My Priorities for an Employee Hours Tax

May 11th, 2018

No matter your view on the proposed employee hours tax, there’s a strong consensus that there is a homelessness crisis that needs to be solved. This crisis facing our city and our region is human and visible and growing. By the last count 8,522 people were experiencing homelessness in Seattle. While I continue to hear frustration that the City is just ‘throwing money at the problem,’ I believe that we are making strategic, results-oriented investments. In 2016, King County saw 6,128 exits to permanent housing, and through Seattle’s Office of Housing, we invested $93.4 million into 1,478 new and preserved affordable housing units in 2017.

These investments are succeeding in getting people off the streets, yet the increasing rate of homelessness is outpacing our efforts. As our city experiences historic growth we must reckon with the economic disparity it creates; studies show that a 5 percent rent increase in Seattle pushes over 250 people into homelessness. And during a time when rents and the cost of housing are skyrocketing, so too are our numbers of neighbors falling into homelessness.

Any solution to help address our homelessness crisis, in my opinion, must produce immediate results and protect the long term economic health of the city. I believe we – not just this council but the mayor and other agencies in jurisdictions up and down the west coast – have a moral obligation to offer our unsheltered neighbors safer and healthier living arrangements than our sidewalks, parks, and freeway ramps.

I want to vote in support of a solution that gets more people inside, but as I contemplate the decision around the Employee Hours Tax (EHT), I have been clear with my colleagues that my support will depend on four aspects of the proposal under consideration:

  1. I believe that the bill should include a request for affirmative renewal. The state of emergency in which we are currently operating requires us to look at all the resources available to address our homelessness crisis. But I have confidence that we will reach a time when we are no longer in that state of emergency. Thus, treating this proposed revenue more like a levy, with an affirmative renewal requirement built in, affords us a degree of flexibility that is important to me.
  2. A second priority of mine is the desire to build more affordable housing, not dedicating our limited resources towards debt service. Utilizing a pay as you go model maximizes our investments and ultimately allows us to deliver more units. This model has been a hallmark of our process as a city in building affordable housing and one I strongly support.
  3. Another clear goal I have is that we land on a revenue source that falls between $25-75 million. That was the initial goal outlined in Resolution 31782 and one I feel we should remain within. I believe a proposed $250 tax finds a good middle ground with a total impact of $40 million per year.
  4. Lastly, as one of the whereas clauses in this ordinance states, “this collaborative effort requires the active engagement of interested and affected stakeholders, including non-profit organizations, affordable housing providers, faith and civic leaders, businesses, labor, and community members.” I believe it is important that we adhere to an approach that can and will get the support of these different stakeholder groups. No matter the final number we land on through an employee hours tax, we know we need our city funds to be leveraged by a massive regional investment in affordable housing, requiring the support and engagement from these parties.

With the final vote currently anticipated to take place on Monday, May 14, I wanted to share what will be impacting my decision. I want to thank my council colleagues for their hard work on this topic and all who have been engaging with us and sharing their thoughts. We all want to succeed in bringing our neighbors inside.

Share


We Need a Safer 35th Ave NE

March 1st, 2018

I have been hearing from many who live and work near 35th Avenue expressing both support for and concerns about the upcoming paving project. Ultimately, I still believe that the proposed changes will result in a safer corridor for everyone traveling through the neighborhood and will help allow more people to choose to walk or bike, which we need to meet climate change objectives and ease traffic congestion.

While there are many aspects subject to disagreement within the scope of this project, I think we can all agree that safety improvements are necessary along 35th. For the last few years we’ve seen an average speed of more than 30 miles an hour and we know that speeding kills: a pedestrian hit by a car at 40mph only has a 10% chance of survival while a pedestrian hit by a car at 20mph has a 90% chance of survival. There have been over 250 collisions on this street in the last five years and the new bus service on 35th NE is increasing the number of pedestrians trying to cross the street. Given these factors, it is imperative for me that we make this street safer for all – pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.

