New Mayor, New Council, New Committees, New Hope

January 27th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

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

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

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

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


DISTRICT 4

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

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

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

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

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


SAFETY

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

Federal Consent Decree Continues

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

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

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

 

Community Police Commission partners with Federal Monitor to Engage Community

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

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

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

For information on these sessions, CLICK HERE.

 

Reforming the SPOG Contract:

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

For the OIG’s audit, CLICK HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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


TRANSPORTATION & UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

Committee Updates for City Council

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

 

Winter Storm Assessment: Discussing Improvements and Plague of Potholes

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

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

State Government Action (or Inaction) on Transportation

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

 

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

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

DEIS COVER LETTER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PSRC Regional Transportation Plan released for comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Join the Seattle Freight Advisory Board!

Photo source: Port of Seattle

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seattle Public Utilities

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


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

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

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

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


COMBATING COVID

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

Thanks, in large part, to our relatively high vaccination rate, cases in Seattle have decreased by 47% and hospitalizations have decreased by 30% as of the official data through 1/25/2022.

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

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

  • To register to receive the vaccine or booster in Seattle, CLICK HERE. Information is also available in Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • For the most recent information on combatting COVID from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.
  • If you need language interpretation, help finding a vaccination or testing site, or ADA accommodation, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Deploying COVID Relief $$$:  Update from Budget Office

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

 

Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers: Another Vote

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

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

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

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

My original vote in January 2021 to support grocery workers received criticism from several constituents when the Cincinnati-based Kroger company announced the closing of its beloved QFC grocery store in Wedgwood. That was a difficult vote, but I stand by the decision. Tellingly, when the Council initially tried to end the hazard pay in December 2021, Kroger/QFC declined to reopen that store anyway.

Reasons to Phase Out Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers

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

Even though the outgoing Mayor kept this intervention in place, her veto was over a month ago and her veto letter left open the opportunity to sunset it soon.  Unless the public health conditions decline substantially, I hope the new Mayor will support phasing this out for the reasons outlined above.

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


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after we return to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to enable more people to visit us, but the technological upgrades to enable calling in we still enable more of the public to participate even with meetings remaining in the daytime.  We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures in hopes of improving the efficiency of the City Council, including enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than international affairs.

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

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Track Record: Councilmember Alex Pedersen

January 26th, 2022

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

For Alex Pedersen’s bio, CLICK HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addressing Homelessness

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

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

Photo from nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute

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

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

Supporting District 4 Neighbors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritizing Equity

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

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

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

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

Getting Back to Basics

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

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

Councilmember Pedersen inspecting underneath West Seattle Bridge

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

Protecting our Environment

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

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

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

Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission


Photos from 2020:

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

January: Eastlake Town Hall

January: Kicking off weekly Office Hours at Magnuson Park

February: District 4 Restaurant Roundtable

February: Touring the new Roosevelt Light Rail Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2021 Details:

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

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

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

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

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen, November 22, 2021.

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

Community Health and Safety Amendments:

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

Additional Thoughts on Police Budget:

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

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

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

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

Bridge and Infrastructure Safety Amendments

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

Good Government and Fiscal Responsibility Amendments

Equity and Environment Amendments

More For District 4

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

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

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

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

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

$38,000 to University Heights Center for Elevator Installation

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

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


Photos from 2021:

January 2021, volunteering at the FamilyWorks food bank in Wallingford.
February 2021, visiting Eastlake’s 14 Carrot Cafe.
February 2021, inspecting the University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake
March 2021, new store opening in the U District
March 2021, enjoying a pint at Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford.
April 2021, visiting the ironworkers apprenticeship program
April 2021, celebrating the opening of more services in the U District
April 2021, enjoying a meal with new U District station almost open in background
April 2021, listening to public safety concerns at Magnuson Park
May 2021
June 2021
May 2021, vaccination site in U District
July 2021, painting a new mural in the U District
July 2021, seeing the Tiny Homes under construction for Rosie’s Village
August 2021, reopening of the Fairview Ave bridge reconnecting Eastlake to South Lake Union
August 2021, ground-breaking for Rosie’s Tiny Home Village in the U District
August 2021, on Seattle Channel with our future Council President Debora Juarez
September 2021, open house for Rosie’s Tiny Home Village in the U District
September 2021, open house for Rosie’s Tiny Home Village in the U District
October 2021, opening of Sound Transit’s light rail station in U District (attended Roosevelt station opening, too)
November 2021, at University Bridge discussing forthcoming approval by our City Council of my proposal to provide bridge safety bond funding
November 2021, on roof of newly constructed low-income housing project Cedar Crossing on top of Roosevelt’s new light rail station
Thanksgiving week, 2021, serving pies at Rosie’s Tiny Home Village
December 2021, at Katterman’s Pharmacy for 2nd booster shot in Laurelhurst neighborhood

# # #


Winter Storms: Help from your Seattle Government

December 24th, 2021

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

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

COORDINATION and COMMUNICATION:

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

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

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

TRANSPORTATION:

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

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

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

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

UTILITIES

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

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

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

PUBLIC SAFETY

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

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

HEALTH and SHELTER:

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

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

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

QUALITY TIME:

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

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

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


Year-End Results & Happy Holidays!

December 22nd, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

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

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

YEAR-END HIGHLIGHTS (2021)

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

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

2022: Lots to Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And much more to do!

DISTRICT 4 Holiday Spirit

Presents for Rosie’s Village

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

Annual Decorations Along Candy Cane Lane

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

Holiday Stars Gleaming Bright in U District

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

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

The Arts are Open During the Holidays

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

TRANSPORTATION & UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Power Solution for Wastewater Treatment

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

 

Federal Broadband Support: a small piece of Internet for All

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

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

ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

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

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

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

 

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

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

By the Numbers: City of Seattle Emergency Rental Assistance Funds

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

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

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

COMBATING COVID: Omicron

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

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

  • To register to receive the vaccine or booster in Seattle, CLICK HERE. Information is also available in Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • For the most recent information on combatting COVID from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.
  • If you need language interpretation, help finding a vaccination or testing site, or ADA accommodation, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Holiday Tips for COVID Safety

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

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

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

Thank you Jenny Durkan and Welcome Back Bruce Harrell!

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

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after we return to in-person meetings at City Hall, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important permanent upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to enable more people to visit us, but the technological upgrades will enable public commenters either to travel downtown to City Hall or to call in — typically a more convenient option for those who work during the day. We also updated our City Council rules & parliamentary procedures in hopes of improving the efficiency of the City Council, which includes a new option to enable Councilmembers to “abstain” (not vote) on items unrelated to actual city government business (such as international affairs).

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

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Disappointing Decision by Kroger Company to Shut Down 2 of its 15 Seattle Stores

December 14th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons to Phase Out Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers:

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

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


DECEMBER 22, 2021 UPDATE:

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


DECEMBER 17, 2021 UPDATE:

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


DECEMBER 13, 2021 UPDATE:

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


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

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


JUNE 24, UPDATE:

City Council will Reconsider Grocery Worker Hazard Pay in July

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

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

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

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


APRIL 22, 2021 UPDATE:

photo courtesy of community leader Gabe Galanda

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a link to the KUOW article, CLICK HERE.


MARCH 25, 2021 UPDATE (from our newsletter):

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

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

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

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


MARCH 9, 2021 UPDATE:

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

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


FEBRUARY 16, 2021 (original post):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE INFO:

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


Budget Results and Happy Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2021

November 24, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you can reconnect with loved ones during the holidays.

I know most of City Hall is thankful for adopting another annual budget to keep your city government operating in 2022 — to deliver clean water and electricity, upgrade Seattle’s infrastructure, create more affordable housing and effective outreach for those experiencing homelessness, and improve community safety. I know this sounds like I’m trying to “put a positive spin” on our City budget. I truly believe, however, that the final, amended budget contains positive things for our district and all of Seattle. At the same time — as with all budgets — it has significant shortcomings. This week’s Seattle Times article summed up the budget well: “unenthusiastic consensus.” Considering today’s tumultuous political climate — on top of the ever-present mix of opinions and ideas that is our shared challenge amid the complex context of self-government — I believe this week’s “unenthusiastic consensus” is a win.  To decide for yourself, please continue reading about the City budget, District 4, and more.


DISTRICT 4

New Low-Income Housing on Top of New Transit: Moving Seattle Forward

District 4 City Councilmember Alex Pedersen  (left) and graduate school intern Gabby Lacson (2nd on left) on the roof after a tour of the new low-income housing project (Cedar Crossing) built on top of the new Roosevelt Light Rail Station. Thanks to the leaders of the nonprofit developers/operators Bellwether Housing (Susan Boyd, middle) and Mercy Housing (Joseph Thompson, right) for partnering on this transit-oriented development. Check out those solar panels!

This month I toured the new “transit-oriented development” for low-income residents called Cedar Crossing in our District 4. This welcoming new low-income housing project follows in the footsteps of Gossett Place and the Marion West projects built by LIHI, Abora Court built by Bellwether Housing, Mercy Magnuson built by Mercy Housing, and other low-income housing projects in District 4.  Cedar Crossing, which is nearly complete thanks to partnership between nonprofits Bellwether and Mercy Housing, will offer 253 affordable apartment units on top of the new Roosevelt light rail station.  ALL of the units will serve low-income, very low income, and extremely low-income residents.  It will have high quality childcare on the ground floor as well as space for nonprofits and retail (such as a restaurant). My favorite part of the tour was the roof with several solar panels that will power part of the building. It is everything we could hope for in a transit-oriented development. The nonprofits hope to begin pre-leasing the residential units early next year and open next summer.

