides our City government with another opportunity to lead by example and transition away from these machines, replacing them with options that are carbon-neutral, quieter, and safer for operators and residents alike. We are grateful to Councilmember Pedersen for his committed efforts in helping Seattle turn over a new leaf – and embrace sustainability, electrification, and quality of life.”  

          The City currently owns about 418 gas-powered leaf blowers and 70 electric leaf blowers. The transition away from gas-powered leaf blowers will require coordination across departments to ensure City facilities and employees are adequately equipped with the infrastructure and equipment to use electric leaf blowers. 

          Mayor Harrell’s directive requires City departments to take several actions in 2023 to begin this transition, including: 

          • Starting in July 2023, all new leaf blower purchases by departments must be electric powered equipment, either plug in or battery, to begin transitioning to an all-electric inventory. 
          • Conduct a current and accurate inventory of all existing leaf blowers. This inventory will be updated annually to assess the status of the transition. 
          • Create a roadmap to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers by 2025, achieving at least a 50% reduction in use no later than 2025, 75% by 2026, and 100% by 2027, aiming to achieve that goal sooner. 
          • Assess current charging capacity at facilities and identify infrastructure improvements needed to support battery charging of electrified equipment. 
          • Form an internal department transition team made up of one or more members from each impacted department. This team, facilitated by Seattle Parks and Recreation, will meet quarterly to share information and align best practices. 

          Departments are also directed to incorporate other considerations such as transitioning to electric vehicles to allow for charging in the field, identifying efficiencies in landscape practices that can reduce the need for leaf blowers, and upgrading electrical capacity at City-owned facilities to support these tools.  

          As gas-fueled leaf blowers continue to imperil public health, I’m heartened by our Mayor directing all city government departments to implement both the proviso and key portions of my Resolution, as adopted by the City Council to equitably phase out these harmful machines as soon as possible,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee. 

          “Seattle Parks and Recreation continues to find ways to manage our nearly 500 parks more sustainably, and this includes the years we’ve dedicated to learning how to reduce emissions in our operations,” said AP Diaz, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent.SPR is excited to lead the City in efforts to transition away from the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, providing a quieter and cleaner park experience for the public and our employees while continuing to maintain our parks for safety and enjoyment. Thank you to the concerned residents, Councilmember Pedersen, and Mayor Harrell for expanding these efforts!” 


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Let’s get it done, Seattle!

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

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


          September 6, 2022: Our Resolution Passes Unanimously Today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


          August 9 and 19, 2022: Recent Media Coverage:


          August 8 and 9, 2022: Resolution Officially Introduced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


          July 29, 2022 Newsletter to Constituents (excerpt):

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


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

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

          For the report from the graduate students, CLICK HERE.


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

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

          For the news report by WCAX News, CLICK HERE.


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


          2020 through 2021 and beyond: Pandemic Interruption and Delay

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


          November 2019: Promises, Promises

          My 2019 campaign website said Seattle should do the following:

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          # # #


          Will April showers bring May tree protections?

          April 26th, 2023

          Friends and Neighbors,

          I hope you are enjoying the warmer spring weather as we approach the end of April. In this month’s newsletter, please click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:

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

          • District 4:  Clean-up in Roosevelt; Community Center Opening at Magnuson, Mixed-use Project Coming to Wedgwood; Speaking at the Fremont Neighborhood Council, Boba Fest Celebration in U District; Safety Walk in University Park; Crime Prevention Tips Organized by Hawthorne Hills / View Ridge.
          • Public Safety and Homelessness: Addressing the Fentanyl Crisis on Seattle Streets; Before the Badge Dialogues; Improving the Plan to Reduce Homelessness.
          • Taxes and Budgets: Recent Poll Confirms Seattle Resident Concerns about Taxes; Explaining Seattle’s Tax Revenues; Questions about Mayor’s Proposal to Triple the Property Taxes that Help Create Low-Income Housing; and Take Our 2-Question Survey!
          • Land Use Policies Impacting Seattle: 61 Amendments to the Mayor’s Tree Legislation; State Politicians Hand Financial Victory to Developers.
          • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: Vice President Kamala Harris Boosts Bridges (but Seattle not ready); Ship Canal Water Quality Project Update for Wallingford; A Glorious Transportation View Outside District 4.
          • Providing Input.

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


          DISTRICT 4

          Roosevelt Neighborhood Annual Clean Up

          Councilmember Alex Pedersen soaked by Seattle showers with his fellow cleanup volunteers on April 16, 2023. Many thanks to Mike Nash from the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association for organizing this annual event again. Mike complimented the Seattle Public Utilities team that provided the tools and logistics he needed for this “Adopt-A-Street” event, which was actually a full-scale neighborhood clean-up with 15 volunteers from I-5 to Cowen Park and from NE Ravenna Blvd to NE 68TH Street. Councilmember Pedersen was humbled to be working alongside a neighbor who had served Seattle as a nurse at Harborview for 30 years — from the AIDS epidemic to the COVID pandemic! To get more involved in your neighborhood, contact your community council or organize a neighborhood cleanup yourself by contacting Seattle’s Adopt-A-Street program (CLICK HERE, email adoptastreet@seattle.gov, or call 206-684-7647). In addition, there will be another annual “Day of Service” organized by the Mayor’s Office on Saturday, May 20, 2023.

          Magnuson Park Community Center: Finally Re-Opening

          Councilmember Alex Pedersen with newly confirmed Superintendent of Seattle Parks & Recreation AP Diaz at the Magnuson Park Community Center earlier this year.

          The Magnuson Park Community Center is finally reopening after a renovation that includes adding new community space for activities.  As reported by the Parks & Recreation Department on April 23, 2023, “Major Construction is complete!  Staff is moving in and the contractor is completing the final touches. The Community Center had a soft opening April 10th to get up and running and prepare for summer 2023 programming. We will participate in a community event at the park on July 6 and celebrate the Grand Reopening! We look forward to sharing this beautiful renovation and two new exhibits by Friends of Magnuson Park. This project builds out the south wing of Building 47 to allow greater programming capacity for Magnuson Community Center. It also makes accessibility improvements to the parking, entry, and lobby of the community center.”

          Magnuson Park is home to more than 850 low-income residents, making this community center vital for the enjoyment, connections, and health of our neighbors.

          To learn more about the renovation of the Magnuson Park Community Center, CLICK HERE.

          Wedgwood Shopping Center Project Planning

          The Wedgwood Community Council again hosted the local real estate developer that has big plans to construct a 5-story housing project with street-level retail and underground parking, anchored by a new grocery store on 35th Ave NE at NE 85th Street. That level of density is already allowed by the current zoning on that parcel.

          Many constituents know I’m not shy about leveraging my former private sector experience to go toe-to-toe with real estate developers to maximize benefits to the public from new projects. But, frankly, Wedgwood couldn’t do much better than having Security Properties on this project. There are several advantages with Security Properties: (a) headquartered in Seattle (appreciation for and accountable to their hometown); (b) a national footprint, so they have extensive experience and have spread their investment risk; and (c) their business model is a long-term hold rather than “buy, build, then bye-bye.” Moreover, they have agreed to honor key requests: (1) listen carefully and communicate frequently to the neighborhood; (2) build out enough retail space to attract a grocery store AND enable all existing retail stores to return (though some will decide not to return); and (3) provide some affordable housing on site. Thus far, I believe they have gone above and beyond, despite City Hall recently watering down requirements for developers to seek public input on proposed projects.

          The elephant in the room for many neighbors is, “What will happen to our Wedgwood Broiler?” While space will be provided for the beloved Broiler to return, that’s up to the owners of that small business and they have signaled they might not return. While it’s true that newly constructed buildings often cause permanent displacement by charging higher rents, which — along with the need to hibernate or relocate for 2 years of construction — make it hard for mom & pop (single location) businesses to survive, the owners of the Broiler simply might not want to keep it going :(. Stay tuned.

          This big new project is a great reminder of why it’s a great time to get involved in your community council. To get involved with the Wedgwood Community Council (which meets on the 1st Tuesday evening of each month), CLICK HERE and for other Northeast Seattle neighborhoods, CLICK HERE.

          More info

          :
          • For the developer’s website of the proposed project, CLICK HERE.
          • For the Wedgwood Community Council’s detailed announcement of their April 4, 2023 meeting, CLICK HERE.
          • For the minutes of the November 2022 community council meeting with the developer, CLICK HERE.
          • To provide comments directly to the developer, CLICK HERE.

          Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC)

          Councilmember Alex Pedersen was invited to the “center of the universe” to answer questions on local issues at the Fremont Neighborhood Council on April 24, 2023 (photo by A. Teeter).

          I was honored to accept the invitation to speak at the annual in-person meeting of the Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC) on April 24, 2023.  While most of FNC’s participants reside or work west of my Council District 4, FNC’s geographic boundaries stretch east to include “East Fremont,” which is part of District 4.

          Topics the FNC wanted me to discuss included the State’s expansive new land use policies, making sure developers build more low-income housing, protecting Seattle’s trees, preventing crime, and reducing homelessness.

          FNC is one of the dozens of community councils across Seattle. To find the community council closest to you and to get involved, CLICK HERE.

          BobaFest in the U District April 29

          Boba with the best – only in the U District, Saturday, April 29, 2023. Photo from the U District Partnership.

          Boba Fest is back! Get ready to slurp it up on Saturday, April 29, 2023, thanks to the U District Partnership, the nonprofit manager of the Business Improvement Area (BIA).

          As highlighted on their website, “Come to the U District to celebrate National Bubble Tea Day on Saturday, April 29 from 12pm to 6pm! Festivities kick-off at noon with over twenty-five participating businesses offering a wide array of traditional and exotic bubble tea flavors as well as a variety of bubble tea inspired items! This event is organized by The U District Partnership to celebrate Seattle’s boba culture and our city’s highest concentration of bubble tea cafes and restaurants, here in the U District.”

          For more about Boba Fest, CLICK HERE.