How we go about making 35th safer is where I hear many, many differences of opinion. What I hear most from folks is around the proposed bike lanes, changes to parking and the resulting impact on businesses along the corridor – and I want to address all three.

Out of the $5 million total cost for this project, bike lanes represent only 12% of the total, representing what I believe is significant return on investment. Separated bike lanes create a safer environment and encourage more folks to ride their bikes – two goals I view as critical for Seattle and its future. For example, according to a 2016 study out of Rutgers University[1], “in Minneapolis, the bikeway network grew 113 percent, trips climbed 203 percent and injuries and fatalities dropped 79 percent.”

Some question why the greenway on the 39th is not sufficient. While greenways are an important part of the bike network, they do not have the same benefits as dedicated, protected lanes, either in terms of safety or ridership. Furthermore, it does not protect cyclists on 35th where the majority of destinations are located.

Additionally, because of the city’s commute trip reduction goals through the Major Institution Master Plan, two of Seattle’s major employers, Children’s Hospital and University of Washington, are doing excellent work in encouraging their commuters to shift the mode of transportation they take to and from work away from driving. Because we are asking them to meet certain goals, we have an obligation to increase our protections for those who make the shift out of their vehicles and onto their bikes.

Much analysis has been done to look at the impacts to parking along this stretch and the data shows that there is sufficient parking available. For example, on weekdays between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, on every block parking utilization was less than 70%, and most blocks were under 55%. Numbers were very similar for weekends during that same timeframe, and also during weekdays during morning and evening rush hours. To put that in a different context, in one snapshot of time during a weekend between 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, 591 out of 653 total parking spaces were available.

This project involves removing parking on the west side of 35th, south of 85th. Parking will be available on the east side of the street all day, and there won’t be peak-hour parking restrictions as there are today. The scope of this project also reconfigures some East/West streets to better handle parking demand. For example, we will be installing more 2 hour limited parking signs to increase parking turnover and availability for business patrons.

Many have voiced concerns around the health of our retail and service centers, like the library, that operate along 35th. Supporting business and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure is not an “either/or” for me – studies show that having bike lanes increase traffic in and out of businesses[2]. A recent study from the State Smart Transportation Initiative shows that street improvements such as bicycle lanes that replace parking spaces and lanes of traffic do not impede – and even boost – economic growth[3]. Additionally, SDOT has been working closely with businesses and service centers to be responsive and accommodate unique requests.

I’ve heard from several community members that they’d like to see some additional safety traffic improvements on corresponding North/South streets.  I’ve particularly heard from folks about additional investments like a speed island at 77th and 34th, speed bumps on 80th between 35th and 30th and on 30th between 80th and 75th, and a light (or more clearly marked pedestrian crossing) at 77th and/or 80th.

Some of these suggested improvements didn’t make it in to the final design, because they either fall outside the scope of the project, or need to be determined after implementation. I’m working with the project team to identify additional resources that may be available to make those additional investments to correspond with the corridor improvements.

I also look forward to working with you and SDOT to regularly monitor the success of our investment. If we are not meeting benchmarks and desired outcomes and if markedly slower traffic becomes the unintended impact that many believe it will, we have the opportunity to change course and make design improvements.

To achieve a greener, healthier city for all of us to live in, I unabashedly support Seattle’s goals to make it safe for people who choose to ride their bicycles or walk. I understand that many Seattleites need to drive their cars for a whole host of different reasons (health reasons, juggling family schedules etc.), I believe that we can and should balance the needs of all users to ensure our streets are accessible, efficient, and above all, safe for everyone.

[1] Pucher, John, and Ralph Buehler. “Safer Cycling Through Improved Infrastructure.” American Journal of Public Health, Dec. 2016.

[2] Jaffe, Eric. (2013, September 10). No, Bike Lanes Don’t Hurt Retail Business. Retrieved from https://citylab.com

[3] State Smart Transportation Initiative. (Producer). Bike and Pedestrian Street Improvements and Economic Activity in NYC [Video webinar].