Fixing the University Bridge

Standing by the aging University Bridge on November 17, Councilmember Pedersen speaks to King 5 News about City Council finally accepting his proposal to boldly boost funding for bridges – up to $100 million in bonds that can be deployed by the incoming Harrell Administration and leveraged with federal and/or state dollars.

Here are my remarks about Seattle’s bridges during final passage of the City Budget:  

“In keeping our City moving forward, I’m very grateful for the adoption today of Council Bill 120224 which is the companion legislation for my Council Budget Action SDOT-505-A-002 to build back better with a boost of bridge bonds. Bonds will enable us to finally address the growing backlog of vital bridge safety projects in the wake of the closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the subsequent audit of Seattle’s bridges that confirmed many key bridges are in poor condition. We were reminded of the vulnerability of our aging bridges again with the recent malfunctioning and temporary closure of the University Bridge, a multimodal bridge that may someday be the key to installing a new bus rapid ride line.  Bonds will enable us to fulfill more promises of the Move Seattle Levy by restoring some of the seismic upgrade projects cancelled by SDOT. Bonds can increase safety on multiple bridges on the project list we requested and received from SDOT. Bonds can also boost the capital-heavy line items identified by the City Auditor as being historically underfunded. Authorizing these bonds will enable the incoming Administration to seize the window of opportunity when interest rates are at historic lows.

“Today this Council delivers the authority for bridge bonds and, early next year, we expect the new Administration to use that authority to keep our infrastructure safe, to keep our economy moving, and to keep our communities connected.”

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen, November 22, 2021.

Our aging University Bridge was stuck in the upright position Nov 12 and 13, 2021. SDOT reported electrical problems. Another reason to do more for our bridges now. (photo by Councilmember Pedersen)

Speaking of bridges, here is my statement on the malfunctioning and temporary closure of the multimodal University Bridge that connects the U District, Roosevelt, and other D4 neighborhoods to Eastlake and beyond (November 13, 2021):

After the devastating closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the citywide audit of bridges I ordered last year, City Hall should not need additional evidence to do more for bridge safety, but I’m hopeful the sudden two-day closure of the University Bridge – blocking buses, freight, commuters, bikes,  pedestrians, and emergency vehicles — finally propels our Seattle Department of Transportation to expedite how it addresses our aging bridge infrastructure. After a year of debate and delay to prioritize Seattle’s bridge network, I’m eager to have a majority of City Council finally approve my long-standing proposal to authorize a boost of funds needed to fix our aging bridges. I want to thank the workers who have been struggling to repair and reopen another broken bridge and to urge all City leaders to give them the help they need to do their jobs to keep all Seattle bridges safe and secure.”

For SDOT’s explanation of the University Bridge incident, CLICK HERE.

For Seattle Times coverage, CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE.

For the Seattle Channel video “Drawbridges of the Ship Canal,” CLICK HERE.

For my amendment to boost bridge funding that finally passed, CLICK HERE and, for its companion legislation, CLICK HERE.

Volunteering to Help Neighbors Experiencing Homelessness During the Holidays

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.

You can help neighbors experiencing homelessness this holiday season by volunteering at Seattle’s many Tiny House Villages. As you probably know, “Tiny Home Villages” provide shelter, safety, and community for inpiduals and families experiencing homelessness with case managers onsite who work quickly to transition residents into permanent housing. I was proud to support the opening last month of Rosie’s Village at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way, operated by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), to serve many of our unsheltered neighbors in and around District 4.

If interested in volunteering, please email volunteer.program@lihi.org or visit https://lihi.org/get-involved/. With winter approaching, you can also spread some holiday cheer by donating meals, hygiene items, or clean socks, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and more. Please contact community.outreach@lihi.org to donate. For to help those experiencing homelessness in Seattle, here is a list of other nonprofit volunteer opportunities from the Seattle Times: CLICK HERE.

Thank you and happy holidays!

Magnuson Park Murals:  Painting Seattle’s History of Flight

The next time you’re at Magnuson Park, check out their new History of Flight murals! This month I attended the unveiling of these brightly colored murals created by young artists, including several residents of Magnuson Park, under the guidance of local artist Sandy Bricel Miller. The paintings brighten the sides of the Old Gas Station (Building 41), which is located a couple of blocks inside the main entrance of Magnuson Park on NE 74th Street. For more information from our Parks Department, CLICK HERE.  For the Friends of Magnuson Park website, CLICK HERE.


BUDGET RECAP

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

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

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

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen, November 22, 2021.

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

Community Health and Safety Amendments:

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

Additional Thoughts on Police Budget:

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

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

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

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

Bridge and Infrastructure Safety Amendments

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

Good Government and Fiscal Responsibility Amendments

Equity and Environment Amendments

More For District 4

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

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

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

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

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

$38,000 to University Heights Center for Elevator Installation

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

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

Key Budget Links:

  • For a link to the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2022, CLICK HERE. For a helpful Powerpoint summary from her Budget Director, CLICK HERE. For a link to our recent Budget Town Hall video for District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Budget Committee agenda from November 18, 2021 which contains most of the amendments to the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2022, CLICK HERE. For the final Budget Committee agenda from November 22, 2021 that included technical corrections, CLICK HERE. For the final budget agenda voted on by the full City Council on November 22, 2021, CLICK HERE.
  • For the press release issued by several of my Council colleagues, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times summary of the final budget action by new City Hall beat reporter Sarah Grace Taylor, CLICK HERE.
  • For an interactive tool on the Council’s amendments to the Mayor’s proposal displaying which Councilmembers sponsored which amendments, CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Our next Committee meetings are Wednesday, December 1 and December 15 at 9:30 a.m.. For future agendas of all Council committees, CLICK HERE.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

November 21st was the “World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.” This solemn event and call to action were recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and throughout the nation. Here in Seattle, there were 26 traffic fatalities in 2019, 25 traffic fatalities in 2020, already 31 traffic fatalities in 2021.  By far, the largest percentage of traffic fatalities are not those who are driving, but rather those who are walking. In 2020, 14 of the 25 fatalities were pedestrians and, in 2021, 20 of the 31 fatalities were pedestrians.  Our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) points out that, in 2021, nearly 30% of people killed in a traffic crash were likely to be experiencing homelessness, which is a sharp increase as compared to only 12% in 2019 and 8% in 2020.  In Seattle, we continue to pursue the goal of Vision Zero which is to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by the Year 2030.  Despite increased efforts on a number of fronts by SDOT to increase safety infrastructure and other safety measures, the statistics here are grim and each fatality is a tragedy. The budget we approved for 2022 will add to the safety infrastructure for all modes of travel, with a focus on pedestrians who are most at risk.

Sound Transit seeks additional input on transit-oriented development near U District station

Earlier this year, Sound Transit asked for public comments on the future development of approximately 18,000 square feet of land near U District Station. Now, Sound Transit would like to share that initial feedback AND gather additional feedback to refine project goals. The site is currently leased to the City of Seattle at no cost for use as a temporary tiny house village (Rosie’s Village) while the property is prepared for permanent development.

The survey is available now through Nov 28. To learn more and complete the survey, CLICK HERE or visit bit.ly/UdistrictTOD. The survey is available in multiple languages.

Sound Transit recently opened new stations at U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. In 2022, Tacoma Link will expand to the Hilltop neighborhood. In 2023 trains will reach Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Overlake area. In 2024 Link light rail will expand to Federal Way, Lynnwood and Downtown Redmond.

Sound Transit is likely to seek a “vacation” (giving up) of the alley between the two parcels. For safety, I would want to make sure the Fire Department has no concerns about access for its emergency vehicles.I also believe the public benefit in exchange for vacating the alley should include maximizing the amount of “very low-income housing” (apartments serving households earning not more than 50% of area median income) and extremely low-income housing for formerly homeless inpiduals.

More information on Sound Transit’s transit-oriented development program is available at www.soundtransit.org/TOD.
Partner with the City to develop the Seattle Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Plan

The City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) want to partner with community-based organizations and small businesses to develop the Seattle transportation plan and the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Major Update.

To register for the upcoming sessions, CLICK HERE.

  • December 2, 6-7 PM: Information session 2
  • December 20, 2021, 4 PM: Proposals are due
  • January 2022 – Notice of award. 
  • January 2022- January 2023: Community engagement and plan development

For more information, CLICK HERE.

Help the Environment and Reduce Flooding — Adopt-a-Drain!

If you want to help keep a storm drain clear near your home or business, you can “Adopt a Drain.”  To learn how, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Take the Survey!

Seattle University is administering the 7th annual citywide Seattle Public Safety Survey, which is accessible at https://publicsafetysurvey.org/ from October 15th through November 30th and is available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese. The purpose of the survey is to solicit feedback on public safety and security concerns from those who live and/or work in Seattle. A report on the survey results will be provided to the Seattle Police Department to help them better understand your neighborhood’s safety and security concerns. More information on the Seattle Public Safety Survey can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/police/information-and-data/mcpp-about.

