Highlights from the Mayor’s Proposed Budget, Fauntleroy Way SW Boulevard Project, Next Week in the Budget Process, Comp Plan 2035, Bag Ban Update

Comp Plan 2035 The 2035 Comprehensive Plan is the 20-year framework for most of Seattle’s big-picture decisions on how to grow while preserving and improving our neighborhoods. The Plan guides City decisions on where to build new jobs and houses, how to improve our transportation system, and where to make capital investments such as utilities, sidewalks, and libraries. My amendments are focused on issues impacting District 1 and the Committees that I serve on: Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development (including labor standards), and Arts; Affordable Housing, Neighborhood and Finance; and Planning, Land Use and Zoning. Seattle Public Utilities One of the things I recognized in the Seattle Public Utilities element was the need to create a new policy under the environmental section to work to identify and reduce flooding through improvements to drainage and wastewater systems particularly in traditionally underserved areas.  I also proposed language to uplift the use of race and social justice lens to guide investments throughout the section as well as serving traditionally underserved areas. Additionally, I proposed updates to reflect our need for increased composting. Economic Development My economic development amendments are in alignment with my 2016 work plan and focus on: ensuring the City will continue to pursue strategies for community development that help; protect local neighborhood and cultural identity by preserving locally owned business at risk of displacement due to increasing costs; meet the needs of marginalized populations in multicultural business districts; and ensure that the city supports innovative small business that could form new industry clusters. My amendments also included policy language that commits the city to identify opportunities and job placement for older workers and others who may have unique challenges finding employment; to train and hire local residents so the existing workforce can participate in the city’s shared prosperity; and to coordinate community development activities in places of low access to opportunity and high displacement risk. Arts, Culture and Music I worked with the Music Commission and the Arts Commission to incorporate amendments they supported. Changes include emphasizing arts and culture as part of economic development strategy; the importance of live music and entertainment venues to the vibrancy of the city’s culture; making City funding programs more accessible to small, independent artists, musicians and arts organizations, particularly from underrepresented communities; recognizing and regularly assessing the economic impact of Seattle’s music and nightlife sector, and highlighting the importance of arts and music education.  Further amendments include encouraging access to affordable workspaces for musicians, encouraging partnerships for the use of public spaces, and assisting communities in creating a toolkit for assisting communities in developing art. I also worked with Historic Seattle to rename the “Cultural Resources” element of the Comp Plan “Historic Preservation and Cultural Resources” and to require that we update surveys of historic and cultural resources when developing or updating a new community plan, and noting that preserving historic buildings can help incubate small, locally-owned businesses, and encouraging reinvestment of a share of tourism revenue to sustain historic preservation, given the importance to tourism. Community Engagement I worked with community advocates on a new “Community Involvement” element. Some of the changes include retitling the “Community Involvement” element to be “Community and Neighborhood Planning,” element; collaboration with the community in implementing plans, that those directly affected by proposals should be involved; enhancing the ability of community members, including from marginalized communities, to develop the knowledge and skills to effectively participate in planning and decision-making processes, and adding “neighborhood” in a number of places. Growth Strategy and Land Use If the city truly plans to grow sustainably and equitably, we must address displacement. I worked with constituents and community partners as well as Councilmembers O’Brien and Johnson to uplift the need to address displacement risks. Our amendments are about ensuring those who live here can continue to live here and to provide opportunity for communities of color and low income residents to be included in the planning process to ensure that the city is developing and implementing practices to involve historically represented communities in decision making; and ensuring the city will work with communities where growth is slower than anticipated to identify barriers to growth and strategies to overcome those barriers. I supported numerous amendments identified by constituents concerned about the impacts of the city’s urban village growth strategy to require the city to monitor various aspects of growth over time and respond to with adjusted approaches if growth significantly exceeds the estimates; to add numerical growth estimates to the growth strategy and adding housing and jobs development capacity figures for each urban center and village. In furtherance, I supported my economic development policy amendments by amending the land use element to permit the city to use zoning and other planning tools in urban centers and urban villages to address displacement of small locally-owned businesses that reinforce local neighborhood and cultural identity and provide culturally relevant goods and services to Seattle’s diverse population. Housing I together with Councilmembers O’Brien and Johnson championed significant policy recommendations in the 2016 Housing Levy and Mandatory Housing Affordability-Residential Framework legislation to mitigate displacement through preservation. Thus, my housing element amendments included: identifying affordable housing at risk of displacement and applying measures to mitigate that displacement ahead of planned upzones; monitoring the supply of housing and encouraging the replacement of housing that is demolished or converted to nonresidential or higher-cost residential use; supporting the development and preservation of affordable housing in areas with a high risk of displacement through tools and actions such as land banking, public or non-profit acquisition of affordable buildings and mixed income development; and mitigating the potential demolition of housing units that are affordable to low income household without subsidies. Lastly, in effort to address the perennial issues of housing discrimination  our efforts resulted in amendments to the housing element to utilize affirmative marketing and fair housing education and enforcement.   