Share


Celebrating Victories of the 2018-2019 Budget Process

November 20th, 2017

As the chair of the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee and as the representative for District 4, I have heard a lot this year about ways that we can support livability as our city grows. Funding infrastructure improvements for mobility, parks, and public safety are critical to meet the needs of current and future residents. The following budget adds that I sponsored or co sponsored reflect the key values on which we, as a city, must remain focused.

To invest in working families and the next generation:

  • I couldn’t be more excited to partner with the county to fund the $2 million-dollar renovation of Magnuson Park Community Center, and to add $130,000 to fund adequate staffing to support engaging programming for kids and adults;
  • I’m thrilled to have found the $70,000 necessary to reopen all seven wading pools that had been closed in 2010 due to budget cuts. We need more places to encourage family friendly fun, and if we continue having summers like this past year’s, more places to cool down;
  • I added $75,000 to support families who choose to close their streets to traffic for safer play;
  • And I sponsored a study to look at strategies to implement public-sector child care.

To improve pedestrian and bike safety on public right of way:

  • I sponsored a proviso making NE 43rd a pedestrian only street to support the work of the U District Mobility Group and many other community members. This budget action lifts up the vision of community members for what they want their neighborhood to look like when the light rail station opens in the U District in 2021;
  • I restored $150,000 to our Summer Parkways program to ensure we’re supporting active, car-free transportation;
  • And I was happy to support the $600,00 addition to support the planning, public outreach and design of a walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods.

To support safer and healthier communities:

  • I sponsored the investment of $1.3 Million for the creation and operation of a safe consumption site in Seattle. I’m looking forward to working with my council colleagues and partners at the county to take this critical step toward a harm reduction approach in our opioid crisis;
  • I was happy to support the expansion of our successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to the North End;
  • I sponsored a food access study that will result in a pilot program getting low income residents living in food deserts to and from grocery stores and farmers markets where they can use their Fresh Bucks;
  • I supported an addition of $588,000 to help ensure the Lazarus Day Center can remain open to serve the 350 elderly homeless members of our community who visit the center each day;
  • I supported the critical $2.75 million investment in new permanent supportive housing options;
  • And I was happy to support the addition of $450,000 to open and support two additional authorized encampments.

To balance the growth of our city with livability:

  • I added $130,000 to extend a code development position at SDCI to ensure council priorities around tree regulations, industrial lands, and development standards for schools are carried out;
  • I added $114,000 to support the development of community outreach plans for projects going through the Design Review Program;
  • As part of the Seattle Public Utilities Business Plan, I increased spending on Green Stormwater Infrastructure by $15 million to support the creation of green jobs and the health of our city’s tree canopy;
  • And I was very supportive of the add of $75,000 to support the Home and Hope Project’s creation of quality affordable housing and early learning opportunities.

Finally, I want to thank my colleagues who brought forward the HOMES tax proposal. Even without its passage, it focused our budget urgently and rightly on the needs of those unsheltered. It focused our collective values and found consensus on the outcomes we need to see to make a difference. While there is yet much more to be done, I am proud that our budget invests in homeless youth, support for survivors of gender-based violence, Pathways Home recommendations, and more shelter options.

Share


Disappointing Setback in Progress Towards Police Accountability

November 16th, 2017

I am deeply saddened and frustrated that SPD’s Force Review Board found that killing Charleena Lyles was within department policy; it is both devastating and unacceptable that our policies can lead to this kind of tragedy. There still remains an investigation by the Office of Police Accountability, and the King County Prosecutors Office will be reviewing and determining legality.