Preparing for Winter Weather

Winter brings dangerous conditions, so let’s get prepared. Snow, ice, heavy winds, and cold temperatures make traveling difficult for buses, emergency vehicles, and you. Winter weather puts people experiencing health problems and homelessness at greater risk. Plus, cold temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst.

For tips, view our City of Seattle Winter Weather web page, which brings together important information from multiple departments.

If power goes out in your area, you can report the outage by calling (206) 684-3000. You can also view the status with our outage map.  For flooding and ponding issues, sewer backups, sewer overflows or blocked culvert or creeks, call the Seattle Public Utilities Operations Response Center 24/7 at (206) 386-1800.  Stay away from downed power lines and report them by calling 9-1-1.

Sign up for AlertSeattle. If you’re not registered to receive alerts, signing up is quick and easy! Simply visit Alert.Seattle.gov and click Sign Up to Receive Emergency Alerts, or text the word SEATTLE to 67283 to instantly receive text message alerts from AlertSeattle.


COMBATING COVID

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

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

More details below:

Free Vaccinations & Boosters

Free COVID-19 vaccinations are currently available regardless of insurance, citizenship, or immigration status. Booster doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for some people. Learn who is eligible to get a booster shot at kingcounty.gov/covid/vaccine.

The City of Seattle and partners are offering free and accessible first, second, and/or booster doses at hubs across Seattle. Learn more at seattle.gov/vaccine. Visit Public Health – Seattle & King County for additional vaccination locations or consult with your primary care provider, if you have one.

Vaccination Verification

King County requires vaccination verification for everyone 12 years of age and older. You must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a negative PCR COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours, or a negative rapid test result conducted on site in order to attend outdoor events of 500 or more people, indoor recreational events, or establishments, restaurants, and bars.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has put together a Vaccine Verification Toolkit that provides businesses with resources to comply with King County’s new vaccine verification order.

Mask requirements

In Washington state, everyone 5 years of age and older, regardless of vaccination status, is  required to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, at outdoor events with 500 or more people, and in outdoor public places when six feet of distance is not possible.

Testing

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get a free test, with or without an appointment, regardless of immigration or insurance status.

Need help?

If you need language interpretation, help finding a vaccination or testing site, or ADA accommodation, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at (206) 477-3977, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Updates

The Small Business Administration announced the following major enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

  • Increasing the COVID EIDL Cap. The SBA will lift the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period. The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic without having to worry about making ends meet.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window. To ensure main street businesses have additional time to access these funds, the SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds. COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements. To ease the COVID EIDL application process for small businesses, the SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

EIDL applications will close Dec. 31, 2021. Don’t wait, apply while funds are still available!

Need help applying or ADA/language accommodations? OED provides free technical assistance to businesses applying for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, please email OED@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-8090.

Shop to the Beat: musicians and small biz unite for the holidays

Are you a small retail business interested in having a free performance at your location? Shop to the Beat is a new recovery program created to support small businesses, local musicians and neighborhood business areas throughout the city. This program will match musicians and small retail businesses to provide in-store performances during peak hours, help increase foot traffic and sales for retailers, and provide competitive pay for musicians who were significantly impacted by the pandemic.

  • Small retail businesses interested in hosting a free performance can submit a short Shop to the Beat Application to share their contact information and music preferences by 12/17.
  • Local musicians interested in participating this holiday season can register with our partner at Gigs4U website by 12/17. Please enter the following referral code: S2B.

Visit the Shop to the Beat website for more information and to apply by 12/17!


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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

 


Budget Amendments Unleashed

October 29th, 2021

October 2021 newsletter

Friends and Neighbors,

City Hall is knee-deep in our process of analyzing Seattle’s budget proposals for 2022. We received Mayor Durkan’s balanced budget proposal on September 27 and, after feedback from constituents and careful review, my team and I put forward several initial amendments to address priorities. Read on for my work so far on the budget and watch our recent District 4 Town Hall. I look forward to more of your feedback.

Even during this busy budget season, our other work continues. This month we opened the tiny home village in the University District to address homelessness, introduced a bill to improve accountability of tree cutters, and made progress on transportation projects in District 4.

Happy Halloween and please vote by November 2!


DISTRICT 4

Did you catch our Budget Town Hall?

On October 14, 2021, I enjoyed hosting a Budget Town Hall for District 4 constituents. In addition to a presentation from Seattle’s Budget Director Ben Noble, I invited the new CEO of the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (RHA) Marc Dones. I know homelessness remains a top concern for constituents and CEO Dones was able to convey the vital mission of the new agency. Homelessness is a regional problem that requires regional solutions using proven best practices. This new RHA is in the best position to implement the smartest solutions learned from across the nation.

For more about the RHA, CLICK HERE. To view the Budget Director’s presentation, CLICK HERE. To view the Town Hall, CLICK HERE.

Rosie’s Village Opens!

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Sound Transit, Seattle’s Human Services Department, the University District business community, neighbors, and I recently celebrated the Open House of “Rosie’s” Tiny House Village, which will provide safe and supported living spaces for unsheltered neighbors.

We are proud that these 35 units on NE 45th Street constitute the first village on Sound Transit property. Named for the adjacent street of Roosevelt Way, 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, I secured this additional funding for capital and operating costs to reduce homelessness here. I engaged with Sound Transit to ask if this publicly owned land could be used to site a tiny house village to bring more unhoused neighbors inside – and they said, Yes! My 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 the double crisis of homelessness and COVID.

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.

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen,
September 28, 2021.

For a link to the press release, CLICK HERE. For a link to the video of the open house remarks, CLICK HERE.

The Arts at S.P.A.C.E. Magnuson Park

The Magnuson Park Gallery and friends are pleased to mark its 7th Anniversary with several events: (1) an art exhibition by two indigenous artists, Harmony Hoss and Janice Jainga Lonergan through November 12; (2) an art pumpkin fundraiser through October 29 (CLICK HERE); and (3) the return of “The Bridge” radio show Thursdays at 3:00 pm on SPACE 101.1 FM where hosts Sue Donaldson and Jean Godden interview fascinating guests and celebrate everything that sustains the proverbial bridges among our communities.

Progress on Transportation Projects Impacting District 4

“Pardon our Progress!”

  • SDOT expects to complete the Sand Point Way NE sidewalks and crosswalks project in the next couple of weeks, except for the signal work near NE 74th Street and Sand Point Way (the main entrance to Magnuson park) which should be done in November. (See image above.)
  • SDOT is currently focusing on preparing the road for final paving for the 15th Ave NE paving project, which is scheduled for the first week of November. Once paving is complete, SDOT will focus on curb ramp work at 4 intersections: NE 55th, 56th, 80th Streets and Cowen PL NE. The project team will also add temporary striping to the new road surface. The project should be complete January 2022.
  • While closures to repair the Montlake Bridge have been reduced to just a few more weekends when Husky Football is out of town, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will continue work on the western section of State Route 520 near the Montlake Bridge through 2023! For info on the weekend bridge closures, CLCK HERE.  For WSDOT info on 520, CLICK HERE. Here are some upcoming closures, subject to change: (1) Tonight, tomorrow, and October 31 through November 5, the northbound lanes of the Montlake Bridge will be closed overnight. (2) The Montlake Bridge, Westbound SR 520 off-ramps to Montlake and Lake Washington Blvds, and Lake Washington Blvd between Montlake Blvd and E Foster Island Rd will be closed between 10:00 pm on October 29 and 5:00 am on November 1.

I know this construction is disruptive and, at the same time, we appreciate WSDOT and SDOT completing the repairs and improvements.


SEATTLE’S 2022 CITY BUDGET

I am grateful to all the city budget officials who worked hard to craft the Mayor’s balanced budget proposal and for the steady hand of our City Council Budget Chair. Regarding the current numbers at this midpoint in our review process, I believe this budget might unfortunately fall short on community safety and bridge safety. I am hopeful key amendments could be adopted to make the budget acceptable. Please see below for my initial list of amendments that our office put forward. I also co-sponsored several smart amendments crafted by my Council colleagues. I hope a majority of my Council colleagues will approve my amendments and that the final amendments other Councilmembers sponsor put the budget on stronger footing, rather than create additional challenges.

Community Health and Safety

Bridge and Infrastructure Safety

  • Boldly boost investments in bridge safety to respond to city audit: bridge bonds build back better! (For a recent Seattle Times editorial supporting my amendment, CLICK HERE.)
  • Redirect Center City Connector funds to transportation safety priorities
  • Increase understanding of wear and tear on Seattle’s streets
  • Implement pedestrian/bike safety Improvements on I-5 overpass connecting Wallingford and U District light rail

More For District 4

Good Government and Fiscal Responsibility

  • Optimize cybersecurity for our information technology and operational technology
  • Consider cost savings in budget to redeploy to other priorities
  • Add to City Auditor team to increase accountability & results with taxpayer investments (co-sponsor)

Equity and Environment

For a link to the Mayor’s proposed budget, CLICK HERE. For a helpful Powerpoint summary from her Budget Director, CLICK HERE. For the budget amendments we got approved during last year’s process, CLICK HERE and HERE. For my assessment of last year’s budget CLICK HERE. For a link to our recent Budget Town Hall video for District 4, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

(the Council committee I chair)

Councilmember Pedersen addresses the crowd excited about the new light rail station at the University District on Brooklyn Ave NE and 43rd Street NE.  Would be great to see buses on Brooklyn in the future, too!
(photo by Alabastro Photography, October 2, 2021)

U District and Roosevelt Rail Ready to Ride!
Saturday, October 2 was a fun and exciting day in District 4 as we celebrated the opening of the new light rail stations. If you haven’t yet experienced these new options to get to Northgate, Downtown, and beyond, I hope you try them out soon! For Sound Transit route info, CLICK HERE. For my blog on bus route changes, CLICK HERE.