          UW Student Safety Walk

          Councilmember Pedersen invokes a little-known umbrella exemption, which allows a Seattleite to use an umbrella during neighborhood safety walks when also showing one’s cutting-edge knowledge of a smartphone. Seriously, though, here is Councilmember Pedersen participating in a UW neighborhood safety walk organized by several thoughtful UW student leaders in April who want the City to do its part to reduce crime in the University Park neighborhood just north of the main campus. The Councilmember was encouraging the students to use the ”Find It, Fix It” app on their phones in addition to contacting City departments directly and calling 9-1-1 for emergencies. Thanks to the various UW officials and City departments who joined Councilmember Pedersen in responding to the students’ call to action: Seattle City Light (improving street lighting), Seattle Public Utilities (removing illegal dumping), Seattle Police Department (catching bad guys), and the Seattle Department of Transportation (fixing dangerous sidewalks and replacing missing street signs). We are connecting student leaders to other City departments as well, including the Parks Dept (maintaining the median strip along 17TH Ave NE) and Seattle Department of Construction & Inspection (citing owners of empty buildings that attract illegal behavior).

          Hawthorne Hills / View Ridge Safety Meeting May 3

          The Hawthorne Hills Community Council and the View Ridge Community Council are organizing a crime prevention tips meeting on May 3, 2023 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Northeast branch of Seattle Public Library.  Hear from one of our city government’s expert Crime Prevention Coordinators, an important civilian position for which my office secured funding back in 2021.


          SAFETY AND HOMELESSNESS

          Fentanyl Crisis:  Seattle Must Discourage Illegal Drug Use in Public and Encourage Treatment

          Nine months after another crisis was officially declared by local politicians — this time for the illegal, inexpensive, highly addictive drug fentanyl — we have seen many words, but few results – except for more deaths.  In 2022, more than 1,000 people died by overdosing in King County, with 70% dying from fentanyl. In contrast, federal and regional efforts have recently achieved impressive results by disrupting illegal drug supply chains, which I supported in my previous newsletter.  To do their part, the City of Seattle and King County need to do more.

          On April 17, 2023, Mayor Harrell issued a 3-page Executive Order to direct the police department to disrupt the sale and distribution of illegal narcotics. The police should already be doing this but, due to City Hall sending mixed signals to SPD, it’s helpful for our city’s chief executive to communicate how SPD should focus its understaffed resources.  I concur with Seattle Times columnist Jon Talton who concluded, “The executive order on fentanyl was a little softer and more general than I would have preferred, but credit goes to the mayor for forcing attention onto a major public health crisis. (And we need the county to step up, too.)”

          Although politically and strategically it makes sense for the mayor to focus initially on drug dealers, it’s also important to leverage the possession and the use of illegal drugs as an opportunity to improve health and safety. But that means empowering our justice system do its part to discourage behavior that harms the public health and safety and leveraging that authority to encourage treatment. Our local government’s previous “look-the-other-way” approaches have failed and have been exacerbated by the King County Executive’s decision not to allow full use of the downtown detention facility — meanwhile public safety and public health have suffered.

          After the controversial, divided ruling in February 2021 by the Washington State Supreme Court in State v. Blake, which said “unintentional” possession of illegal drugs should not be a felony, the Washington State legislature adopted later in 2021 an interim law (SB 5476) to make possession just a misdemeanor, with the suspect being offered treatment during the first two instances. This bill has been ineffective because addiction treatment follow-through is rare, and it’s been nearly impossible for the justice system to keep track of who had previous instances of illegal possession. Regardless, that interim law was set to expire July 1, 2023.

          Enter State Senate Bill SB 5536 in 2023, which aimed to continue classifying illegal drug possession as a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, while tweaking how to enforce it and encourage suspects into addiction treatment, as needed. Unfortunately, the State legislature failed to adopt any legislation or the related treatment funding for this important topic impacting health and safety throughout Seattle. I believe our Governor should call a special legislative session to fix this and ensure there is at least a misdemeanor option in place statewide. Decriminalizing possession hasn’t worked well in Oregon (see the two April 13, 2023 articles from The Economist magazine by CLICKING HERE and HERE).

          Until the State acts, local officials should do what they can to discourage public use of illegal drugs. For example, King County Councilmembers have already proposed a local law to discourage public use of illegal drugs in the unincorporated areas of King County, but that doesn’t cover Seattle. Smoking fentanyl and allowing the use of other illegal drugs publicly sends the wrong message to children and others, if they see government officials allowing such harmful illegal drug use on our public streets, sidewalks, and parks.

            A recent survey by EMC Research shows nearly 90% of respondents believe downtown Seattle cannot fully recover until the homelessness and public safety problems are addressed. Discouraging the public use of illegal drugs can be part of the solution.

            I am hopeful my colleagues will work collaboratively with our City Attorney’s Office to implement common-sense solutions to address any gaps left by the State legislature. (In Seattle, felonies are handled by the King County Prosecutor’s Office, whereas misdemeanors are handled by our City Attorney’s Office and the Seattle Municipal Court.) Our City Attorney Ann Davison’s approach – supported by a clear mandate in her election victory in November 2021 — has been more focused, thus far, on proactive solutions to increase community safety, which should ultimately improve public health outcomes. I look forward to her legal leadership on this public health and safety issue.

            MORE INFO:

            • For the Seattle Times April 16, 2023 article, “How fentanyl became Seattle’s most urgent public health crisis,” CLICK HERE.
            • For Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat’s recent concerns about State elected officials failing pass a replacement law in time, CLICK HERE (April 26, 2023). For his analysis of Bellingham’s tougher actions, CLICK HERE (April 12, 2023). For his December 3, 2022 column “Between prison and pamphlets: WA looks for an answer to the drug crisis, CLICK HERE.
            • For Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order on fentanyl and initial pieces of his “downtown activation plan” from April 17, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the compelling editorial cartoon by David Horsey that visualizes the harm of doing nothing for people under the grip of illegal drug addiction (April 14, 2023), CLICK HERE. Mr. Horsey wrote, “In King County Drug Court, those in recovery talk about how they were hauled into rehab programs ‘kicking and screaming’ but are now grateful that the law coerced them into getting treatment. Not everyone needs the legal system to force them to get help, but some do. Which raises a question for those who favor getting rid of penalties for possession: With the number of overdose deaths in the state shooting higher and higher, is it truly compassionate to dispense with coercive options that might save some lives?”

            Before the Badge Community Dialogue: North Seattle, May 1, 2023

            Seattle University wants you to know the Sign-up is open for the second series of “Before the Badge” Community-Police Dialogues. The North Precinct Dialogue is coming up on Monday – May 1, 2023. Sessions are on Zoom from 5:30 to 7:30 pm!  Everyone who lives and/or works in Seattle is invited!  These dialogues offer the opportunity for community members to meet with and engage in conversation with new Seattle Police Recruits who are completing the SPD’s 45-day “Before the Badge” training!  To sign-up for one or more dialogues, go to: https://www.publicsafetysurvey.org/index.html

            Revisions to KCRHA 5-Year Plan to Reduce Homelessness

            On April 27, 2023, KCRHA’s “System Planning Subcommittee” of the “Implementation Board” will meet again to discuss additional staff revisions to their so-called “5-Year Plan” to address homelessness.  The initial revisions suggested by KCRHA staff and presented at that subcommittee’s March 23, 2023 meeting seemed minor and insufficient. On April 20, 2023, KCRHA staff provided a presentation to the Governing Committee hinting that bigger/better revisions are forthcoming. These latest revisions are likely to better prioritize existing funds, provide more specifics on short-term goals, and focus actions on a unifying, overarching goal: “to Bring Unsheltered People Inside as Quickly as Possible to Prevent Death and Further Harm.”

            In my next e-newsletter (scheduled at the end of May 2023), I plan to offer my assessment of the revisions KCRHA staff recently proposed to their so-called “5-Year Plan.”  The Implementation Board is scheduled to vote on the revised 5-Year Plan on May 10, 2023, and the Governing Board will have more time until June 1, 2023.

            I believe it’s vital for the Governing Committee, which includes Mayor Harrell as well as City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis, to weigh in early and assertively to make sure the problems with KCRAH’s draft 5-year plan are corrected. I believe they share a sense of urgency. Because Seattle is contributing the bulk of the funds and suffering the bulk of unsheltered homelessness, we should not be shy about requesting improvements to the sluggish pace of results and any inadequacies of future plans. I support this regional approach and want it to succeed, but that will take active engagement from that Governing Committee.

            Seattle has seen several plans to reduce homelessness come and go. The fact is we don’t need to wait for yet another plan to reduce homelessness. City Hall needs to maximize the use of the 600+ vacant apartment units among 16,000 units subsidized by the City’s Office of Housing portfolio. With the Mayor proposing to triple the portion of property taxes that help create more low-income housing, it’s the perfect time to demand more frequent vacancy data and to have the organizations receiving those tax dollars accept more housing-ready individuals from tiny home villages and enhanced shelters who have been waiting for a permanent unit — so that we can then transition into shelter more people who have been suffering unsheltered in parks, greenways, and sidewalks.

            More Info:

            • For the draft 5-year plan from KCRHA staff, CLICK HERE, and for the April 20, 2023 update from KCRHA staff, CLICK HERE.
            • For my initial (January 2023) critique of KCRHA staff’s initial 5-year plan (too slow and too expensive), CLICK HERE.
            • For the concerns from the Seattle Times editorial board published on February 21, 2023 (focused on the unrealistic cost of KCRHA’s plan), CLICK HERE.
            • For the excellent Op-Ed by Sharon Lee and Pastor Robert Jeffrey, Sr. published March 10, 2023 in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
            • To comment on KCRHA’s plan, CLICK HERE.
             


            TAXES AND BUDGETS

            A new survey conducted by EMC Research asked questions about taxes and spending. A majority of respondents say Seattle taxes are too high and two-thirds of respondents said they do NOT trust City Hall to spend their tax dollars responsibly.

            April Revenue Forecast: City Hall Can Still Pay the Bills, For Now

            FORECASTING OFFICE: Your city government is likely to enjoy a small budget “surplus” at the end of this calendar year (2023), according to the revised estimates from Seattle’s Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasting. Earlier this month, the forecasting office presented its updated estimates for the revenues available to operate your city government and to deliver its services and programs. The relatively new forecasting office was wisely conceived by previous City Council President Lorena Gonzalez with Ordinance 126395, which I fully supported in 2021 to provide more transparency and accountability with the revenue estimates used by our budget policymakers. Instead of blindly relying on revenue estimates from the executive branch of government, the new office is governed equally by the executive and legislative branches. The forecast updated in April helps the City Budget Director (who reports to the Mayor) and the City Council Finance Committee to determine whether any mid-year budget adjustments are needed. The forecast updated in August helps the Mayor to finalize his budget request for the next calendar year. The forecast updated in November is used by the City Council to finalize its budget amendments and to ensure it will be in balance, as required by State law.