While the sequence of events in the case before us sadly cannot be changed, I am heartened by and hopeful of the changes that are happening in real time to the way policing looks in Seattle. On May 22nd Council passed the Police Accountability Ordinance, and we are working to implement its contents as quickly and as intentionally as possible:

  • Today we are appointing civilian lawyer Andrew Myerberg as the director of OPA. He has a 7-year track record of increasing police accountability and knows the ins and outs of our city. I believe he will bring meaningful change to the policing culture of Seattle.
  • On Monday, the Seattle Police Management Association signed a new contract with the City of Seattle, voluntarily embracing progressive, necessary changes happening to Seattle’s policing policies, including the use of body cameras and regulations around bias free policing.
  • During the current budget season negotiations, I’ve been supportive of Councilmember González’s proposals to ensure we have the funds to expand OPA and stand up the Office of the Inspector General.
  • We are actively working on getting a civilian into the role of police auditor, a new role that will independently review all of the rulings of the Force Review Board and OPA.
  • And I look forward to working with the Community Police Commission to make sure that D4 residents have a voice at the table to review policies and have an impact.

In the wake of the shooting last summer, I spent a lot of time talking with residents living in and around Magnuson Park about what changes they want to see to realize a safer and healthier community. I’ve been working during the budget season to find funding for their priorities and will continue to do my best to amplify the voices of those who know what is best for their community.

Black lives matter. And while I’m hopeful about the work we are doing, we are all frustrated with the pace of necessary change. There are many systems beyond policing and criminal justice that overwhelmingly impact communities of color. When we affirm black lives matter, we must also acknowledge the experience with other institutions that can exacerbate the types of outcomes that continue to demonstrate disparities in health, housing, access to opportunities, jobs, income inequality, and intergenerational wealth.

As we continue to prioritize investments and make updates to city policy, I commit to continue leading with race as a lens to evaluate and inform our City actions to advance equitable outcomes for all.

Share


Responding to our Homelessness Crisis

November 9th, 2017

At Tuesday’s Budget Committee meeting, I brought forward an alternative to the employee hours tax. I think each of my colleagues feels heartbroken seeing our homelessness crisis continue to grow, and we agree that we must respond with increased funding. And many, if not all of us, support the package of investments that the proposed employee hours tax would fund. However, I do not support the approach that’s been proposed.

Just because an employee hours tax seems like a quick and easy solution for us as a council does not mean it’s the right and only path for us to take. Stable well-paying employment is critical for Seattle residents – it’s the engine of our economy – and it’s important that we prudently analyze the economic impact of this proposal and have a clear sense of how to effectively spend the funds it would raise.

When an hours tax was proposed and implemented as part of the 2006 city transportation levy it was thoroughly vetted during a several months long public process. It also had a clear set of ongoing projects it was intended to fund before getting repealed during the economic downturn in 2008. If we bring this approach forward again, a similar process and similar strategic set of investments should be laid out clearly for the public and service providers to engage with before any council action to impose an hours tax.

I think it is very important to have business at the table to explore options to leverage their support – there is money on the table, and creative partnerships to establish, no doubt.  And I will join my colleagues in calling on the business community and private philanthropy to increase their investments in services and housing.

With all that said, because I strongly support many of the programs and projects funded by the proposed employee hours tax, it was important to me to bring forward an alternative funding path and not just end the conversation by voting no. The proposal I shared on Tuesday details many ideas for new revenue streams, additions to our current bonding capabilities, and budget cuts to current programs across different city departments – none of them set in stone. I worked to ensure we knew the options available to us of where revenue could be redirected to fund strategies to reduce homelessness.

I want to be very clear that there are items on that list that myself and my colleagues would feel extremely uncomfortable pursuing – take funding for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, for example. Making streets safer for everyone has been my life’s work. But we have found ourselves at a point in our homelessness crisis where we must start having these conversations. If we aren’t pushing ourselves to ask tough questions on where we could spend less in order to redirect more funds to getting people off our streets, then we are not responding to our homelessness crisis with the urgency and priority that it requires.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the weeks to come to find more funding we can spend on supporting those in our community who need it most.

Share


It’s Budget Season Again!

September 26th, 2017

This Monday kicked off my second City budget cycle as Mayor Burgess presented his proposal to the Council (you can watch the budget speech here). Councilmembers and staff are in the initial stages of reviewing the investments detailed in the proposal, but I wanted to call out a few early budget wins and projects included in the Mayor’s proposal that align directly with my priorities, and those of my constituents.