Here’s an excerpt of my remarks at the grand openings:

“Today is a game-changer for how we travel around our city and how we protect our planet…Today we can finally celebrate the opening of 3 new light rail stations in North Seattle, including these impressive new stations here in the heart of the University District and Roosevelt neighborhoods. 

Welcome to the future of fast, frequent, and pollution-free transit!

…After thanking the voters and the taxpayers of three counties and 50 cities who made Sound Transit 2 possible, let’s lift up the heroes of the new stations and the miles of tunnels connecting them with our growing regional transit system – the heroes are the workers who built it.”

Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee and elected representative of District 4

October is Halloween AND Cybersecurity Awareness Month 

Get ready to re-boo your computer because October is not only Halloween, but also Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It’s good idea to recognize this issue the same month as Halloween because cyberattacks can be scary when we’re not aware and protected.  We need to be vigilant against internet and email scams at home and at work where cybercriminals can infect computers or try to extract sensitive information.  Businesses, all levels of government, and their vendors must invest sufficiently in cybersecurity to protect our personal information as well as vital services and operations. For low-income residents who worry about accessing affordable reliable internet, cybersecurity is another layer of concern. That’s why our City budget must include not only cybersecurity for city government departments but also for vulnerable residents. As part of our Internet for All Action Plan, we want to increase the Technology Matching Fund AND add “Digital Navigators” who can help people new to computers not only gain access to the internet but also learn how to protect themselves online. Cybersecurity awareness helps us all ensure our internet access is about positive connections to jobs, education, health care, and vital services.

Surviving Power Outages

In District 4 and throughout our city and region, this past week’s severe windstorms brought down power lines and interrupted electricity for many hours. Approximately 44,000 customers within our city lost power and over 100,000 customers throughout the Puget Sound region lost power. I’d like to thank the frontline crews of Seattle City Light for working through the nights to retore power to thousands of customers. I’d also like to thank our Fire Department for rapidly addressing any electrical fires. If you experience a new power outage, you can call (206) 684-3000 and press 1, then 1 again. To see where there are power outages and whether City Light is already aware of your outage, CLICK HERE for their outage map. For downed power lines, call 9-1-1 and stay far away from downed lines because they could still be electrified and/or a fire hazard.

We know those without power suffer and that’s why our City Light crews will always work as quickly as they can to restore service safely. The storm and our response to it is another reminder of the vital basics of city government, such as electrical power, clean water, clear roadways – and the need to maintain our basic infrastructure to keep us safe and our economy moving.

For a Seattle Times piece on surviving a power outage, CLICK HERE.


PROTECTING SEATTLE’S TREE INFRASTRUCTURE

A mature tulip tree before it was cut down. (photo with tree advocate by Seattle Times, republished in Crosscut; other photos from Investigate West)

Have you ever been jolted by the roar of a chainsaw 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 contact 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, which was due from the Durkan Administration last year. For more about trees on my blog, CLICK HERE. For current info on how to report illegal tree cutting, CLICK HERE.


VOTE!

Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, President of Seattle Central College, showing us how it’s done at one of the ballot drop boxes, though a regular mailbox works, too. (photo from Seattle Central News)

As you can see from this map, if you want to use a reliable, last-minute Drop Box instead of a regular postal service mailbox, King County has placed them throughout the area including in District 4: Magnuson Park, the University District, and near Gas Works Park in Wallingford. There’s also one on the east side of Green Lake.

Help King County achieve historically high voter turnout this year! Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday November 2 or returned to a drop box by 8:00 pm that day. For the King County Elections website with more information and ballot box addresses, CLICK HERE.


COMBATING COVID

King County Vaccine Verification Launched October 25

The COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading fast. As of October 25 in King County, proof of vaccination (or a negative test result) will be required for everyone ages 12+ at outdoor events of 500 or more people, indoor recreational events or establishments, restaurants, and bars. As of September 13 in Washington state, masks are required for everyone ages 5+ at outdoor events with 500 or more people, and continue to be required in public indoor spaces. For more information, please see our Current COVID-19 guidance page.

This requirement will help to protect customers and workers, protect our health care system (read a statement of support from the healthcare community), and prevent business closures as the Delta variant continues to spread in King County. You can read this Public Health Insider blog post for more information, and view the Local Health Order.

For a Seattle Times article on the vaccination requirements, CLICK HERE.

City Employees Vaccinated!

Leading by example, your city government employees achieved incredibly high vaccination rates: over 94% vaccinated with 99% submitting required paperwork. For the press release from the Mayor, CLICK HERE. For the related Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program Accelerated

King County has simplified and improved its Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program in recent weeks, increasing payments that will keep King County residents safe in their homes and prevent homelessness. The number of households receiving rent payments increased for the fourth week in a row, paying $7.7 million last week and reaching a total of $46.3 million in payments in 2021. Last week’s $7.7 million in payments is the largest amount processed in one week so far.

A total of 4,656 tenants have had their rent paid, and more than 14,172 tenants have applications being processed. King County has also launched a new program designed to intervene in eviction proceedings. This year’s payments are in addition to the more than $37 million distributed in 2020.

King County is committed to supporting tenants and local property owners alike to get through the financial hardships of this lingering pandemic,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We moved with urgency to implement new federal rules and reassigned dozens of staff to process a flood of applications. Today, our community partnerships are strong, our data system is working well, and our team is getting millions of dollars out weekly to stabilize both landlords and tenants across the county.

Small Business Stabilization Fund

The Office of Economic Development is investing an additional $4 million to stabilize micro and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 by providing cash grants through the Small Business Stabilization Fund. The Stabilization Fund will provide $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 grants to be used on operational expenses such as rent, wages, equipment and more.

For this new round, the Small Business Stabilization Fund will support small businesses with up to 50 full-time equivalent employees and accept applications from those who received a Stabilization Fund grant in past rounds. The deadline for applications is November 9, 2021.

For more information on eligibility and required documentation, and to apply for a grant, visit seattle.gov/SmallBusinessStabilizationFund.

The Office of Economic Development is available to provide technical assistance, language access services, disability accommodations, materials in alternate formats and accessibility information to support eligible applicants in completing this application. Businesses can access support by calling 206-684-8090 or emailing oed@seattle.gov.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Opening Light Rail Stations, Tiny Homes, Tree Legislation, and City Budgets

September 24th, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

Next week our new light rail stations open in Roosevelt and the U District! Whether or not you’re preparing to wake up at 4 AM on Saturday, October 2 to ride one of the first trains at the new stations, I hope you will check them out soon and help our region meet its goals to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.

This newsletter also contains updates about the city budget and community events as well as my ongoing efforts to improve public safety, address homelessness, protect Seattle’s trees, and more in District 4.


DISTRICT 4

Ready to Ride? New Light Rail Stations Open Saturday, October 2

Roosevelt:

 On Saturday, October 2nd as Sound Transit begins expanded light rail service, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association presents the “RNA Stage” from 10 AM till 4 PM at Roosevelt Station at 12th Avenue NE and NE 66th Street.  Join neighbors and friends as we celebrate exciting new developments in the Roosevelt community.  Live music, food, and fun for all! And many thanks to Roosevelt leader Jim O’Halloran for the tangible progress on the community-driven vision he helped to organize over a decade ago!

University District:

Organized by The U District Partnership, Graduate Hotels presents the U District Station Opening Festival and $3 Food Walk on Saturday, October 2.  As hungry participants ascend from the new U District Station, they will be greeted by an outdoor festival featuring over 40 U District restaurants serving $3 menu items across the neighborhood. Visitors can pick up a $3 Food Walk Menu and entry form at any participating restaurant (see udistrictseattle.com) or the U District Partnership tent at NE 43rd Street and Brooklyn Avenue. Big Time Brewery is serving up a beer garden for the festival outside of their location on the Ave between NE 41st and 42nd. Come grab a pint and some $3 bites!

The nearby Xfinity Main Stage will feature hours of home-grown talent from north Seattle and beyond, including the nationally acclaimed Roosevelt High School Jazz Band. Other outdoor performances will include the Husky Marching Band, a lion dance by Seattle’s Mak Fai Kung Fu Club, and Taiko Kai, a student-organized Taiko drumming group from the University of Washington.

UW welcomes students and employees back to campus this same week, and Sound Transit projects this new station will be one of the busiest with nearly 12,000 people using it each day.

My office will continue to encourage both our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to do more to connect Wallingford to the U District, especially with more pedestrian-friendly connections — including the 45th Street / I-5 overpass.

King County Changing Northeast Seattle Bus Routes  October 2:

We have heard concerns from parents of Roosevelt and Lincoln High Schools and other transit riders about the East-West bus route and have forwarded that feedback to King County Metro. Fortunately, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski is very attentive and shares our concerns. Metro’s Service Planning and Scheduling teams are aware of the overcrowding and are making adjustments for supplemental service to be assigned on the trips that run during school-bell times. King County Metro will continue to monitor the ridership levels on those trips and will make further adjustments, if necessary.