            SMALL 2024 DEFICIT: You might hear of a small $6.7 million deficit (rounded to $7 million). To clarify, that’s over the two-year period (“biennium”) through 2024 and after subtracting grants that we receive from other levels of government for specific purposes (i.e. those grants are not cash that we can move around to plug holes in other parts of our budget, so it often makes sense to “exclude” them from the analysis). The negative $7 million is a logical number to highlight, and it’s good news, because it’s small relative to our total budget.

            SURPLUSES: To show the bigger picture (and the existing “surplus”), I have combined and rearranged the revenue estimates (in the table below). You can see that, in 2023, our most flexible General Fund expects a surplus of $72 million. After combining the General Fund with the other funding sources (both positive and negative), we expect a net surplus of $34 million (including grants) and $6.6 million (excluding grants).

            NEW REVENUE NEEDED? If we have a surplus this year, why did the Mayor and Budget Chair establish a “Revenue Stabilization Workgroup”? Good question! As city government personnel costs continue to increase at an unsustainable level, we expect larger deficits to return in 2025. But rather than going back to the well of the general taxpayer of Seattle, why not just better manage our costs? If that’s not possible, we know the Washington State Supreme Court recently allowed the State’s new capital gains excise tax to remain. Perhaps Seattle will consider a similar local measure here, although that could put Seattle at a disadvantage relative to other cities. Regardless, I believe City Hall should apply any new progressive revenue to reducing regressive taxes that we already pay, rather than spending it on additional costs of government. For example, if we introduce a new “progressive” tax in Seattle, we should use it to reduce the sales tax paid today by everyone (especially low-income residents) to boost our bus service and/or to reduce utility taxes that burden our electric and water bills, and/or to reduce the property taxes Seattle homeowners and renters pay to build low-income housing or large transportation projects.

            KEEP MONEY FLOWING: With the surplus this calendar year, I believe there’s no need for the City Budget Office (CBO) to stall any investments already approved by City Council. When CBO took similar action a year ago to halt investments temporarily, it paused money for a cooling center at the NE Library and now we’re missing TWO summers to get that climate resiliency project completed. Earlier this year, the CBO held up money for important new positions, which ensnared the new City Urban Forester position needed as we consider a stronger ordinance to protect Seattle’s dwindling tree canopy.

            TRANSPORTATION: The combined transportation funding sources are positive. In addition, I believe our revenues for speed enforcement cameras in school zones will increase IF the Harrell Administration gets SDOT and SPD to work together expeditiously to install the two dozen additional cameras the Council funded recently. Due to the lack of traffic enforcement in recent years and SPD’s shortage of officers in the field, increasing speed zone camera enforcement will be important to make progress on Seattle’s “Vision Zero” goals to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

            WHAT’S EXCLUDED? The revenues presented above include several of the most relevant locally controlled sources. Forecasting these revenues three times each year helps City Hall to track budget volatility. It’s important to note, however, that the revenues presented above exclude several other funding sources from our City’s total “all funds” budget, including dollars to and from Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, most funding sources for the City’s Capital Improvement Program, and the special-purpose property taxes for education support programs, low-income housing, library supports, and certain transportation projects.

            For the forecast presentations from the Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasting, CLICK HERE.

            Housing Levy: Tripling Those Property Taxes, But Where’s a Requirement For Vacancy Data to Help More People Experiencing Homelessness?

            The Harrell Administration continued its sales pitch to broadly charge Seattleites nearly $1 billion (over seven years), by more than tripling the portion of the property tax used for the “Seattle Housing Levy.” Unlike some property tax levies, a benefit of the Housing Levy is that it produces tangible outcomes: new housing for low-income residents. The downside is that it increases the cost of housing for nearly everyone: landlords can pass along the increased tax to renters, both in apartment buildings as well as to small businesses renting their storefronts.  The owner of a median priced home ($855,000) would pay $383 — which is $269 more per year than the $114 for the existing Housing Levy. When combined with the recent increase in the Parks District property tax ($176) and the Crisis Care property tax ($132), that means $577 more per year in higher property taxes imposed by your local government in just the past year.

            For the grand total of property taxes increases, CLICK HERE for a recent, comprehensive analysis by our City Council Central Staff.

            While the Harrell Administration spent many months conferring with the housing provider organizations to ask how much money they need, the City Council only kicked off its review process on April 5, 2023. Thus far, all nine City Councilmembers have indicated an interest in providing more funding to create additional low-income housing units. The questions on the table include, How Much? and How Many Units Should Be Created?  I think we should also ask WHO PAYS? and HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS PROGRAM MORE EFFECTIVE?  (See 2 survey questions below.)

            Vacancies: To make the City’s Office of Housing program more effective, City Hall needs to maximize the use of the 600+ vacant apartment units among its 16,000 subsidized units. That’s too many vacant units. My experience nationally is that vacancy rates for low-income housing projects range from 0% to 3%, with higher cost markets like Seattle being on the lower end of that range. This is validated by national research: According to Moody’s Analytics, “The national vacancy rate for the affordable housing sector, which is comprised of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) markets, fell by 0.1% in the fourth quarter, finishing at 2.3%. Since Moody’s Analytics REIS began tracking this sector, the vacancy rate has remained within the range of 2.0% to 2.6%. It is expected to stay within that range for the foreseeable future.” A vacancy rate of 2.0% would be 320 available units.

            With the Mayor proposing to triple the portion of the property taxes that create more low-income housing, it’s the perfect time to demand more frequent vacancy data and to have the organizations receiving those tax dollars accept more housing-ready individuals from tiny home villages and enhanced shelters who have been waiting for a permanent unit, so that we can then transition into shelter more people who have been suffering unsheltered in parks, greenways, and sidewalks.

            SURVEY: Let us know what you think about getting effective data to maximize our subsidized housing and considering the use of financial sources other than property tax increases.

            Take the 2-Question Survey

            Here are the 2 SURVEY QUESTIONS:

            (1) EFFECTIVE DATA: Before asking voters to triple the portion of your property taxes that help create low-income housing in Seattle, should City Hall require better data on vacant units and have organizations receiving those tax dollars accept more people experiencing homelessness during an emergency?

            (2) WHO PAYS: Instead of tripling the portion of your property taxes that helps to create more low-income housing, should the City instead use a more progressive revenue source, such as a capital gains excise tax identical to our State’s new fee on NON-retirement income from selling stocks / bonds? 

                (Note: This new capital gains excise tax exempts retirement accounts and real estate sales and applies only to capital gains of more than $250,000. For Frequently Asked Questions about that excise tax, Click here.)

            To take that 2-question survey, CLICK HERE or click on the green button above. Thank you!

            More Info

            :
            • For the original version of the ordinance as proposed by Mayor Harrell and his Office of Housing, CLICK HERE and for their accompanying Resolution, CLICK HERE. Note: These two pieces of legislation have not been put onto the City Council’s official Introduction and Referral Calendar (IRC) yet, so they are subject to change.
            • For the schedule of City Council’s consideration of the Harrell Administration’s proposal to TRIPLE the property tax portion that goes toward Seattle’s (low-income) Housing Levy, CLICK HERE.
            • For the Office of Housing presentation from April 5, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the Office of Housing presentation from April 19, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the property tax presentation from our City Council Central Staff, CLICK HERE, and for their memo, CLICK HERE.
            • For information on property tax relief, CLICK HERE.
             

            LAND USE POLICIES IMPACTING SEATTLE

            Tree Protection Legislation: A Tsunami of 61 Amendments!

            I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please!”

            “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

            Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

            -from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

            The fate of Seattle’s trees and their public health and environmental benefits depends on your City Councilmembers – will they amend the unhelpful legislative proposal from the Mayor’s Office to make it better for the general public and our tree infrastructure — or make it better for the profits of developers and tree cutters?

            After removing a couple of substantive amendments from the Committee Chair’s proposed initial changes to the Harrell Administration’s “tree protection” bill (CB 120534), the committee “adopted” the Chair’s substitute bill with 11 technical changes to become the new baseline bill. Over the next three weeks, we will consider approximately 50 substantive amendments.

            I’m very grateful to the efforts of the Central Staff of the City Council and our City Attorney’s Office, which have been working hard to translate multiple amendment concepts into effective legislative language for our consideration.

            Out of the 50 amendments proposed thus far, I am proposing nearly half of the total, mainly to honor the work and input of the expert Urban Forestry Commission (UFC). Here are a few of the key amendments needed:

            • Remove the 85% developer guarantee. The various other provisions in the tree protection ordinance should govern how we protect trees, rather than providing an arbitrary and blanket guarantee to developers. Let’s be sure to adopt a tree protection law, rather than a profits protection law. (Amendment A6).
            • Require an Inch-for-Inch replacement of trees removed by developers, rather than allowing them to replace mature trees with “sticks.” (Amendment E4). For example, if a developer rips out a 24-inch diameter regulated tree, then they should replace it with six 4-inch diameter trees (6 x 4 = 24).
            • Increase the In-Lieu Fee to a minimum of $4,000 per tree and memorialize that in the ordinance, rather than hoping a “Director’s Rule” does it later. (As noted during the committee meeting, the version originally published in the Central Staff memo — Amendment E6 — needs to be corrected / changed from $2,833 to $4,000, which would then make it consistent with the UFC letter from April 7, 2023).
            • Empower the new City Urban Forester position created last year within the Office of Sustainability & Environment. (The initial draft of Amendment B4 needs to be beefed up.)
            • Think Trees First: Add a new section to request that SDCI modify its practices to consider trees at the beginning of the permit review process — before any trees are ripped out. (Amendment C1).
            • Protect the tree service provider registry law we recently adopted to increase transparency and accountability and end the “wild west” of tree cutting in Seattle. (Reject the content from amendment #10 originally proposed in the substitute bill. At my request on April 21, 2023, the Chair agreed to remove that provision — to be debated later. I would oppose watering down that law if it allows tree cutters to improperly remove Tier 3 and 4  trees or repeatedly submit incorrect information to the City department.
             