Earlier budget wins:

  • With the historic levels of growth our city is experiencing, funding affordable housing and supporting projects that reflect our cultural heritage are absolutely necessary investments. This year I proposed a new tax on short term rentals that gives long term and permanent funding to build more affordable housing projects and funds projects that preserve our city’s cultural heritage.
  • I’m a big believer in green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), so recently I sponsored an amendment to double the amount we spent on GSI without raising consumer rate paths. What is GSI? Click here to learn more, but overall, these investments help to address flooding and climate change impacts, create long term job opportunities (both in the creation and maintenance of the new GSI projects), incentivize more private sector development, and increase walkability and greenspace.

Highlights of investments in the Mayor’s draft budget:

  • I am thrilled to see funding allocated for the renovation of the Magnuson Park Community Center. This renovation, beginning in 2018, will provide much needed space for additional programming for the kids and adults who live, work, and play in the park.
  • I’ve heard from many constituents about the unsettling rise in property crime throughout our neighborhoods, so I am pleased to see the funds needed to fulfill our commitment to expand the police force by 200 officers. Resulting in a 15% increase in SPD’s uniformed personnel, this funding builds off of my 2017 budget goal to increase the number of officers and reduce response times.
  • With the success our Navigation Team has demonstrated getting those living outside to accept offers of shelter, I am happy to see additional funds for a second team outlined among other critical investments to address the homelessness crisis.
  • Because I strongly believe that including arts in education is an integral component of setting our students up for success, I am very glad to see the funds allocated to ensure Creative Advantage (a collaboration between our Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle Public Schools, and community partners) is operating in all Seattle’s public schools by 2022.

There are additional priorities I’ll be pushing for over the course of the budget process, including the renovation of the Burke Gilman Trail from UW to the U Village and ensuring the expansion of our successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) to the north end.  I’ll also be looking for ways that we can increase support for our local businesses to grow and how we can make our neighborhood streets safer for kids. Look out for more updates as the budget process gets underway.

Details on the Mayor’s proposed budget can be found here. More information can also be found on the Council’s budget page. There are two public hearings at City Hall (as usual, I made sure that we offer childcare at both):

  • Thursday, October 5 at 5:30 pm in Chambers
  • Wednesday, November 1 at 5:30 pm in Chamber

I hope you are able to join us and share your thoughts! If you are unable to attend, you can always reach out to our office with your comments at 206.684.8808 or Rob.Johnson@seattle.gov.

Share


Shared Vision for Magnuson Park

July 20th, 2017

I’ve had some very meaningful conversations over the last month with residents and neighborhood leaders in and around Magnuson Park, city officials, and Solid Ground Administrators about changes they want to see in their community – changes that are even more important following the tragic death of Charleena Lyles.  Through these conversations, we’ve outlined a set of strategies to realize a safer community offering more positive and healthy opportunities.

That list is a long one, including community center space renovation, better lighting in the park, increased transit access, and significantly better healthy food access. Many of these needs I will address through our budget process in the fall. However, the second quarter supplemental budget (currently being discussed in the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods & Finance Committee) represents an opportunity to re-prioritize existing funds and use them to help support some short-term needs of those living in the park.

One priority I heard loud and clear from everyone with whom I spoke was the need for more engaging programming for youth and adults at Magnuson Park Community Center. We need to fund a staff member dedicated to creating positive mental and physical health programming and to connecting users with the many nonprofit programs that already exist in the park.

I plan to bring an amendment forward at the August 2nd AHNF committee meeting to use city funds to support programming and staffing at the community center.  And I have called on different departments and agencies to address needs as well: the Department of Parks and Recreation is exploring modifications to enhance lighting in Magnuson, our Human Services Department is looking into helping Solid Ground provide more on-site support at Brettler Family Place, and Metro is making changes to provide bus service to the park on evenings and weekends.

It is deeply important to me to work with my colleagues to see these critical near term changes implemented by the start of the school year to support the residents and our community.