In addition to the supplemental service, beginning October 2, 2021, all southbound trips on Route 62 will begin at Magnuson Park. On weekdays, in the morning peak-time direction, the Route 62 will operate every 8 to 15 minutes. The new Route 79 – see Metro’s Get Ready Page – will provide new east-west service between Magnuson Park, View Ridge, Wedgwood and Roosevelt Station along NE 75th Street. This should also help to alleviate overcrowding events on Route 62 with the service change starting October 2.

Here more tools and resources to help adjust to the changes:

  • This Metro Matters blog post has information regarding new routes, timing, links to more information, and more and can help riders understand the new changes.
  • Metro’s service change page covers all route changes and restorations in English, Spanish and Chinese, as well as a video that briefly describes what’s happening.
  • Metro’s “Quick Start” website focuses on North King County and Link connections changes.
  • Metro’s Customer Information Office comment form is available online, and specialists are available at 206-553-3000 if a rider has any questions about the service change.  Metro’s Twitter account, @kcmetrobus, is also staffed by Customer Service staff who can often assist customers in real time.
  • The new service is designed to align with the three new light rail stations opening – Roosevelt, U-District, and Northgate. Riders who will travel using both buses and trains can avoid paying two fares if they transfer using an ORCA card and should review the available ORCA card options.

Overall, these changes will bring Metro’s service to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels and deliver nearly 11,400 bus trips each weekday. Bus ridership has gradually increased throughout the summer, with a recent September peak of ~183,000 daily boardings. In the coming year, King County Metro plans to restore further routes and trips.

Join us for a D4 Budget Town Hall October 14

Mayor Durkan will transmit her $6.5 billion budget proposal on Monday, September 27. Then, as required by State law, your City Council has approximately two months to review, amend, and adopt a balanced budget.

To help to explain the Mayor’s budget proposal for Seattle and the budgeting processas well as to provide one of many opportunities for feedback, I will host a budget Town Hall for our District 4.  We’ll be joined by our City Budget Director, Dr. Ben Noble.  I know that homelessness continues as a top concern in our District and so I’ve invited Marc Dones, the head the of new Regional Homelessness Authority to describe the mission and plans of this important new regional organization. I voted for the creation of the RHA because I believe homelessness is a regional problem that requires regional solutions. (Hearing from the RHA supplements our Town Hall earlier this year, which featured our City’s Human Services Department’s evolving role in addressing homelessness.)

To RSVP to the online/virtual Budget Town Hall, CLICK HERE to receive the Zoom call-in link and submit questions about the city budget. See you on October 14 for the virtual Budget Town Hall for our District 4 !

Keep reading this newsletter for more on the City budget process!

Headaches and Headway Repaving 15th Ave NE near Roosevelt High School

While I’m excited about all the infrastructure improvements in our district, I wanted to make everyone aware of this unfortunate timing from SDOT regarding the 15th Ave NE and NE 65th Street intersection that will be under construction Oct 1 through Oct 3 (and closed to east-west traffic), as we celebrate of the Roosevelt light rail station Saturday, Oct 2.

Here is SDOT’s rationale for doing the work that weekend (Oct 1 to Oct 4) at that intersection:

  • SDOT wants to do it on a weekend because weekday bottlenecks would be worse.
  • The overall project has been delayed already due to delays in concrete delivery and other reasons. SDOT has received assurances that the concrete WILL be available this weekend – once a crew starts concrete pouring, they need to finish it.
  • There are at-home Husky football games on the Saturdays of Sept 18, Sept 25, and Oct 16 and doing it then would create bigger traffic jams.

After becoming concerned about the 15th Ave NE project missing its deadline of Sept 1 when Roosevelt High School re-started, I personally went to the site to meet with SDOT officials to walk the area and ask tough questions about the delays. Before I visited, the project was going to be extended even longer. By assessing the bottlenecks, we were able to spur it forward.  SDOT’s has general phone number for the project: (206) 775-8718. For SDOT’s website on the 15th Ave NE repaving project, CLICK HERE.

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.

College Inn Pub Reopens

The College Inn Pub reopened its doors this summer after being closed for more than a year. Many are excited to see this old school “watering hole” open for business again. With a strategy of retaining the heritage and original feel of the pub, as described in this Eater Seattle article, the new owners took great pains to restore the physical space and systems while maintaining the historic character of the pub. Fun fact: The College Inn Pub is located in the basement of a Tudor Revival-style building erected for the 1909 Alaskan Yukon Pacific Exhibition that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Cheers!

 

One More Chance to Enjoy the U District Summer Outdoor Music Series

I enjoyed the first outdoor concert on Sept 9 and you can enjoy the last street concert on Wednesday, September 30 at 6:30 pm on The Ave (University Way NE) between NE 42nd and 43rd Streets in the heart of our U District near the new light rail station. As the organizers pitched the event, they said, “Come for an exuberant sonic journey and dance in the street to the Brazilian rhythms of En Canto.” You can complete this survey from the organizers.

I also visited a couple of businesses on this block who wanted to share their concerns about the partial street closure because their customers tend to drive. Learn more about events at this link: https://outdoors.udistrict.org/

Enjoying 45th Street in Wallingford

Councilmember Pedersen outside The Octopus in Wallingford this month after enjoying their “Ruby Mainsail.”

This week the neighborhood blog Wallyhood reminded us of the joys of visiting 45th Street stores and restaurants in Wallingford. I quickly took their advice and visited the Octopus Bar which has both indoor and outdoor seating. (Proof of vaccination required.) For their extensive menu, CLICK HERE. For other Wallingford places to enjoy, CLICK HERE.

Help Keep Kids Safe: Become a Crossing Guard

When meeting with the School Traffic Safety Committee to hear their annual report, I obtained the most recent figures on vacant positions for school crossing guards: they need everyone’s help fill nearly 50 positions! According to the Seattle Public Schools website, crossing guards are needed at Bryant Elementary, the John Stanford International School, Thornton Creek Elementary School, and 30 other schools. Our beloved crossing guards work approximately 2 hours each school day and are “safety super heroes” to the next generation. To apply, CLICK HERE. For the annual report that discusses both successes and challenges with keeping kids safe as they journey to and from our public schools, CLICK HERE.

CRAFTING OUR CITY BUDGET FOR 2022

Mayor Durkan will transmit her $6.5 billion budget proposal on Monday, September 27. Then, as required by State law, your City Council has approximately two months to review, amend, and adopt a balanced budget.

In some ways, the budget is simple: it’s supposed to reflect our values / priorities as a City and the expenses cannot exceed the revenues. In other ways, the budget is complicated. Our 1,575 page City budget includes an 825-page operating budget (focusing on the flexible $1.6 billion “General Fund”) as well as several capital projects including for transportation and utilities (incorporated into a 750-page Capital Improvement Program). Various requirements from voter-approved tax levies must be maintained for affordable housing, education, libraries, parks, and transportation as well as the requirements tied to grants from federal, state, and regional government sources. As with many organizations, most of the costs of city government are personnel expenses: the compensation, employment benefits, and pension payments for the 12,000 city government employees who implement the programs and policies adopted the City Council and Mayor. These costs are often already baked because they’re tied to 30 different, multi-year labor contracts negotiated by 5 of the 9 City Councilmembers and Mayor’s team that serve on the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) and meet behind closed doors as permitted by federal labor laws.

Despite all the drama during the annual “Fall” budget process, typically the City Council makes adjustments amounting to less than 10% of the overall budget proposal carefully crafted by the Mayor and her 40 departments. Yet these relatively small fiscal changes often highlight key policy areas such as public safety and homelessness. For example, a majority of the City Council unfortunately used the budget process last year to eliminate the important Navigation Team that previously engaged with unauthorized homelessness encampments.

To review the budget we adopted last Fall for this calendar year of 2021, CLICK HERE. For my editorial regarding the positives and negatives of that 2021 budget, CLICK HERE. To participate in our Budget town hall on October 14 (please see the D4 section of this newsletter), CLICK HERE.


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. For my blog that tracks the ongoing saga of striving to save Seattle’s trees, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

During the past 20 months, I have been assigned to chair a beefy City Council Committee monitoring departments comprising half of the City’s $6.5 billion budget: Transportation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and Technology. For our Committee agendas CLICK HERE. This keeps me and my team busy and makes it difficult to spend as much time as I would like on additional issues important to our district such as homelessness and public safety. The good news is that, for City Council’s “budget season” when we have October and November to review, amend, and adopt the City’s budget for the next calendar year (2022), we all take a break from regular committee business so all Councilmembers can focus on the budget.

Discount Internet for Students

School is back in session and I’m sharing news about affordable internet for students. The City of Seattle’s Information Technology department, utilizing the Internet for All plan and Resolution, which I sponsored and the Council passed, emphasized affordability as a major component when it comes to closing the Digital Divide.  Through Internet Essentials from Comcast, some students can get home Internet with 2 months without cost, thanks to the Emergency Broadband Benefit which I’ve written about previously.  The offer ends June 30, 2022. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, virtual classrooms, and so much more.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Initial Efforts to Address Police Staffing Crisis

On Monday, September 13, 2021, I offered two amendments to our mid-year budget to address the record-breaking departure of officers and detectives (attrition) from our Seattle Police Department and the disturbing increase in response times for 9-1-1 emergencies.

