Illegal Dumping, CRUEDA Update, and Alki Community Council
Seattle Public Utility’s (SPU) Brand New Approach to Address Illegal dumping Since 2014, the number of illegal dumping service requests to SPU has jumped from about 5,000 to an astonishing 11,500 in 2015. As a result, unfortunately, the average response time went from 21 days to 28 days. To address this SPU decided they needed to find a way to both 1. Reduce the current service request backlog and 2. Improve future response times. In order to do that, last week SPU assigned temporary staff to consolidate the backlog of service requests. As of February 18th they had 100% of the backlogged requests reviewed and found that approximately 25% were duplicate requests. This clearly demonstrated a need to address the issue of illegal dumping differently. In other words, SPU shifted from an enforcement model that only responded to complaints, to an enforcement model that also includes proactively clean up illegal dumping in areas where it happens frequently. SPU is now preparing “clean sweep” maps and routes for cleanup crews where they will drive each street to pick up both reported and unreported items – especially in those locations that have frequent illegal dumping activity, so that pick-up opportunities are maximized, the complaint backlog reduced, and response time improved. Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee Highlights You may have heard about the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) project on 23rd Avenue and the impacts of this construction on the businesses in the area. Though the problems have only recently come to light at City Hall, the Central District businesses have been dealing with them for many, many months. Businesses that have been around for 20 years, like Earl’s Cuts and Styles barbershop and Flowers Just 4U have seen sales plummet since November and are at risk of closing down. Other businesses have had to delay expansion plans. Since my committee addresses issues related to economic development – particularly small businesses in our neighborhood business districts – last week I requested that the Office of Economic Development (OED) and SDOT come and brief my committee on how they intended to address these impacts. BACKGROUND The “rechannelization” project is to modify 23rd Ave from a four-lane street to a three-lane street – one lane in each direction with a center left-turn lane, (key intersections will stay four lanes). As with District 1’s own 35th Avenue SW rechannelization project, the turn lane is intended to allow left-turning vehicles to make a safe left turn, while still allowing thru-traffic to continue through an intersection and down the street. Road rechannelization projects are often controversial, but in this case, because of a desire to reduce collisions, to allow vehicles to turn without blocking traffic, and to make streets easier to cross there was relatively little opposition for this project. A commitment was made to the community that this part of the project would be broken into zones, as a way to reduce impacts by making sure that no more than 2 blocks were under construction at any given time. But all of that changed in November 2015 when a problem arose with the design of the light poles. To keep the project on schedule SDOT decided to start work on the 2nd zone of the project before the 1st zone was completed. Neither OED nor the community was consulted. As one business owner told the Seattle Times, “This project has been a slow squeeze to the point now where we get no car traffic, no bus traffic, no foot traffic, and this isn’t just about me. This is about a corridor of 100 percent minority and family-owned businesses.” WHAT NOW? Though the business community had been told previously that there were no funds to assist them beyond some limited marketing services, the day before my CRUEDA committee meeting, the Mayor announced a $650,000 Business Stabilization Fund formed comprised of federal Community Development Block Grant funds and fees from New Market Tax Credits. In my committee we learned more about how those funds would be administered. Eligible businesses are:
- Micro business with 5 or fewer employees; and
- Serve a low-income service area; or
- A low-income business owner, earning less than 80% AMI and
- Has a demonstrated need.