Share


Why I Support Arts and Culture

March 30th, 2017

Next week, Seattle’s Pacific Science Center will open its doors to the exhibit Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor, transporting viewers back 2,200 years to discover the story of the First Imperial Dynasty of China and the untouched tomb of the first Emperor.

I was honored to work with the Pacific Science Center during the budget season last year to allocate $100,000 towards their goal to make their exhibits, programs, and events accessible to everyone, regardless of income. These funds will go towards outreach and accessibility initiatives around this historic Terracotta Warriors exhibit by lowering the cost barrier for those who otherwise might not be able to attend.

I am proud to support art and culture in Seattle – namely access to art and cultural experiences – at a time when, at the national and local level, their relevancy and level of priority are being seriously questioned. To me, investment in the arts are an investment in our community – in so many different, fundamental ways.

Quite literally, our arts, cultural, and scientific organizations contribute in a big way to our local economy. In 2014 alone, spending by King County arts, cultural, and scientific organizations and their patrons generated $20 billion in business activity in Washington State’s economy. This activity in turn supported 30,721 jobs, and $859 million in labor income, and resulted in $87 million in sales, business and occupation, and hotel-motel room taxes. For more information on this sector’s economic impact, read this study.

Investment in the arts also represents an investment in the next generation. Arts and cultural experiences can provide young people the tools they need to succeed in school, life, and our City. An education complete with arts opportunities – whether we bring art to the classroom or classrooms to the arts – results in a next generation of Seattleites who are creative and critical thinkers who can collaborate to solve problems and engage with their communities. For more information on the 21st century skills our students learn through art, read this report.

Lastly, investment in the arts is an investment in the community as a whole. Not only does art and culture provide a beauty that promotes livability in a region, but art is powerful because it has the ability to make us feel differently. Art is a meaningful and personal way to enact change. Art is a way to inspire. It’s a way to connect us to others who might think differently than us and it’s a way for us to break barriers and cross cultures.

I am thankful to live in a city that values arts and culture for all it is and can inspire – not just for those who can afford it, but for everyone.

Share


We are a Welcoming City

February 13th, 2017

At a recent Transit Talks meeting, I said “It’s really disturbing for me when I hear somebody talking about how glad they were to see the neighborhood district councils stand up for single-family zoning and then in the next breath disparage the president for wanting to build a wall between the US and Mexico. I see those two things as actually linked,” and I’d like to provide commentary about the spirit behind the sentiments. This remark reflects my passion for Seattle to be a welcoming city, and to me, being welcoming means making space – at the national, local, and neighborhood level.

Every day, as many as 40 people choose to move to Seattle to call it home. Whether it is a new job opportunity, an education, or the desire to live in a place where one can be themselves without fear of violence or harassment, Seattle is their destination. Others have lived in this city for 40 years and the milestones experienced represent a very personal history here. For both those new to Seattle and for those who have lived here for many years, my goal is to ensure that Seattle’s growth is founded in welcoming and inclusive values.

As a planner, I understand the challenges that can come alongside growth (added congestion on streets, a loss of neighborhood character, and increased demands on elements of neighborhood livability like parks and schools) may make many long-term residents of Seattle wary of growth. But it’s these hurdles that we work to address through land use policy. Here are a few examples of how we support and enhance the aspects that have for so long drawn people to our city while simultaneously welcome new neighbors and build pathways for everyone to prosper as a result of future growth:

  • Increase access to economic prosperity and more affordable housing for a wide variety of households and housing types all throughout the city;
  • Require new development to contribute to long-term subsidized units that allow low and moderate income people to stay in our city as housing costs rise;
  • Contribute to neighborhood character through better design quality and strategies to protect historic structures;
  • Make room for working families through new approaches to family-sized housing that allow for more families to occupy space that previously held one home and to encourage larger units to be built within higher-density areas;
  • Encourage more spaces for neighbors to come together in our schools, parks, cultural institutions, and commercial districts;
  • Establish new requirements for certain residential and commercial buildings to support multi modal transit for their occupants, and;
  • Support the character of neighborhood businesses districts to reflect the vitality of the neighborhoods that they serve as more people call the neighborhood home.