“We need to take swift action after losing hundreds of emergency responders, including community policing officers needed to prevent crimes and detectives needed to solve crimes. In addition to our continued investments in human services programs, I am hopeful a majority of City Councilmembers have recognized the slowing of 9-1-1 response times and the benefits of community policing require us to keep this modest funding to retain and hire officers and detectives.”  — Councilmember Alex Pedersen, before the vote.

Unfortunately, my modest proposal to boost efforts for retaining and recruiting officers did not get a majority of support from my colleagues on the City Council.  I appreciated some Councilmembers supporting my $1.1 million amendment (Option B) to invest the un-allocated dollars from SPD’s budget toward increased recruitment and retention efforts. But at City Hall we need 5 votes among the 9 Councilmembers to pass most legislation. Although we missed the opportunity to get results quickly, I am hopeful that a majority of Councilmembers will follow-through on their words to provide additional resources to recruit and retain officers so we can address the staffing crisis and officer wellness this November when adopting a City budget for 2022.

For my earlier press release explaining my public safety amendments, CLICK HERE. For a clip from KIRO News, CLICK HERE.

Adding a Crime Prevention Coordinator for North Seattle

I want to thank the Councilmembers who serve on the Finance Committee for approving my midyear budget amendment to add a Crime Prevention Coordinator to our North Precinct. Unlike my amendment to boost recruitment and retention of officers and detectives, this amendment passed.  North Seattle has been without a Crime Prevention Coordinator for over a year so, in addition to urging the Durkan Administration to fill the position (which should happen soon), I wanted to address the backlog in requests.  Moreover, the NORTH Precinct is, by far, the largest precinct in the city and, therefore, warrants a second position. As stated on SPD’s website, “Crime Prevention Coordinators (CPCs) are experts in crime prevention techniques. You can contact your CPC to inquire about general crime prevention tips, get involved or start a Block Watch group, request their presence at an upcoming community meeting and to discuss ongoing crime concerns in your neighborhood.”  Until the two positions are filled, you can request a CPC, by emailing their supervisor Sgt Welte at martin.welte@seattle.gov

Public Safety Panel in District 4

Last week I joined an impressive panel in our Council District at Sand Point Community Church to discuss public safety with State Rep Javier Valdez, State Senator Manka Dhingra, DeVitta Briscoe of Not This Time, Paul Benz of the Faith Action Network, and Monica Alexander of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. (For DeVitta Briscoe’s Op Ed describing her family tragedies and courageous efforts for police reform, CLICK HEREA lesson from my losses: We cannot afford to completely dismantle the police.”)  I want to thank my Legislative Aide Malik Davis for his work in preparing for the panel. We focused on the implementation of the various new State laws on police reform and the hopes for more effective public safety and crime prevention. I emphasized the need for sufficient staffing to implement the reforms required by the federal consent decree and for City Hall’s labor negotiators to  roll up their sleeves to tackle the substantive work of revamping the police contract that expired over 9 months ago. Many in the audience expressed their desire to have Seattle leaders do more to retain and recruit community police officers and detectives as we scale up effective alternatives to some emergency calls.


BATTLING COVID RESURGENCE

Forthcoming requirements for proof of vaccination

Regarding vaccinations, here is an important message from the Mayor’s Office issued recently:

“As we continue to be one of the most vaccinated cities in American with the lowest cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we are seeing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across our region and country driven primarily by unvaccinated individuals in the region and state.

It’s clear that we must act now – and act boldly – to change the trajectory of the virus and keep our communities safe. That’s why King County is issuing a Local Health Order to implement a vaccination verification policy across our region to keep our residents and businesses open and safe.

Beginning October 25, 2021, across King County, customers will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or negative test within 72 hours, to enter:

  • Outdoor events with 500 people or more (such as professional and collegiate sports and entertainment events)
  • Indoor recreational events or establishments regardless of size (such as professional and collegiate sports, performing arts and live music venues, movie theaters, museums, gyms, and conventions)
  • Restaurants and bars. This does not apply to outdoor dining, take-out customers, and places that aren’t primarily used for indoor dining such as grocery stores. Small restaurants and bars, defined as those with seating capacity for less than 12 people, will phase in on December 6, 2021.

We know that vaccination requirements are an effective tool to decrease COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. An analysis from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the vaccine verification policy at restaurants, bars and gyms/fitness centers alone could have a significant positive impact, preventing between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, 421 and 1,760 hospitalizations and 63 and 257 deaths locally over six months with the order in place. You can find more information on this new King County policy at www.kingcounty.gov/verify.

The City of Seattle is proud to implement a vaccination verification policy, both for our residents, and as an employer. Vaccination verification is the right thing to do for our workers, our customers, our economy, and the health and vitality of our city.  As a City, we innovated and brought nation-leading testing and vaccination sites to our residents. Every step of way we have followed the advice of public health officials and scientists.”

For the Mayor’s September 20, 2021 statement on vaccination verification, CLICK HERE. For the Washington State Department of Health’s latest mask requirements, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


New Tiny Home Village to Help People Experiencing Homelessness in our District 4

September 23rd, 2021
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 to help people experiencing homelessness in our District 4. Located at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE, thanks to the City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the Low Income Housing Institute, the Tiny Home Village will have up to 35 tiny homes and be in place for 2 1/2 years. 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 has 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.  “With social distancing requiring alternate shelter solutions until vaccines are available to all, I believe that 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.

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.

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!


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.


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.

# # #


Rebuilding Bridges, Appreciating Officers, and More in D4

August 23rd, 2021

August 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

As we approach the end of summer and look forward to the fall season, we’ll strive to beat back the COVID resurgence, help children return to school, diplomatically debate our city’s $6.5 billion annual budget, and recommit ourselves to solving the Seattle challenges intensified by the pandemic. While the City Council is officially on a two-week “recess” (which just means no meetings of the Council), I’ll still be working hard for the 20 neighborhoods of our dynamic District 4. Our next City Council meeting is September 13. I hope you find this newsletter from our office informative and helpful. Thank you.

See whether we answered your questions on Seattle Channel

Last month, reporter Brian Callanan interviewed Councilmember Debora Juarez and me for his show on the award-winning Seattle Channel. Check out the video by CLICKING HERE. (photo by Team Juarez).


IN DISTRICT 4

Rebuilding Bridges and Reopening Fairview Avenue Bridge

Everyone seemed happy about the re-opening of the Fairview Avenue bridge connecting Eastlake and beyond to our downtown job centers! We are eager to see more attention to our City’s bridges. In the photo, standing 2nd from the left (and wise to wear a hat in the blazing sun) is fellow District 4 leader Kathryn Gardow whose work includes the Washington State Public Works Board, which generously funded a large portion of this bridge project.  (photo by Eastlake community leader Jules James)

 

The beauty of our city is shaped by its many waterways and ravines. Seattle’s tremendous topography means we rely on bridges to connect us, to support all modes of travel, and to keep our entire economy moving.

This month I was able to stand with community leaders and construction workers on a rebuilt bridge we can all celebrate!

Thank you to Sam Zimbabwe, our talented leader of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). I would also like to thank the neighbors and businesses who have endured nearly two years of detours during the re-construction of this bridge.  We also appreciate the multiple organizations providing the money needed to replace the bridge, including the Washington State Public Works Board which generously funded a large portion of this bridge project.

The Fairview Avenue Bridge is a vital North-South arterial connecting Eastlake (and several other neighborhoods in our Council District) to thousands of jobs provided by employers anchored in our downtown. Maintaining basic infrastructure like this bridge is required for restarting the engine of our economy.

Seattle has over 100 bridges and many are 50 to 100 years old. I’ve been calling on City Hall to prioritize our aging bridges, so they stay safe AND stay open. This followed the independent audit I ordered for all City-owned bridges last year. That audit shows we have a lot more work to do to prioritize and fix our fragile bridges. The audit identified the old Fairview Bridge as a high priority for replacement. The bridge was over 70 years old and rated in poor condition. The wooden posts holding up the western half of the old bridge were decaying, and the concrete under the eastern half of the bridge was cracked. The new bridge, however, is built to modern earthquake standards. It is safe and sturdy to carry freight, transit, cars, bikes – everyone.

As you read this, the Mayor’s Office is crafting next year’s budget proposal which she will deliver to this City Council in just a few weeks (Sept 24). After the emergency closure of the West Seattle Bridge followed by the audit I ordered for the rest of our aging bridges, everyone who relies on these vital connections is counting on her budget proposal to hear that wake-up call and dedicate additional funding for Seattle’s bridge infrastructure.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Fairview Avenue Bridge on SDOT’s website.

MONTLAKE BRIDGE: On the northern entrance to Eastlake, we know our aging University Bridge is bearing the brunt of the traffic detoured from the Montlake Bridge as our State government dutifully repairs their aging bridge. While the increased traffic congestion will be with us though August, I commend the Washington State DOT for prioritizing safety and asset management and would like to see a similarly strong dedication of resources to repair bridges owned by the City. For more on the Montlake Bridge repair, CLICK HERE.