            “The UFC is disappointed with the City’s policy development process relating to CB 120534. From the UFC perspective, the proposed legislation appears to have been developed behind closed doors without substantive participation by the Commission and other stakeholders. The March 2023 draft is substantially different from the February 2022 draft the UFC had seen last and made a substantial list of recommendations on. The timeline established by the City Council for acting on the proposal is relatively short given the complexity of the policy and the implications for our city. The UFC does not feel there has been adequate time for all interested stakeholders, including this Commission, to reflect and make well-informed recommendations.”

            — from April 7, 2023 letter from Urban Forestry Commission

            “City Council must heavily amend this tree legislation, because it’s supposed to be a tree protection bill – not a profits protection bill. It’s finally time to put up or shut up about wanting to advance the city’s public health and environment by protecting Seattle’s dwindling tree infrastructure urgently needed to survive climate change heat waves – and the amendments we choose to adopt will prove where we really stand.”

            —  Councilmember Alex Pedersen, April 25, 2023 quote in Seattle Times.

            3 Ways to Raise Your Voice

            :
            1. Call into the Council Meeting: You can register online two hours ahead of each meeting. Then call in to be prepared to speak on your telephone when the meeting starts. For instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE or use this website: http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment
            2. Speak in person: You could also come to City Hall to speak in person. (Arrive at least a few minutes before his committee starts to complete the Sign-In Sheet.)
            3. Email: The email addresses of the members of the Land Use Committee are: Dan.Strauss@seattle.gov, Tammy.Morales@seattle.gov, Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov, Sara.Nelson@seattle.gov, Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. To send an e-mail to all nine Councilmembers, you can use this single email address: Council@seattle.gov.

            Current Schedule/Next Steps

            : (items in bold indicate a change from previous calendar)
            • Wed, March 29, 2023: the five City Councilmembers of the Land Use Committee meet again on this tree protection legislation. For the presentations by SDCI, CLICK HERE (March 29) and HERE (March 22).
            • Fri, April 7: Urban Forestry Commission finalizes its suggested amendments.
            • Fri, April 7 at 2:00 pm: the five City Councilmembers of the Land Use Committee meet again to discuss this tree protection legislation.
            • Tue, April 18: Internal deadline for Committee members to send proposed amendments to City Council’s Central Staff for finalizing.
            • Fri, April 21 at 2:00 pm: Committee votes on Chair’s proposed substitute bill with “technical” amendments. (For that agenda and its supporting materials, CLICK HERE).
            • Mon, April 24 at 10:30 am: public hearing
            • Wed, April 26 at 2:00 pm: Land Use Committee votes discusses the substantive amendments.
            • Thurs, May 4 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Votes on amendments and then votes amended bill out of Land Use Committee.
            • Tue, May 9 or 16 at 2:00 pm: full City Council is likely to vote on the bill (Be alert for late-breaking amendments from the four Councilmembers not on the Land Use Committee.)

            LEGISLATIVE LINKS

            :
            • For the substitute baseline bill that incorporates technical changes approved by the Land Use Committee April 21, 2023, CLICK HERE. For the related fiscal bill (CB 120535), CLICK HERE.
            • For the Committee agenda with supporting materials, including the 62-page City Council Central Staff memo with the Chair’s proposed substitute baseline bill (with 13 mostly technical amendments) — PLUS the list of 48 potential other amendments to the Harrell Administration bill, (after page 54 of the memo) — CLICK HERE.
            • To watch the video of the April 21, 2023 Land Use Committee, CLICK HERE.
            • To compare the March 7, 2023 (Harrell-Strauss original version) to the Feb 2022 (Durkan-SDCI-SEPA version), CLICK HERE. Is the new version stronger for trees? Review the comparison and decide.
            • For the 4-page Executive Order issued by Mayor Harrell on March 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the draft Director’s Rule for proposed In-Lieu Fees, CLICK HERE.
            • For the draft Director’s Rule listing the “Exceptional Trees” now called “Tier 2 Trees,” CLICK HERE.
            • For the 18-page “Director’s Report,” that explains some of the proposed changes, CLICK HERE.
            • For a 4-page “Expanded Summary of Code Changes,” CLICK HERE.
            • For their joint March 2023 press release announcing their bill and executive order, CLICK HERE.

            OTHER COMMENTS

            :
            • For an April 21, 2023 televised debate on Seattle Channel about this issue between developer lobbyists and tree advocates, CLICK HERE.
            • For the South Seattle Emerald Op Ed “We Must Get Seattle’s Updated Tree Ordinance Right to Protect Community Well-Being” by Lois Martin and Sandy Shettler, April 17, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For link to the Seattle Times editorial published April 25, 2023 urging the Council to pass key amendments to the Harrell Administration’s initial proposal, CLICK HERE.
            • For my ongoing blog posts about protecting trees in Seattle, CLICK HERE.

            State Politicians Enable “Christmas in April” Profits for Condo Developers by Pre-Empting Seattle Land Use Process

            With their adoption of State House Bill 1110, your State politicians of both political parties, in effect, created massive financial benefits for condo developers by trumping local decision-making and imposing their own statewide land use expansions. In Seattle this means that, where there has been a single house or a house plus two accessory dwelling units, a developer can build 6 units. Allowing for more units could have been a positive change — if Seattle had been allowed to have its own local decision-making process, and if the new policy required inclusionary zoning for low-income housing (because we cannot rely on the private market to altruistically build the type of affordable housing we need). In most locations, however, the State bill fails to require affordability, which means Seattle must proactively extend its Mandatory Housing Affordability requirements to these new State-imposed citywide upzones. With the State-imposed increase in density capacity, developers should be able to double their profits. This legislative gift from State politicians to condo developers weakens the claim of builders who say stronger tree protections or transportation impact fees in Seattle will harm them.

            In fact, the State giveaway enabling developers to build more to make more money injects greater urgency into Seattle’s need to follow-through on its promises to protect its dwindling tree infrastructure, which is vital for public health and environmental benefits in the midst of climate change heat waves.

            KITTY KARMA:

            Admittedly, my newsletters are not completely balanced, because I have opinions (formed ideally after conferring with constituents). Last month’s photo of the adorable doggie was clearly lopsided toward canines. Therefore, in a bow to balance, I give you the following Kitty Karma…

            This fuzzy feline was actually found and delivered to our City’s Animal Shelter. So, if you recognize her, CLICK HERE to contact Animal Shelter and claim your kitty!


            TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

            To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November.

            VP Kamala Harris Boosts Bridges with Dollars and Results; Seattle Leaders Should, Too

            Vice President Kamala Harris, with the 14th Street Bridge in D.C. in the background ready for repairs, thanks the local Ironworkers union for their role in building and repairing bridges in and around our nation’s capital.

            Reinforcing the themes raised by U.S. Dept of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in 2021 to “Fix It First,” Vice President Kamala Harris stood in front of a key bridge in our nation’s capital this month to celebrate the increased bridge investments in cities from coast to coast.

            We are investing in a better future for our nation and this bridge is evidence of that progress…Every day more than 100,000 people cross [this bridge] to go to work, to go to stores, to visit loved ones, and to tour [our city]. Every day thousands of truck drivers cross this bridge on their daily route to deliver the food that fills the grocery stores and the products that fill our shelves. But here’s the thing:  this bridge has gone without urgently needed repairs for decades…”

            -Vice President Kamala Harris, April 2023

            What about Seattle?  Despite the great work that SDOT’s bridge crew accomplishes with its spot repairs, many are disappointed that SDOT officials decided not to apply for $100 million “Mega” federal grants while also rebuffing a separate $100 million in bonds authorized by City Council. It appears that SDOT is still struggling to get projects ready to strengthen our aging bridges, more than two years after our September 2020 audit exposed the poor condition of several Seattle bridges. Our problematic aging bridges include the University Bridge, Ballard Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Magnolia Bridge, 2ND Avenue South Extension bridge, and several others.

            In addition to connecting our communities and keeping our economy moving in a city carved by waterways and ravines, the jobs we can create to fix bridges are well paid and don’t require an expensive college degree.

            The D.C. Difference:  The city government of D.C. was ready to apply for the largest grants and did. VP Harris was standing in front of a bridge receiving a whopping $72 million from the federal “Bridge Investment Program” (BIP) discretionary grants announced April 2023. That was the third round of bridge grants under the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act following the Bridge Planning Grants and the Mega Projects Grants.

            Seattle proffers plenty of plans and pronouncements, but we need more nuts and bolts.

            Note: Seattle received a federal “INFRA” grant in March 2022 (with funds from federal fiscal year 2021), but that was due to the emergency need to address the cracked and closed West Seattle Bridge. WSDOT also received an INFRA grant to rehabilitate the Salmon Bay railroad bridge in September 2022 with funds from federal fiscal year 2022.

            Bottom line: SDOT should rebalance its priorities to care more for Seattle’s aging multimodal bridges, so that it is prepared to take full advantage of federal, state, and local dollars.

            • For the video of Vice President Harris’s remarks at the D.C. bridge in April 2023, CLICK HERE and for the White House April 13, 2023 press release, CLICK HERE.
            • I brought SDOT and our City Auditor to our Transportation Committee last month to update us on the status of Seattle’s bridges:
              • For the presentation by our City Auditor on March 21, 2023, CLICK HERE.
             
            • For the presentation by SDOT crafted in collaboration with the City Auditor for March 21, 2023, CLICK HERE.
             

            Ship Canal Update: We Appreciate Wallingford’s Patience!

            There’s no point in sugar-coating it:  I agree the traffic congestion, sidewalk diversions, difficulties for cyclists, and parking shortages caused by multiple, simultaneous construction projects — including the government’s mega environmental project to install an underground stormwater storage tank — are causing logistical laments among many Wallingford/East Fremont residents and small businesses.

            Regarding the City-County water quality control project led by Seattle Public Utilities, crews continue working on the electrical building and gate structure on Interlake Ave N and N 35th St as well as pipe installation within Stone Way N, between N 34th St and N 35th St to install pipes and perform other utility work.

            In the coming weeks, crews will reopen westbound N 34th St. In the coming month, crews will move operations into N 35th St and the intersection between Stone Way N and Interlake Ave N. Seattle Public Utilities will share more details about the upcoming detour and traffic impacts as they become available.