To be able to extend more housing choices allows people to participate in and prosper from the opportunities presented by growth as well as increase the ability for established and emerging communities to be able to call this city home.

I’ll reiterate that to be welcoming means a lot of things, but through my land use work, it means to make space. Here’s how you can get involved to help have a voice in how we make space at the city and neighborhood level:

  • Attend a workshop. To date we have supported 12 Urban Village Community Design Workshops, a number of neighborhood walks, and have 6 additional Workshops coming up between late February and March. Through this process to date, we have gotten feedback and questions from nearly 1,000 people throughout the city.
  • Stay tuned for the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. This document will identify potential impacts related to citywide zone changes and how those impacts might be mitigated.
  • Add your thoughts online. By using the city’s online engagement tool you can share concerns and opportunities as well as comment on your neighbors’ ideas.
  • Talk with your neighbors.  Attend one of your neighborhood meetings. Host a neighborhood or block meeting. Find ways to interact with more people who may have a different experience or lifestyle from you and meet new people in your neighborhood. In neighborhoods across the city, neighbors are talking about ways to both celebrate and improve the city; add your voice to the conversation.
  • Sign up to receive updates at Seattle.Gov/HALA.  
  • Call the HALA Hotline, (206) 743-6612. Call with your questions or comments M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Share


Homelessness Update

February 2nd, 2017

Many constituents have asked where we are in the process of addressing Seattle’s homelessness crisis. The proposal of CB 118794 last fall shined a spotlight on areas where the city needed to step up. While that piece of legislation did not move forward, I am glad that it ultimately inspired the council and the executive to increase investments in short-term support to people living without homes while longer-term strategies, like Pathways Home, are established. In the months that have followed, there has been quite a bit of work done to address the homelessness crisis and in this blog post I want to:

  • Address two common concerns;
  • Report on the status of new and increased investments to support our homeless neighbors;
  • Share new draft city rules regarding the removal of encampments and invite you to share your feedback;
  • And provide resources for you to take action and help us solve this crisis.

 

Two concerns to address:

First, some constituents have let me know that police officers have received ‘stand down’ orders from city council when it comes to calls concerning homeless encampments. While it’s clear that when our encampment removal policies lack clarity, confusion amidst departments results, but when it comes to criminal activity, there is no confusion with SPD in regards to enforcing the law.

The city council does not dictate how the Seattle Police Department enforces city laws; officers investigate reports of criminal behavior and take appropriate enforcement action, regardless of the housing status of those involved. Chief Steve Wilske, who commands the Patrol Operations Bureau, is the only person who gives commands to SPD patrol officers and he has never given orders to not enforce the law. Please read this SPD blotter post for more information.

And second, my office receives many calls from constituents frustrated by the trash accumulation on freeway on and off ramps. While I commend the very responsive work of SPU’s illegal dumping team, they do not have the jurisdiction to clean up WDOT owned land. The city is in the process of working out a memorandum of understanding with the state, but the trash accumulation happening now is simply unacceptable.

I encourage you to contact members of Washington State’s transportation committee and let them know how you feel about waste accumulation on WSDOT property.

 

Bridging the Gap Status Update:

In October 2016, the Mayor announced the Bridging the Gap to Pathways Home plan, outlining investments in short-term support to people living without homes while longer-term strategies to address our homelessness crisis are addressed through longer term solutions. Below are a few pilot programs I’d like to highlight (for a full report, feel free to watch this Human Services & Public Health committee meeting, starting at 27:11):

Encampment Trash Pilots

Goal: Consistent, safe removal of trash located near unsanctioned homeless encampments without disrupting lives of encampment residents by mistaking personal items for trash. SPU helps people living unsheltered better manage their own trash by providing specific encampment sites either scheduled or on-call pick-up of their trash.

Current status: SPU works with city departments and external contractors to provide scheduled and on-call trash pick-up at specified locations throughout the city. Currently, scheduled pick-ups occur at unsanctioned sites at the Ballard Locks, 13th and Nickerson, and  4814 15th Ave NW. The Myers Way site that was previously collected from has moved to regular garbage collection as a sanctioned encampment.