Seattle City Light Pledges Fix for Power Outages in Wedgwood

The Wedgwood neighborhood has repeatedly experienced power outages along the 35th Avenue NE corridor. As the District Councilmember (south of NE 85th Street) and Chair of the City’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, I was able to amplify the voices of those in the neighborhood and to encourage Seattle City Light to prioritize a sustainable solution. I very much appreciate the City Light workers who have been repairing each outage and we thank them in advance for this upcoming, longer term fix. While fixing the problem will, ironically, require temporary outages to replace the aging equipment, this effort should fix this recurring problem with a reliable and sustainable solution to avoid future outages. Construction is starting this month and will last approximately two months. [UPDATE from November 22, 2021: Seattle City Light reports that completion of this project could, unfortunately, be delayed to January 2022.]  Please visit Seattle City Light’s website for more information.

Scarecrow Video in the University District: Like No Other Place in the World

Key leader of the nonprofit Scarecrow Video on Roosevelt Way NE across from the U District Food bank near NE 50th Street (photo by Seattle Times)

This past week, I visited our firefighters to thank them at the U District fire station, which is located on the same block as the legendary Scarecrow Video. This reminded me that this special treasure trove of movies was featured earlier this month in the Seattle Times in an article titled, “How Seattle’s Scarecrow Video plans to share its vast library nationwide.” For the article and how you can help Scarecrow to thrive, CLICK HERE. As the article says, Scarecrow Video is like no other place in the world – and we’re proud their home is District 4.

West Green Lake Way North Will Open to Car Traffic

My office and the office of Councilmember Strauss (whose Council District 6 includes all of Green Lake) received many complaints about the Durkan Administration’s temporary closure of that portion of West Green Lake Way N. Fortunately, SDOT recently announced they will reopen it for 2-way vehicle traffic and provide a 2-way bike lane connection this Fall. For the July 29 article in the Seattle PI with a helpful overview and links to SDOT’s official recent statement, CLICK HERE. In the meantime, alternate routes include N 50th Street.

National Night Out: Preventing Crime as a Community

As part of the annual “National Night Out,“ I attended several crime prevention block parties in North Seattle, including this one visited by our Police Chief Adrian Diaz in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.

I enjoyed visiting with hundreds of constituents at more than 10 locations across District 4 during “National Night Out” on Tuesday, August 3, including Bryant, Ravenna, Wedgwood, the U District, and Maple Leaf. While these annual events were cancelled last year due to the COVID pandemic, they bounced back strong this year, with hundreds of blocks signing up across Seattle. Many thanks to the neighbors for organizing their block parties.  Our police department is so short staffed, they were not able to visit most of the locations as they normally do, but the block parties I attended showed a lot of support for officers and the difficult jobs they have. National Night Out strengthens neighborhood connections to create safer communities.

15th Avenue NE Paving Project Continues

Thank you for your patience as SDOT works on completing the 15th Avenue Northeast repaving project which includes upgrading utilities and installing bike lanes near the new Roosevelt light rail station opening this Fall.  Unfortunately, SDOT believes they will still be working on 15th Ave NE after the first day of school at Roosevelt High. However, they will have completed the work on all three of the other roads surrounding the school. Also, they will have completed all other major work such as drainage, lights, crosswalks and sidewalks, parking, and signage by the first day of school to reduce impacts. In the end, we believe it will improve travel connections and safety.

Seattle Parks and Recreation Plans to Begin Phased Reopening in Early September

Our Seattle Parks and Recreation Department has announced plans to reopen more community centers which had been closed due to the pandemic.

The Parks Department will be ramping up public services and programming at recreation facilities across Seattle beginning September 7, 2021. This ramp-up will include reopening most public pools (for lap swim, independent aquatic fitness and limited aquatic exercise classes), community center programs (lifelong recreation, specialized programs, etc.), and teen programs that support academic success and enrichment. These programs are in addition to the preschool and childcare programs already operating in community centers.

To see the full ramp-up schedule of pools and teen programs CLICK HERE. Please note that all facilities will continue to follow any current COVID-19 restrictions through the state, city or King County Public Health. The current guidance requires all staff and visitors to mask up upon entry regardless of vaccination status.

Art at Magnuson Park

The Magnuson Park Gallery is open and in-person (with masks) and now features a vibrant exhibit of art from the Kang-O’Higgins studio of the Gage Academy of Art. Enjoy diverse artwork from their current students, alumni, and teacher assistants. Gallery Hours (through August 27th): Thursdays & Fridays, 3pm-7pm and Saturdays & Sundays,11am-4pm. Location: Magnuson Park’s Building 30 West, 7448 63rd Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98115 (note: the NE 74th Street entrance is closed due to construction).


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Apply to the Seattle Transit Board or Seattle Bike Board!

As Transportation Chair, I help to approve appointees to transportation-related boards. Your city government is committed to promoting diversity in boards and commissions, and we encourage Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; people with disabilities; bicultural and bilingual people; seniors; and LGBTQ people to apply. We have an ongoing process of appointments as terms end and vacancies occur, so that we create opportunities for others interested in participating.

The Bike Advisory Board has 12 volunteer members who serve two-year terms and they are currently recruiting three new members. CLICK HERE to learn more and apply by August 27.

The Transit Advisory Board also has 12 volunteer members with openings for three new members.  CLICK HERE to learn more and apply by August 27.

I believe we should manage our transportation systems to efficiently move the most people and goods in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. To encourage more collaboration (rather than competition for attention and resources among individual modes of travel), I am hopeful we can increase coordination among the array of advisory boards and am thankful Seattle has dedicated volunteers striving to achieve our region’s transportation goals.


HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING 

New Tiny Home Village Finally Breaks Ground

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.

 

Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA): A Grand Bargain Mainly for For-Profit Developers

I am thankful for the recent Seattle Times’ article on Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program because the reporter objectively assessed the data and interviewed a broad range of stakeholders, not just supporters of the “grand bargain.” Based on the 2020 figures from the City, the MHA program appears to be a grand bargain mainly for developers who get the ability to build more while skirting the full cost of providing the affordable housing originally promised. The first iteration of MHA has been a disappointment with the vast majority of developers choosing to write a check to avoid building any affordable housing on site in the neighborhoods that need them.

The failure of MHA to result in inclusionary low-income housing is not the fault of developers whose profit motive will maximize whatever opportunities are allowed. The shortcoming is on City government policymakers, especially if improvements to the MHA program are avoided by City Hall.

One of the easiest ways to improve the MHA program is by increasing the fees so that developers are incentivized to produce more low-income housing on site, serving households earning no more than 60% of the area median income. Rather than an indirect tinkering with land use code definitions and acquiescing to for-profit developer requests for additional blanket upzone giveaways, let’s do what’s actually needed: increase the fees so that growth pays for growth and we produce more low-income housing faster.

It’s also important to consider measures to prevent (or at least mitigate) the demolition of existing affordable housing. Too often the city government approves large-scale changes without first putting in place protection measures to prevent displacement of existing residents and small businesses.

For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

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.

Email Council to support greater oversight of tree cutters

 


PUBLIC SAFETY

Need to Approve Mayor Durkan’s Efforts to Stop Alarming Drain of Police Officers

In response to the alarming attrition of officers, the Mayor sent at the end of July a bill and memo to the City Council to deploy $15 million in “salary savings” from our Seattle Police Department to cover a variety of SPD costs , including overtime pay needed due to the record-breaking departure of officers during the past year as well as those projected to leave this year.

I immediately endorsed the proposal from the Mayor and SPD on how to invest those dollars, issuing this statement to the media:

“I commend our Mayor and Police Chief for responding to the surge in gun violence and the alarming loss of police officers by transmitting this sensible safety legislation to the City Council,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen. “I urge my colleagues on the City Council to embrace these initial public safety solutions by acting swiftly on this legislation ….”

Unfortunately, our City Council Finance Committee chose not to authorize additional recruitment or retention funding at this time. When the bill arrives at the full City Council on September 13, I am hoping there will be consensus on the need to increase efforts for both recruiting new officers and retaining the highly trained ones we already have.

I visited the roll calls of the first, second, and third watches of our North Precinct this past month. I have attended police roll calls and participated in ride-alongs in the past, but these displayed the lowest morale I have ever experienced. This signals to me that the current attrition could be just the tip of the iceberg, unless we do more to retain existing officers.

I appreciated the frank feedback from these frontline workers who put themselves in harm’s way every day for our residents and small businesses. In addition, the exit interviews of departing officers made it painfully clear why so many of them are leaving: the apparent lack of support from many City leaders. Even though I never called for a 50% defunding of the organization, I acknowledge my own part and accountability in contributing to the low morale by not speaking up sooner to support the good and difficult work these professionals do as fellow city government employees working in difficult conditions under the frequently updated laws and protocols approved by government leaders. In short, I encouraged them to stay with Seattle.

I want to acknowledge those constituents who disagree with this approach and have urged me (and all Councilmembers) to reinvest that $15 million to other non-SPD solutions. I probably won’t convince anyone to change their minds here, but I want to try to explain my position. The vast majority of city government’s $6.5 billion budget goes toward helping our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable. Within the $1.6 billion discretionary general fund, about 25% goes toward the police (a higher percentage is often cited, but that higher percentage includes the Fire Department and other offices). The $15 million suddenly available mid-year should not be called “savings” because we need to replenish the lost officers to fulfill our duty under the City Charter Article VI, Section 1 which states, “There shall be maintained adequate police protection in each district of the City.”