            For more on the City-County Ship Canal Water Quality Control Project, CLICK HERE.

            The Best Transportation Views: Is It Okay to Cheat on Your District? [Water] Taxi!

            Of course, the West Seattle Water Taxi is not in our City Council District 4 in Northeast Seattle. But as Transportation Chair, I can be open-minded.

            Similar to the easy, breezy Staten Island Ferry with breath-taking views of New York City, the West Seattle Taxi gets you onto Elliott Bay of Puget Sound for the best views of Seattle.

            Here’s a truncated version of the announcement from King County: “The summer sailing schedule for the West Seattle Water Taxi begins April 17 and will run through Oct. 13…Daytime sailings for the West Seattle Water Taxi start at around 6 a.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. on the weekends. The midday service remains in place, but our summer schedule includes the return of late-night sailings through 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays…”

            “Enjoy a 15-minute ride across Elliott Bay while enjoying panoramic views of the Seattle city skyline, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains. Walk along Alki Beach or the downtown waterfront. And you’ll avoid the traffic of the West Seattle Bridge or paying to park downtown…In West Seattle, riders can take the free Metro water taxi shuttles to and from the dock at Seacrest Park. Route 773 serves the West Seattle junction. Route 775  serves the Admiral District and Alki…Adult fare is $5.75 one way ($5 with an ORCA card). Don’t have an ORCA Card yet, download the TransitGoTicket App on your mobile device for express boarding. This is the first summer where young people can ride the Water Taxi, and most regional transit, for free! Customers with lower incomes, seniors, and people with disabilities can now apply for an ORCA Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) card using the new Reduced Fare Portal. Grab your shades and get ready for a Water Taxi summer. We can’t wait to see you on board!

            For King County Metro’s full announcement of summer water taxi info, CLICK HERE.

            While water taxi concepts to serve additional routes for Seattle have been studied in the past with different ranges of financial feasibility, I still think they can provide a future option for commuting, in case everyone wants to suddenly work in South Lake Union again.


            WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Ways to Provide Input

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

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

            City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

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

            Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

            In-person office hours on most Friday afternoons are back to Magnuson Park’s Building 30 conference room at 6310 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115, just a couple of “blocks” into the park’s main entrance. You may continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE, so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

            With gratitude,

                           





            Councilmember Alex Pedersen

            Seattle City Council, District 4

            Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov

            Phone: (206) 684-8804

            Find It, Fix It


            Survey results: Is Seattle on the right track?

            March 31st, 2023

            Let’s leap into our March 2023 Newsletter!

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

            • State of the City, Part 2: You. Two surveys reveal Wrong Track/Right Track results for Seattle.
            • District 4:  Dangerous encampment closed under I-5; Cherry Blossom Festival; electric vehicle charging stations; Storefront Restoration grants still available; Seattle Preschool Program expanding; UW women’s basketball winning.
            • Public Safety and Homelessness: Public safety survey results; Federal law enforcement achieves major drug/gun bust; City Attorney’s strategy on prolific offenders is working; Mayor’s Office / SPD’s efforts to hire officers continues to lag officers leaving; Seattle Times investigation confirms City of Seattle bears brunt of homelessness; King County Regional Authority considers amendments to its unrealistic plan.
            • Taxes and Budgets:  Local leaders continue to raise property taxes.
            • Land Use Policies Impacting Seattle: Mayor’s proposed legislation to protect trees coming into focus and under scrutiny.
            • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee:  Vision Zero success must include enforcement; Update on bridge audit shows SDOT completed just 1 of 10 recommendations so far; Survey of commuters confirms most used (and least used) transportation post-pandemic. Impact Fees can fund transportation infrastructure that everyone wants. Sound Transit acknowledges need to make stations safer.
            • Providing Input.

            For my previous newsletters, you can CLICK HERE to visit my website / blog. Thank you for caring enough to demand better from City Hall.
            State of the City Follow-Up:

            As I reported in last month’s newsletter, the Mayor’s “State of the City” speech was upbeat, and he concluded, “The state of our City is that we are ready and willing to put in the hard work.

            What Does Seattle Think?  A recent survey shows that 60% of residents think Seattle is on the wrong track. That’s obviously not good. As the historical line graph shows, however, that is actually an improvement from the previous survey when 69% said Seattle is on the wrong track.

            The poll was conducted by the reputable firm EMC Research by surveying 500 randomly selected likely voters within the city limits from January 17 through 22, 2023. For the press release announcing the EMC survey results, CLICK HERE. For the rest of the EMC survey — which shows homelessness as the #1 concern and strong support for public safety measures — CLICK HERE. For the previous polls conducted by EMC, CLICK HERE.
            What Do Your Neighbors Think?

            After Mayor Harrell delivered his second annual “State of the City” speech on February 21, 2023, I asked readers of my monthly e-newsletter to answer the overarching question for themselves.

            Our e-newsletter last month included a survey with just that one question: “Do you feel things in the city of Seattle are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel that things are generally on the wrong track?”

            It yielded similarly negative results as the citywide survey by EMC Research, though my informal survey also offered the choice of “Unsure.” The pie chart shows that more than half of my survey respondents think Seattle is on the “Wrong Track.” The lowest percentage (21%) think Seattle is on the right track and 23% are unsure.

            This online survey sent to our e-newsletter recipients was open for one week from February 27 through March 6, 2023. As I mentioned last month, this wasn’t scientific because the survey pool is just my e-mail list and the respondents self-select to take the survey, rather than being randomly selected.  The total number of respondents (297 in this case) is enough to produce a 95% confidence level of plus or minus 6 percentage points. In other words, if the survey result is 21%, there’s a 95% chance that the reality is anywhere between 15% and 27%. — but that’s nullified by the fact that it’s not a random sample. So why am I showing these imperfect results? Because people get cranky when I do a survey and I neglect to provide the results (imperfect or not) in the next newsletter!

            However, the statistically valid surveys professionally administered by EMC Research confirm that most people (60%) think Seattle is on the wrong track. Based on the answers to the other questions in the EMC surveys, this negative outlook is likely because people are not satisfied with local government’s progress in addressing the respondents’ top priorities: reducing homelessness and crime. I believe our local government needs to accelerate its positive actions to get better results, faster.


            DISTRICT 4

            Encampment Ending Under I-5 Near Public Elementary School

            As reported by KOMO News, ”Work crews began efforts Monday [March 27, 2023] to remove the homeless encampment that occupied both sides of I-5 underneath the Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle [near NE 42nd Street]. The removal comes after months of demands from neighbors in Wallingford and parents at the John Stanford International School who said the encampment was an immediate threat to the safety of the elementary school students.”

            I visited the site again on March 28 and March 30, and it was clear there was much work to be done, especially on Pasadena Place side on the edge of the U District.

            I continue to support the passion of parents sick and tired of government agencies that allowed more than a dozen people to suffer outside for several months under I-5 in dangerous and inhumane conditions with deaths, fires, gunshots, thefts, and other crimes next to a public elementary school. I am grateful to the parents and principal of John Stanford Elementary School for their ongoing demand for action at this dangerous encampment. With all the financial resources and time provided, Washington State officials and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) were overdue in providing shelter to the encampment’s residents and securing this site to prevent any new tragedies on their watch.

            While I am relieved, I am not impressed. I am relieved that 15 people suffering outside were finally connected to shelter. However, I am frustrated government agencies took so long to do their jobs. It’s unacceptable to take more than six months to address this dangerous encampment near a public elementary school and to provide shelter to the encampment’s residents.

            And the work of the State government and KCRHA is far from over. There are similar dangerous sites of squalor along I-5 near NE 45 Street and near NE 50th Street and further north. I urge the State and regional agencies to revamp their sluggish process to make it 10 times faster or else I have little confidence that giving their leaders more money will reduce homelessness.

            It’s relevant to note that the City of Spokane recently filed a formal complaint in court demanding that WSDOT to do a better job addressed a large, longstanding encampment on State property.

            If you want to contact your government officials to urge them to bring people inside faster and restore safety to State government properties along I-5, here are the email addresses of relevant officials:

            • Marc Dones, CEO of KCRHA
            • Roger Millar, WSDOT
            • Brian Nielsen, WSDOT
            • Ron Judd, WSDOT
            • Lisa Brown, State of Washington Department of Commerce
            • Noha Mahgoub, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Inslee
            • State Sen. Jamie Pedersen (43rd Legislative District)
            • State Rep. Frank Chopp (43rd Legislative District)
            • State. Rep. Nicole Macri (43rd Legislative District)
            • Washington State Patrol
            • cc: Tiffany Washington, Deputy Mayor for Housing & Homelessness

            Marc@kcrha.org
            MillarR@wsdot.wa.gov
            NielseB@wsdot.wa.gov
            JuddRon@wsdot.wa.gov
            Lisa.Brown@commerce.wa.gov
            Noha.Mahgoub@gov.wa.gov
            Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
            Frank.Chopp@leg.wa.gov
            Nicole.Macri@leg.wa.gov
            John.Batiste@wsp.wa.gov
            Tiffany.Washington@seattle.gov

            Enjoy the Cherry Trees Still Here in Northeast Seattle

            There was a lot of news coverage about the prolonged process that led to the sad removal of the cherished cherry trees near Pike Place Market, but District 4 residents can take heart that the best remaining cherry trees are inside the University of Washington’s main campus. In fact, we have our own festival to share the beauty.

            Thanks to the U District Partnership nonprofit that manages the Business Improvement Area (BIA), check out the second annual U District Cherry Blossom Festival: “Each year thousands of people from around the region and beyond flock to the University of Washington (UW) campus to see the blooming of the cherry trees on the UW Quad. The historic cherry trees were a gift from Japan and are nearly 90 years old. Originally planted in a grove at the Washington Park Arboretum, they were moved to the UW campus in 1964 where they continue to bloom today. To honor this tradition and the beginning of spring in Seattle, 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 available from Friday, March 24 through Sunday, April 2.”

            • For more info about the Cherry Blossom Festival, including an interactive map of participating restaurants, CLICK HERE. To learn more about other events and attractions, CLICK HERE. For details about viewing the cherry blossoms and what to expect, CLICK HERE.
            • For a Seattle Times article on the UW cherry trees blooming late (through mid-April) this year, CLICK HERE.
            • For the e-newsletter from the U District Partnership sent on March 22, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the newsletter from the nearby University Park neighborhood sent on March 27, 2023, CLICK HERE.