 

Business Improvement Agreements & Litter Abatement Pilots

Goal: SPU works with neighborhood Business Improvement Areas to support local Clean City efforts to address graffiti and litter.

In 2016, SPU conducted Litter Abatement Pilots in three communities: Little Saigon, Ballard, and Chinatown/International District (CHID) to determine the best way to resolve litter issues. The Pilots delivered litter services, pressure washing, and other as needed service. Desired outcomes included cleaner neighborhoods, satisfied communities, along with viable and sustainable litter abatement programs and services.

Current status: SPU’s first phase of the Litter Abatement Pilots serviced Little Saigon, CHID, and Ballard for six months in 2016. Community partners have taken over services in these areas as of February 1, 2017, and intend to access Office of Economic Development grants to fund their efforts. SPU is now identifying three new locations for the pilot, using the Race and Social Justice Initiative tool kit. SPU aims to settle on locations by the end of March, and start serving the new areas in the second quarter.

 

Needle Pick-Up

Goal: SPU responds to complaints concerning sharps in the public right-of-way made via the Illegal Dumping Hotline, “Find It, Fix It” Mobile App, or on-line Website report, within 24 hours from the time of receiving the complaint.

Current status: SPU has successfully placed 6 large sharp boxes in 2016, and responded to sharps complaints within 24 hours (apart from complaints received Friday after 5pm – Saturday 10 am, and holidays). Since its inception in August 2016, this program resulted in over 1,100 sharps having been collected in response to over 165 complaints through the end of 2016.

New draft city rules:

Since 2008, the City has had specific rules for the removal of encampments that balance providing services and alternatives to people living in encampments while addressing public health and safety concerns.

The purpose of these rules is to streamline procedures for removal across departments that do not have their own protocols set in place. With the many different city departments playing roles at various stages of an encampment removal, these rules are complicated – so complicated that confusion and inconsistent application often result. I strongly believe that because the subject of these rules are the shelters and possessions of homeless individuals, achieving a higher degree of clarity and consistency for our department protocols will benefit everyone involved.

Recognizing this need for increased clarity among departments, the Task Force on Unsanctioned Encampment Cleanup Protocols convened throughout 2016 and made recommendations on changing the encampment removal rules. The new draft rules can be found here, but to summarize, compared to the existing rules, the new rules:

  • Identify specific criteria for prioritizing the removal of encampments;
  • Require the offer of a shelter alternative in order to remove many encampments;
  • Require the City to deliver personal property it stores from encampments to their owners;
  • And streamline the process for removing encampments that obstruct the intended use of public facilities like sidewalks and parks.

The City wants to know what you think about these changes and will be accepting public comment on the proposed rules through Wednesday, Feb. 15. I encourage you to send your feedback:

By mail: City of Seattle
Department of Finance and Administrative Services
Attention: Frances Samaniego
P.O. Box 94689
Seattle, WA 98124-4689
By email: frances.samaniego@seattle.gov

 

Resources for you:

If you see trash accumulation on city owned public property, use the Find It, Fix It app or call 206.684.7587. This geo-locates the trash accumulation in question and adds it to the queue of areas for SPU to address. I’d encourage you to report trash/illegal dumping as you see it, and to encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. For more information, visit:

If you come across dangerous litter, like needles, please call the needle hotline at 206.684.7587 and SPU will ensure pick-up within 24 hours.

With each of these channels of feedback, data accumulated helps SPU and FAS to prioritize areas that get an influx of complaints. When patterns like these are made clear, it’s easier for our departments to ensure these areas get more regular attention.

Lastly, I know that many of you are active volunteers in our community, and for that, I thank you. But if this has inspired you to take action and you happen to be looking for an organization with whom to volunteer, here are a few of my personal favorites:

U District Foodbank

Youthcare

Mary’s Place

TC3

Share


© 1995-2016 City of Seattle