For both safety and for our obligations under our City Charter, I believe the record-breaking attrition has become a crisis.  Even though I opposed the 50% defund effort that 7 of my colleagues originally pledged in 2020, I have to hold myself accountable for not quickly and assertively articulating the downsides of adopting such slogans that they would have consequences for community safety AND for not sooner encouraging those serving on the Labor Relations Policy Committee to hurry up and work out a police contract that values good officers and boosts employee wellness while ensuring we don’t pay extra for body cameras or allow an arbitration system that could protect misconduct. Protestors have every right to use slogans to crystalize their message, but policymakers have an extra responsibility to synthesize the variety of views and experiences and to consider the practical implementation implications of our statements and votes on legislation.

In his Seattle Times column entitled, “How the City Council left Seattle in a no man’s land on crime,” Danny Westneat concluded, “Seattle plainly needs both: Enough cops to respond to rising violent crime, and more counselors to try to prevent it. This is why ‘re-imagining’ or “defunding” the police was always going to cost more money, not less. It was governing malpractice that the City Council jumped into this brandishing a protest slogan, and Seattle now is paying a price.”

If he could have expanded on his column, I would have pointed out that SPD’s sworn community policing officers help to prevent crime AND that counselors can be used in place of some 9-1-1 responses. It’s complex. All the more reason that policymakers should avoid slogans in the first place.

The federal judge overseeing the police reform consent decree said recently, “The city, the mayor and other elected officials from the City Council need to be constructive, not destructive, to progress. I have seen too much of knee-jerk reaction and not enough forethought. We have to be religious in continuing to reduce bias and disparity, at the same time we need to recognize … there is an essential requirement for public safety.”

The new monitor, Dr. Antonio Oftelie of Harvard, told the court that the department has lost more than 300 officers since 2019, and has been able to replace fewer than 100 of them. The personnel shortage has, for now, essentially ended community policing in the city and sent response times “skyrocketing.” “Much of the training, technology, and review systems implemented under the consent decree cannot be sustained without necessary budget and personnel,” he said, describing SPD as being at an “inflection point.” He continued: “The actions and investments of the city will either tip the department into a deepening crisis, or will lead the department into a future in which it can sustain compliance and build trust in constitutional policing.”

Source: SPD memo to City Council Central Staff, July 23, 2021

 

Crime Report Statistics

Here are the latest crime report stats from SPD’s official dashboard for the North Precinct (40% of the city, which is north of the ship canal and includes three of the nine Council Districts, including our District 4). These are offense reports taken by a sworn officer or approved by an officer after receiving it online or by phone.

Crime Dashboard from SPD: https://www.seattle.gov/police/information-and-data/crime-dashboard (Note: 2021 in the dashboard includes just the first 7 months of this year. For a rough projection of the entire year of 2021, one could divide the 2021 figures by 7 months and then multiply them by 12.)

Here’s a table that compares crimes reported during the first two quarters of each of the past 3 years:

New Crime Prevention Coordinator approved by Finance Committee

I’m pleased to report that the City Council Finance Committee approved my proposal to add another Crime Prevention Coordinator position to the North Precinct. There were many reasons why my team and I pushed for this additional position: (1) I wanted to be responsive to the many residents and small businesses who suffered the absence of the crime prevention position while it sat vacant for months creating a backlog; (2) at 40% of the City’s geographic area,  the North Precinct is more than double the size of any of the other 4 police precincts in the city and is home to 3 Councilmembers; (3) that position shows residents and small businesses practical ways to prevent crime; and (4) they can alert SPD about emerging crime trends that might not be immediately apparent from other data.

Councilmembers Gonzalez, Herbold, and Lewis voted yes while Chair Mosqueda (preferring to consider it during the regular Fall budget process instead), voted No.

Over $70 Million of the $100 Million Commitment to BIPOC Communities Proceeding

Protests demanding racial justice and community-led solutions, especially in Black communities, spread across the United States and internationally after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

Mayor Durkan committed to investing $100 million focused on Black, Indigenous, and communities of color to address the systemic harms caused by racist policies and generations of disinvestment and to produce more positive outcomes with programs that prevent harm. The Council allocated additional funding toward various efforts.

The City is providing more than build capacity for 33 organizations working toward community-led solutions to end violence and increase safety in (BIPOC) communities. These investments will support organizations providing an array of programs, services, and upstream investments meant to improve outcomes and contribute to overall community safety and wellbeing.

Last year, the Human Services Department moved quickly to award $4 million to the Seattle Community Safety Initiative, which is building community safety hubs and wraparound services in three Seattle neighborhoods under the leadership of Community Passageways.

The City provided $30 million to a “Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force.

We also await the remaining $30 million through a community-led participatory budgeting process for 2022.

Addressing Gun Violence: $2 Million More for Regional Peacekeepers Collective

Building on recent investments to improve community-led safety and Citywide efforts to reimagine public safety, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan recently announced the City of Seattle will invest $2 million in the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective pilot program to address the steep rise in gun violence using a public health approach. The City’s investment builds capacity with increased staff and comprehensive support systems for young people at risk of gun violence and their families.

“We know that violence is the result of many failed systems and societal disparities. And because, in many instances, the government for decades shirked responsibility, we are called on at this moment to invest in resources to right the wrongs created by those failed systems,” said Mayor Durkan. “There is no magic wand that will erase violence from the community; however, we know we need a range of solutions as with most complex regional issues. That’s why this investment in the Regional Peacekeepers Collective is so important.”

By investing $2 million over two years, the Regional Peacekeepers Collective will have the necessary funding to add restorative services such as family support specialists, youth and family support services, comprehensive training, and technical assistance. These critical supports will allow the Regional Peacekeepers Collective to deliver the wraparound case management and family-centered engagement that can help disrupt the cycle of gun violence and put them on a path to health and wellbeing.  Approximately 200 young people and their families are expected to be supported over the next two years.

“The City of Seattle’s investments in community-led safety efforts to help address the rise in gun violence is critically important,” said Fred Rivara, MD, professor of Pediatrics in the UW School of Medicine. Dr. Rivera is also director of the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, a cutting-edge program I helped to fund when I was a Legislative Aide to former Council President Tim Burgess.

“Even with diminished resources, SPD officers have been exhaustively working each and every incident of gun violence,” said Chief Adrian Diaz of the Seattle Police Department. “We have been conducting investigations during which we recovered over 50 guns in 19 different search warrants just a few weeks ago. We are on pace to recover another 1,000 guns this year alone. We need to make sure these guns aren’t in the hands of people who want to harm our community. It’s true, we need to work together to fight this violence. We cannot accept this as a norm for Seattle.”

Triage Response to Provide Alternative to Police Response for Non-Emergencies

Building from the City’s work to reimagine policing and community safety, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced a proposal to create a new specialized triage response that will provide an alternative model for some non-criminal 9-1-1 calls and reduce the need for a sworn officer response for some calls. The specialized responses will include professionals that are experts in outreach, behavioral health, and have tangible connections to the communities that they will serve. When at full capacity, this specialized response could respond to the potentially 8,000 – 14,000 non-emergency wellness checks currently handled by sworn officers from our Seattle Police Department.

“Seattle residents expect and deserve a timely 9-1-1 response, and part of reimagining community safety means providing meaningful and effective alternatives to a sworn officer. Building off of the success of the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One model, the new specialized triage response will provide an alternative response to some 9-1-1 calls,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.


COVID

As Mayor Durkan put it last week, our work to save lives doesn’t happen by accident – it happens by the choices we make. The choices we are making are saving lives. Seattle has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country with approximately 82.5% of residents 12+ who have at least one dose.
We are watching cautiously however as the Delta variant is one of the most dangerous mutations yet, and there are so many in our City and community under the age of 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

We know what works to protect ourselves against this virus: vaccines, masks, testing, and distancing. Vaccines are widely available across Seattle and King County. You can visit visit one of our rapid, accessible, and free testing sites, which are still crucial for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.


MORE for District 4

Seattle Preschool Program Open for Applications

overwhelmingly approved by Seattle voters in 2014. It is heartening to know that thousands of children are receiving the lifelong benefits that high-quality preschool can deliver. There is a lot of talk about the need for equitable, upstream programs proven to benefit young people so they have positive life outcomes — SPP has been one of the shining examples for years.

Seattle Reads “The Vanishing Half”

On August 9 the Council received a ‘Seattle Reads’ program for 2021. This year, Seattle Public Libraries are featuring a work of fiction entitled “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett.

As many of you know, “Seattle Reads” is our city-wide book group, where people are encouraged to read and discuss the same book as a way of building connections across communities.  This year I was especially impressed with SPL’s community partnerships to engage  artists, writers, and partners such as Black Heritage Society.

I encourage readers to check out these incredible organizations and attend one of the interesting events the Seattle Public Library has planned associated with this book.

The Seattle Public Library has reopened 23 of 27 libraries. Open hours are currently limited; however, thanks to financial support from the federal government, the Library is restoring staffing systemwide for more open hours this fall.

The branches in District 4 currently open are:

  • Fremont Branch (731 N. 35th St.), Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays
  • Northeast Branch (6801 35th Ave. NE), Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays
  • University Branch (5009 Roosevelt Way NE), Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays

The Wallingford branch will reopen this fall. This link is the best one for accessing open branches (with days/hours):  https://www.spl.org/hours-and-locations.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov.

council@seattle.gov.

Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


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