            Want an Electric Car, But Worried Where/How to Charge It? More Stations Charging Ahead

            • For the article on forthcoming charging stations, as it appeared in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
            • For the announcement from Seattle City Light, CLICK HERE.

            Storefront Restoration Grants Still Available for Businesses in Northeast Seattle and Beyond

            Although demand for the storefront repair grants was strong, Seattle’s Office of Economic Development still has funding available.

            • To apply through the City’s Office of Economic Development, CLICK HERE. Be sure to review the eligibility criteria before applying, because many small businesses that applied during the past few months were not eligible.
            • For thorough coverage on the current status of the storefront restoration program by KOMO News on March 10, 2023, CLICK HERE.

            Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) Expanding; Applications for 2023-2024 School Year Open Now!

            Seattle’s award-winning preschool program is expanding to 89 sites citywide, including 28 dual-language classrooms supporting instruction in eight languages. Seattle’s Director of the Department of Education & Early Learning (DEEL) Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Councilmember Tammy Morales, Mayor Bruce Harrell, the La Escuelita Education Director, and preschool parent all spoke at the March 15, 2023 press conference to announce the seven-classroom expansion of SPP and the opening of applications for the 2023-2024 school year.

            Though the new SPP expansion classrooms are not located in District 4, the program’s current locations in District 4 include Denise Louie at Magnuson Park, SPP at Sand Point, the Experimental Education Unit at UW, and SPS at Thornton Creek.

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

            • To apply for the SPP 2023-2024 school year, CLICK HERE.
            • For Mayor Harrell’s press release regarding SPP expansion and application openings from March 15, 2023, CLICK HERE.

             

            The Winning Women of Washington Basketball Celebrate Their Own “March Madness”

            The University of Washington women’s basketball team impressed in their first appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) semifinals.

            • For recent Seattle Times sports coverage, CLICK HERE.
            • For an explanation of the difference between the WNIT and the more commonly known NCAA tournament, CLICK HERE. I realize this has nothing to do with city government, but UW and its teams play in District 4 and so let’s celebrate this, okay?

             


            PUBLIC SAFETY and HOMELESSNESS

            When asked, “What are the public safety issues facing Seattle that you are most concerned about,” more than half of the randomly selected Seattle voters cited “homelessness.”

            Before and during the pandemic, many local policymakers have been careful to discuss homelessness and public safety separately to avoid automatically / inaccurately conflating crime and homelessness and to avoid sounding callous or inadvertently encouraging hostility toward our unhoused neighbors. Recently, more local policymakers are recognizing that certain safety emergencies (gunshots, fires) have been associated with long-standing encampments that the City, State, or King County Regional Homelessness Authority allow to grow. This is likely due to several factors: some people residing in encampments are preyed upon by criminals, are committing property crimes to pay for drugs, and/or are living in chaotically harsh conditions more susceptible to violence and fires. Regardless, when voters were asked about public safety in this statistically valid survey, most thought first about homelessness.

            I believe the response to illegal encampments must consider the safety of not only those struggling to survive in unsafe conditions, but also people and employers who might be impacted nearby. The responsible government agencies must act with more urgency to bring people inside so that everyone is safe and feels safe.

            Other key findings from this survey:

            “A strong majority of voters (70%) believe we need more officers to keep us safe and reduce crime, and that things like signing bonuses will help (66%), while they are evenly split on whether the department has made progress on reforms (51%-45%). More than six in 10 voters (62%) view Seattle police favorably.”

            “Eight in 10 voters (80%) support the idea of a public safety force with unarmed officers to respond to low-priority calls.”

            • For a Seattle Times article discussing the survey results, CLICK HERE.
            • For the news release announcing the survey focused on safety issues, CLICK HERE.
            • For the PowerPoint presentation summarizing the key results, CLICK HERE.
            • For the other, more comprehensive polls of Seattle voters called “The Index” — from October 2022, March 2022, and August 2021 — CLICK HERE.

             

            Thanks to Federal and Regional Law Enforcement Agents for Addressing Public Safety

            From KOMO News, March 27, 2023: “A two-year federal investigation netted 24 arrests of members of a drug-trafficking operation with ties to a white supremacist prison gang and led federal agents to seize nearly two million doses of fentanyl, over 200 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 200 guns during the course of the operation. Federal officials said the operation moved drugs from Mexico through Washington state, Idaho, and Alaska.

            “’Not only are we seeing the drugs coming in from Mexico, but we’re also seeing the sheer amount of weapons that we seize, some of those are going down to Mexico to fuel the violence of the cartels down there in Mexico,’” Acting Special Agent in Charge Jacob Galvin with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Seattle said.

            “Last week, a grand jury indicted 27 inpiduals involved. Twenty-four have been arrested and are in custody, while three are still being sought by law enforcement.

            “Federal officials said in a press conference Monday the organization, which has ties to the ‘Aryan Family,’ a white supremacist prison gang, “’cultivated a business relationship with the Sinaloa cartel to import and distribute a staggering amount of narcotics.’

            “’Our combined efforts in this investigation seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone who lives in the city of Tacoma, the city of Seattle, and have enough lethal doses leftover to poison an additional 500,00 inpiduals within the Puget Sound region,’ Galvin said.”

            For the story from KOMO News, CLICK HERE, and for the story from King 5 News, CLICK HERE.

            Thanks to our City Attorney Ann Davison for Addressing Public Safety / “Prolific Offenders”

            In a newsletter earlier this year, I delved into Seattle’s various crime statistics, highlighting that both violent and property crimes are up when comparing 2021 to 2022. Our Police Chief Adrian Diaz was more upbeat and revealed more recent stats, but there was no clear reason as to why those stats might be better or whether such a positive trend might last. SPD’s Chief also acknowledged that response times increased in the North Precinct to 9 minutes (which is 25% higher than the citywide average). While we await a more strategic crime reduction plan from the Harrell Administration, we are seeing results from other initiatives.

            According to a Seattle Times editorial last week, “A recent status report from Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison on her High Utilizer Initiative shows that focused attention on the most active, repeat criminal defendants has paid pidends. Comparing last month with February 2022, violent and property crimes decreased by 31%.

            From the conclusion of the City Attorney’s report, “In its first year of operation, the High Utilizer Initiative successfully improved public safety by decreasing the impacts of the highest utilizers of Seattle public safety and criminal justice resources. The City Attorney’s Office estimates, based on historical data from this population, that the initiative’s crime reduction impact was thousands fewer crimes and over 750 fewer misdemeanor police referrals to the City Attorney’s Office. For community members, this translated to meaningful impacts for those neighborhoods most affected by high utilizer criminal activity. The initiative attempted to steer a number of high utilizers struggling with fentanyl and/or meth addiction to residential substance use treatment programs. Unfortunately, most high utilizers failed to engage or stay with those treatment programs. That leads us to the conclusion that most high utilizers are not ready to go direct to out-of-custody, voluntary addiction treatment programs.

            • For the City Attorney’s 12-page report “High Utilizer Initiative: One Year in Review,” CLICK HERE.
            • For the Seattle Times editorial recognizing the success of City Attorney Ann Davison’s efforts, CLICK HERE.

             

            Police Officer Recruitment Update: a Smaller Negative Number Is Still Negative

            We have seen in recent surveys of the general public that the vast majority want City Hall to prioritize safety, including the restoration of the 400 police officer and detective positions lost over the past 3 years — along with other tools to prevent crime and respond quickly and compassionately to emergencies in a cost-effective manner. I continue to support that goal of restoring the officers and detectives — a priority most recently articulated in the Mayor’s Recruitment Plan announced 8 months ago.

            The Mayor’s July 2022 Recruitment Plan stated on page 2, “As of May 2022, the number of trained and deployable officers — just 954 — is the lowest in over 30 years.” The Plan then stated on page 3 that the “goal is to increase the number of Seattle police officers who are authorized, funded, fully trained, and deployable to 1,450, a ratio of 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents.” In other words, restoring officer levels to what they were before the counterproductive “Defund” movement (and adding a few more officers as our city grows) will require a net gain of roughly 500 officers. I continue to support that goal.

            NET RESULTS INSUFFICIENT: One of the roles of the City Council is to encourage the crafting of such plans, to amend / fund those plans, and to monitor the progress-to-goal of those plans. The recent 13-page PowerPoint update from the mayor’s office and the 2-page memo from SPD highlighted some initial promising findings (the pace of hiring has increased as compared to last year). But the documents did not provide the full picture (lacked detailed budget information and a comparison to pre-pandemic years), and they revealed a negative bottom line (we recently lost 6 more officers than we hired). While that figure of negative 6 new officers is better than the previous year, is still negative. If the figure continues to be negative, then we clearly cannot achieve the plan’s goal of a net restoration (gain) of 500 officers. The current hope is that the new professional recruiters, better advertising, and financing hiring incentives – along with a majority of Councilmembers now supportive of the hiring efforts – will soon accelerate the hiring, improve retention, and transform the numbers to net positive gains so we can finally get on the right track to address the staffing shortage and longer 9-1-1 response times to priority one emergency calls. But hope is not a strategy, and so we’ll expect to see SPD’s efforts intensify with the Mayor’s Office ensuring better results.

            Brief, partial history:

            • On September 10, 2021, I introduced two budget amendments to fund between $1 million and $3 million for SPD recruitment and retention but, unfortunately, only 3 of my colleagues supported it.
            • On October 29, 2021, Mayor Durkan issued an Executive Order to fund hiring bonuses, which were offered just through January 2022, as summarized in the City Council Central Staff memo.
            • On March 23, 2022, new citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson introduced Resolution 30250 calling for staffing incentives for SPD.
            • On May 24, 2022, Council adopted both Councilmember Nelson’s Resolution 30250 and a bill sponsored by Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold (Council Bill 120320 / Ordinance 126589) to lift a budget proviso, so that SPD could spend funds on moving expenses for new officers as well as a new recruiter.
            • On July 13, 2022, Mayor Harrell introduced his 8-page Recruitment Plan (which was ultimately funded by Council Bill 120389).
            • On August 16, 2022, a 6-3 majority of the City Council adopted Council Bill 120389 (Ordinance 126654), which modified the 2022 budget by funding Mayor Harrell’s initial police recruitment plan. The Council adopted that ordinance with 6 in favor (Juarez, Herbold, Lewis, Nelson, Pedersen, Strauss) and 3 opposed (Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant).
            • At the March 28, 2023 Public Safety Committee, the Mayor’s Office and SPD presented a 13-page PowerPoint (and SPD previously provided a 2-page memo) with updates on their recruitment efforts. We hope to get a more complete report from the Mayor’s Office/SPD in early May 2023, and we’ll make sure that it’s accompanied by a thorough analysis by our City Council Central Staff.

             

            Homelessness Spending: Seattle Pays Through the Roof

            “In a first-of-its-kind analysis, The Seattle Times compared the overall budgets, spending on homelessness service providers and the location of homelessness services among the 39 cities in King County to find that Seattle allocates significantly more resources to homelessness in proportion to its population and budget.” The article also confirmed that roughly one-third of people experiencing homelessness in King County came from outside of King County.

            For the Seattle Times’ thorough analysis of which localities are investing (or not) in reducing homelessness, CLICK HERE.
            Revisions Needed to KCRHA 5-year Plan

            On March 10, 2023, the Seattle Times published an excellent Op-Ed by Sharon Lee and Pastor Robert Jeffrey, Sr. (CLICK HERE), which expressed concerns about the 5-year plan proposed by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). Their Op-Ed expressed concerns similar to those in my long-winded critique from my January 30, 2023 newsletter (CLICK HERE). After receiving input from many people, the staff at KCRHA have crafted several minor amendments. (CLICK HERE for PubliCola’s thorough analysis of the proposed changes.)

            The City of Seattle officially commented on the 5-year plan and brought up Tiny Home Villages: “The City of Seattle raised concerns around the low projections for tiny home 15 villages. Some folks within the City have noted the benefits of tiny home villages and would like additional clarity around the future of this housing model and why the projections identified in Goal 1 of the plan were so low.”

            Big picture, the concerns I mentioned in my January 2023 critique of KCRHA’s 5-year plan are still problematic:

            • Too Slow
            • Too Expensive
            • Unclear Costs
            • Unrealistic
            • Too Reliant on Seattle Taxpayers
            • Lacks Prioritization/Sequencing
            • No Proof of Concept with Weak Results Thus Far
            • No Acknowledgement of Public Safety Nexus

            The Implementation Board and the Governing Committee of KCRHA (which includes three Seattle elected officials) should NOT approve the 5-year plan from KCRHA staff unless major changes are made to address the concerns raised. In addition, the Implementation Board and Governing Committee should actively insist on a much quicker 6-month action plan, so we can move more people inside with greater urgency during the long-standing declared emergency for homelessness. Quicker action is especially important for Seattle because our city is not only paying the most money to KCRHA but also the most impacted by unsheltered homelessness from the entire region.

            • For the draft 5-year plan from KCRHA staff, CLICK HERE, and for their staff revisions, CLICK HERE.
            • For my critique of the new 5-year plan from KCRHA, CLICK HERE.
            • The Seattle Times editorial board recently shared their concerns about the unrealistic cost of KCRHA’s plan (CLICK HERE).
            • To comment on KCRHA’s plan, CLICK HERE.

            Update on Encampments Under and Along I-5

            Please see the discussion above in the District 4 section of this newsletter.


            TAXES AND BUDGETS

            Property Taxes Going Up, Up, Up — But Not Away

            You’re not imagining it: your property taxes have been increasing.  There are typically a couple of increases to the property tax rates sprinkled in each year by local and State governments, so it’s not easy for most homeowners and renters to see the totality or cumulative impact of all the property tax increases.

            I am grateful to City Council’s Central Staff for pulling together in one place all the property tax information that might interest the general public. I previously amplified the call for more transparency about property tax increases, and our talented team of analysts delivered. By comprehensively presenting all property taxes in this easy-to-digest format, we are providing additional clarity and transparency so that the public can consider the implications of each new increase — not only as a source of revenue for the budgets of local and State government, but also as an expense that impacts the personal budget of each person and family in Seattle.  As we know, property tax increases impact not just homeowners, but also renters. This includes those renting apartments and houses, as well as small businesses renting their storefronts, because the higher property taxes can be passed through to them. This is important information as the City of Seattle considers imposing future property tax increases, crafting other sources of revenue, and/or managing government expenses.

            Impact Fees as a New Source of Revenue: see Transportation section later in this newsletter.


            LAND USE POLICIES IMPACTING SEATTLE

            Tree Protection legislation: Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Strauss proposed a revised “tree protection ordinance” and Mayor issued related Executive Order

            As we reported last August, data confirmed Seattle sadly lost 255 acres of trees (see August 24, 2022 blog post). The Office of Sustainability & Environment issued the final report on February 28, 2023.

            This final report on tree canopy states, “As shown in Table 1, Neighborhood Residential contributes more to the city’s canopy than any other…For this reason, gains and losses in this area play an outsized role on the city’s overall canopy. The net loss of 87 acres (1.2% relative loss) made up over a third of the city’s overall canopy loss during the assessment period.”

            More than 40% of the tree loss occurred on residential properties [that 41% comprises 87 acres of “neighborhood residential” (34% of 255 acres) and 18 acres of “multifamily” (7% of 255 acres)]. Under the current tree ordinance, the rate of loss has been 66% greater in multifamily zones (which includes “low rise” residential) than in neighborhood residential, formerly known as single-family. Specifically, the 2.0% MF loss rate is 66% more than the 1.2% SF loss rate. Because of the significantly higher rates of tree loss when land is zoned for higher density development, converting more neighborhood residential to multifamily zones, as proposed by new pending State laws (and as likely with future changes to our City’s Comprehensive Plan), could accelerate tree loss — if we don’t adopt a stronger tree protection ordinance now.

            Some have tried to argue we could simply plant more trees in our parks. But people obviously live in the residential areas; therefore, it’s more important to keep trees in residential areas so that people benefit more directly from the cooling, stormwater filtration, and public health powers of mature trees, rather than requiring people to travel to a park. If trees were just about carbon sequestration (rather than also cooling, drainage, and public health), then perhaps we could just protect and plant trees in parks.

            Moreover, it’s not an either / or proposition. Skilled and creative architects and developers can cluster the 3 or so units more closely together and retain the trees on the periphery of a lot. Or build stacked flats rather than condos, which are better for seniors since they can have the ground floor units.

            For a Seattle Times article on this tree canopy report, CLICK HERE.

            With the State government carelessly giving away new development capacity to private sector builders without meaningful public benefits — and despite Seattle’s ability to conduct its own comprehensive planning — the need to protect our dwindling tree canopy for resilience to climate change heat waves becomes more urgent.

            Mayor Harrell’s team heavily revised the 2022 draft ordinance prepared by the prior mayor’s team, and the new version is being considered now in the Council’s Land Use Committee, chaired by Councilmember Dan Strauss.

            I already know that many of my constituents feel strongly about protecting trees. For me, the forthcoming amendments from the Urban Forestry Commission will be key. That said, my initial reaction to the bill is that the devil is in the details:

            “Our Emerald City’s goal was to increase tree canopy coverage before suffering from increased heat waves, so the terrible loss of 255 acres of precious trees proves Seattle has been heading in the wrong direction as many of us had warned.

            “City Hall must take bolder action to preserve and plant trees because large trees are desperately needed infrastructure to cool communities, address inequities, remove carbon, reduce stormwater, and improve health. While our new law to register tree-removal companies was an important step to end the ‘wild west of tree cutting’ last year, we must implement a comprehensive tree protection ordinance this year that truly protects trees.

            “The devil is in the details to ensure new policies actually protect more trees, rather than accidentally adding loopholes that lead to chainsaws or creating perverse incentives that allow developers to cut down big healthy trees to generate money for City Hall to plant little new trees.”

            — Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen

            INITIAL CONCERNS: Additional concerns raised thus far from many tree advocates include:

            • The urgent need to protect more trees (requiring landowners / architects / developers to prioritize the retention of trees, preserving more of each property lot to retain existing trees, and protecting trees between 6 inches and 12 inches in diameter),
            • Collecting MORE data EARLIER about all the trees before any cutting begins,
            • When replacing trees, requiring the replacement trees to have at least the same diameter girth as the removed tree (rather than waiting decades for the canopy of the replacement trees to catch up to what was chopped down years earlier), and
            • Preventing a new “in-lieu” fee from creating an incentive to chop instead of designing to conserve trees. SDCI estimates the amount of money raised would be less than $200,000 per year. Tree infrastructure is so valuable that we should simply make that small, but mighty investment from our General Fund.

            It’s important to note that “Regulation” does not mean “Protection.” Just because more trees might be “regulated” going forward, doesn’t mean they will be saved from destruction. Also, “Replacement” does mean “Parity.” As the proposal is currently written, a large 24-inch tree can be replaced with a 2-inch tree.

            3 Ways to Raise Your Voice:

            1. Call into the Council Meeting: You can register online two hours ahead of each meeting. Then call in to be prepared to speak on your telephone when the meeting starts. For instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE or use this website: http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment
            2. Speak in person: You could also come to City Hall to speak in person. (Arrive at least a few minutes before his committee starts to complete the Sign-In Sheet.)
            3. Email: The email addresses of the members of the Land Use Committee are: Dan.Strauss@seattle.gov, Tammy.Morales@seattle.gov, Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov, Sara.Nelson@seattle.gov, Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. To send an e-mail to all nine Councilmembers, you can use this single email address: Council@seattle.gov.

            Current Schedule/Next Steps:
            A special thanks to Land Use Chair Dan Strauss and his team for keeping the complex committee schedule organized and for balancing the need for speed with the need for ample input from the public and tree experts (such as from the Urban Forestry Commission).

            • Wed, March 29, 2023: the five City Councilmembers of the Land Use Committee meet again on this tree protection legislation. For the presentations by SDCI, CLICK HERE (March 29) and HERE (March 22).
            • Wed, April 5: Urban Forestry Commission (hopefully) finalizes its suggested amendments.
            • Fri, April 7 at 2:00 pm: the five City Councilmembers of the Land Use Committee meet again on this tree protection legislation.
            • Wed, April 11: Internal deadline for Committee members to send proposed amendments to City Council’s Central Staff for finalizing.
            • Fri, April 21 at 2:00 pm: Committee votes on amendments
            • Mon, April 24 at 10:30 am: public hearing (but best to opine before this date).
            • Wed, April 26 at 2:00 pm: Land Use Committee votes on the amended bill.
            • Tue, May 2 at 2:00 pm: full City Council is likely to vote on the bill (Be alert for late-breaking amendments from the four Councilmembers not on the Land Use Committee.)

            More Info:

            • For the new Council Bill for tree policies, as proposed by Mayor Bruce Harrell and Councilmember Dan Strauss, CLICK HERE for CB 120534. For the related fiscal bill (CB 120535), CLICK HERE. (Update: Those are the versions officially introduced on March 20, 2023 via Council’s Introduction & Referral Calendar. For the older version from the March 7 press release, CLICK HERE.)
            • To compare the March 7, 2023 (Harrell-Strauss version) to the Feb 2022 (Durkan-SDCI-SEPA version), CLICK HERE. Is the new version stronger for trees? Review the comparison and decide.
            • For the 4-page Executive Order issued by Mayor Harrell on March 7, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the draft Director’s Rule for proposed In-Lieu Fees, CLICK HERE.
            • For the draft Director’s Rule listing the “Exceptional Trees” now called “Tier 2 Trees,” CLICK HERE.
            • For the 18-page “Director’s Report,” that explains some of the proposed changes, CLICK HERE.
            • For a 4-page “Expanded Summary of Code Changes,” CLICK HERE.
            • For their joint press release announcing their bill and executive order, CLICK HERE.
            • For my ongoing blog posts about protecting trees in Seattle, CLICK HERE.
            • For the proposed in-lieu fee table, see the Director’s Rule, but here’s the main table of proposed fees:

            Impact Fees Revenues: an Overdue Alternative to Increasing Your Property Taxes to Fund Transportation Safety Projects for All

            Please section on Transportation later in this newsletter.

             

            DOGGIE THERAPY:

            If you’ve read this much of my relatively grumpy newsletter, you deserve to enjoy a photo of a cute dog:


            TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

            To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November.

            Increasing Traffic Safety: Creatively Restoring the Missing Piece of Enforcement.

            Earlier this month, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat rightly criticized the lack of traffic safety enforcement in his column “The Seattle seesaw: Traffic tickets from police have dropped 90%” (CLICK HERE).  Mr. Westneat wrote, “In 2018, I was one of about 28,000 Seattle drivers to get ticketed by police for a non-criminal driving infraction.  In the 2010s, Seattle police doled out an average of roughly 40,000 tickets annually, more than 100 moving violation tickets a day. The cops have all but stopped. They gave out only 3,863 tickets for 2022 — a drop of 90% from the 2010s pre-pandemic average.

            According to SDOT data, fatalities in 2018 were 14 compared to an average of 28 fatalities since that time.

            When I asked about enforcement in the past, I was told by some SDOT officials that they didn’t focus on enforcement. It’s important to note, however, that Oslo, Norway — often cited as a city that has successfully reduced traffic-related deaths for pedestrians — strictly enforces its laws against reckless driving.

            Regardless of whether Seattle residents would like to see more traditional enforcement of traffic safety laws, we do not currently have the police personnel to conduct such enforcement in a robust manner. That’s one of the reasons why automated camera enforcement has become such an important option.

            Fortunately, under the leadership of the new SDOT Director and the Harrell Administration, automated camera enforcement is part of the strategy to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The 4th early action listed in SDOT’s report is to “Engage the public on automated enforcement to address equity concerns about future expansion in neighborhoods with many fatalities and serious injuries.” I believe we have spent more than sufficient time talking about automatic enforcement. We know automated enforcement works. Automated enforcement removes the need for police response in the field. It holds reckless drivers accountable. The Seattle Municipal Court already has some alternative accommodations for residents who might have trouble paying for the tickets.

            In July 2022, I was invited on a listening tour in South Seattle and students called on us for action now to slow down the reckless driving near their school. The Council generously identified an additional million dollars to double automated enforcement in school zones. (Amendment SDOT-103-B-001-2023).

            I believe we’re past the point of talking — it’s time we start implementing solutions to slow down drivers and protect pedestrians, especially where most of the fatalities are happening.

            SDOT will return with a more specific Vision Zero traffic safety “action plan” in September. I’d like us to hear from SDOT sooner on automated enforcement, because the State has already provided more authority to address drag racing (which we see on Sand Point Way NE in our District 4).

            More Info:

            • For SDOT’s 22-page “Top-To-Bottom Review” summary and short-term next steps on Seattle’s “Vision Zero” traffic safety efforts, CLICK HERE.
            • For SDOT’s 37-page full report, CLICK HERE.
            • For SDOT’s 20-page PowerPoint presentation, CLICK HERE.
            • For the Harrell Administration’s February 23, 2023 announcement on Vision Zero, CLICK HERE.
            • To provide feedback on SDOT’s top-to-bottom review and proposals, CLICK HERE.
            • For SDOT’s Vision Zero website, CLICK HERE.
            • For Seattle Times’ initial news coverage of the City’s Vision Zero announcement, CLICK HERE.
            • To watch the video of our Transportation Committee meeting from March 7, 2023, CLICK HERE. (Vision Zero traffic safety is the first item on the agenda after public comment.)

             

            Status of Implementing Bridge Audit Recommendations: 9 out of 10 Ain’t Good

            In our city of waterways and ravines, we rely on safe and open bridges to connect communities, carry all modes of transportation, and keep our fragile economy moving.  As many of us painfully recall, three years ago the West Seattle Bridge was cracked and closed. Two and a half years ago, I had the City Auditor assess the physical conditions and publish its recommendations for all Seattle bridges. The City Council has had several detailed discussions about bridge safety during the past three years, and the City Council has repeatedly stepped up to provide additional funding opportunities. Therefore, I believe there has been more than enough time for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to have prioritized bridge safety, yet I share the concerns of residents and businesses across Seattle who are not seeing a sense of urgency to address bridge safety.

            I appreciate our new SDOT Director adding two leadership positions to implement the audit recommendations. But, after 2 ½ years, the City Auditor reported last week that only 1 out of 10 of its bridge recommendations is complete. There’s been a recent flurry of planning, paperwork, and pronouncements for the future, but not enough actual physical upgrades underway on our bridges. I have seen SDOT move quickly when it is eager to accomplish a project, but our bridge infrastructure is not yet experiencing that same level of urgency or achievement.

            We will have our City Auditor and SDOT return to our committee later this year and will continually ask them for updates, especially for the bridges near the Ship Canal that are ranked in poor condition and/or that had been promised seismic upgrades.

            • For the presentation by our City Auditor on March 21, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the presentation by SDOT crafted in collaboration with the City Auditor for March 21, 2023, CLICK HERE.

            Impact Fees Revenues: an Overdue Alternative to Increasing Your Property Taxes to Fund Transportation Safety Projects for All

            The Seattle city government continues to struggle to collect revenues sufficient to cover its costs, including for its infrastructure. This fiscal problem is caused by a combination of factors: some revenue sources declining, city government officials struggling to manage existing costs (such as personnel and pensions), and City Hall taking on the cost of new projects and programs (albeit for worthy causes). City Hall has increased sales taxes, business taxes, and property taxes — and more property increases are on their way for behavioral health and for low-income housing. Property taxes increase the ongoing cost of housing for both homeowners and renters. I share the concerns that this cumulative burden on taxpayers could imperil efforts to renew a property tax for transportation projects, including pedestrian safety, bridge safety, transit supports, and street maintenance.

            For years, State law has authorized local governments to charge “impact fees” to real estate development projects to help pay for the increased burden on our already stressed infrastructure. Impact fees are used by more than 70 Washington State cities and many more across the nation to cover some of a city’s infrastructure costs — but not in Seattle.

            Seattle has yet to charge these fees to help pay for its infrastructure; City Hall instead chooses to pass those costs to the general public through various taxes. City Hall may finally need to seriously consider these fees because the current 9-year, $930 million package funding most transportation projects will expire soon.

            More Info on Impact Fees:

            • Presentation by Council Central Staff (“Background and Legislative History”) on March 21, 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the presentation from the expert consultant Fehr & Peers, CLICK HERE.
            • For the consultant’s complete draft study dated January 2023, CLICK HERE.
            • For the explanation of impact fees from the non-partisan Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC) for Washington State, CLICK HERE.
            • For the City Council website on Impact Fees, CLICK HERE.

             

            Commuting Stats:

            While King County Metro reports bus ridership remains down 50% from the most recent pre-pandemic year of 2019, transit ridership is used by a relatively large majority of workers who are still commuting. According to the study, bikes are used by 4% or less of Seattle commuters and those commuters tend to have relatively high household incomes. Both car drivers and transit riders decrease on Mondays and Fridays.

            • For a detailed article about the survey by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
            • For the official survey results from Commute Seattle, CLICK HERE.

            Cleaning Up Sound Transit Stations downtown:

            To get even more people to choose environmentally friendly transit, both King County Metro (buses) and Sound Transit (light rail and buses) need to continue to care about the rider experience, including safety.

            Sound Transit and King County have shared their responsibilities for the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which includes several transit stations. At long last, we have unified all responsibility under Sound Transit for the safety, cleanliness, and operation of those downtown tunnel stations. As a party to the interconnected 20-year-old agreements that have governed the use and responsibility for those downtown stations, the City of Seattle signed a Transfer and Conveyance Agreement, which is authorized by Council Bill 120522 as adopted by City Council on March 14, 2023.

            Sound Transit’s CEO Julie Timm recognized this paramount responsibility of safety when she told board members on March 2, 2023, “Both the very real, as well as the perceived level of safety and security on our system, has not lived up to our value[s], or our commitment to our riders. This is keenly seen and felt by the decreased security presence on our system and the increased presence of drug use and unsanitary conditions on our trains, buses and platforms.” For the thorough Seattle Times article on the challenges facing Sound Transit in the downtown tunnels, CLICK HERE.


            WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Ways to Provide Input

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

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

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

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

            Our City Council meetings are held Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after returning to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to make it easier for people with day jobs to visit us, but the technological upgrades now enable anyone to call into the public comment periods. Last year, we updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures to impr