Bag Ban Updated Bill In 2011 the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic and biodegradable bags. Additionally, a minimum charge of 5 cent per paper bag was instituted. This was done to incentivize customers to use reusable bags, and to help store owners recoup the cost for the bags. However, this requirement for customers to pay the 5 cent fee was set to sunset on December 31st of this year. At my September 23 CRUEDA Committee we discussed and voted on a bill that removes the sunset date for the 5 cent charge for paper bags. Retailers continue to support maintaining the charge to offset their costs and the Committee members agreed that the fee was still important to encourage customers to use reusable bags. However, we learned that this charge does not sufficiently compensate independent and smaller retailers for their bag costs because they do not purchase as many bags and therefore pay a higher price per bag. This may also be why Seattle Public Utilities has found a lower rate of compliance with the Bag Ban in smaller stores. I will continue monitoring this issue to ensure that this fee is adequate to improve compliance rates among smaller retailers. The new ordinance also added new requirements to address contamination from plastic bags in our composting stream. There are several confusing terms, look-alike bags, and “greenwashing” practices which have led to contamination of our composted materials. To combat this we’ve added a new definition of compostable which meets the standard specifications for the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).compostable-plastic-chart Additionally, the new ordinance bans bags provided to customers that are labeled biodegradable, degradable, decomposable, or similar terms. This is because not all degradable plastics are compostable. Degradable only means that it can break down into smaller bits of plastic. Biodegradable means that it can be broken down by microorganisms, but the term doesn’t describe how long it takes or under what conditions.   Finally, the new ordinance stipulates that compostable bags provided to customers must be tinted green or brown and labeled compostable. Any non-compostable bags shall not be tinted green or brown.   Mayor’s Proposed Budget: Highlights On Monday the 26th, the Mayor released his proposed 2017-2018 City Budget and 2017-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. Here are a few highlights: Fauntleroy Way Southwest Boulevard The Fauntleroy Way Southwest Boulevard Project between 35th Avenue SW and SW Alaska is included in the Mayor’s proposed budget for construction in 2018, with design completed next year. Improvements to Fauntleroy have long been a priority for the community, and were first prioritized in the 1999 West Seattle Junction Hub Neighborhood Plan, and later in the West Seattle Triangle planning process; the streetscape plan was formally adopted by SDOT in 2012. Fauntleroy is included in the Bicycle Master Plan, adopted in 2014. The project is designed to provide a gateway entrance to West Seattle coming in from the West Seattle Bridge, and to move away from the suburban, commercial-style arterial criticized in the 1999 plan toward a more pedestrian, transit, and bicycle-friendly urban boulevard, in an area with increasing residential density and transit use. It was funded in the Move Seattle Levy passed by voters in 2016. I thank the Mayor for including this project in his proposed budget in the SDOT Capital Improvement Plan, with design to be completed in 2017 and to begin in construction in 2018. Shortly after taking office at the start of this year, after the levy passed, I became aware of community interest that had surfaced the previous year about exploring the undergrounding of existing utility wires in order to reduce the amount of visual clutter. To address this interest, I organized meetings between community advocates and SDOT and City Light to explore undergrounding. During these discussions it became clear the undergrounding would increase costs by several million dollars. This project was funded in the Move Seattle levy, but did not include funding for undergrounding. At my request, City Light and SDOT worked to provide cost estimates for undergrounding, which showed a funding gap of $4-5 million; a subsequent meeting revealed additional potential costs for a total gap of $5-7 million. Community advocates proposed a compromise solution involving design modifications for beautification, consolidation, and standardization of utility poles, to provide a better overall appearance and facilitate placemaking, in keeping with the aim to create a gateway entrance. I’d like to thank the Mayor, SDOT and City Light for their work, as well as community advocates, and former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who also played a key role at the Council last year in moving this project forward, for their work in developing this solution that allows the project to move forward. I look forward to the City continuing to work with the community on the details as design for the project moves forward during 2017.   Some of the other notable proposals in the Mayor’s budget include: Lander Street Overpass: construction is scheduled to begin in 2018; the project is $27.5 million short of the $142 million needed for full funding Center City Streetcar: proposed for construction in 2018, with a budget of $151 million, with a proposal to use$45 million in commercial parking tax revenues Police officers: 72 new officers are proposed to be hired, 35 in 2017, and 37 in 2018, as part of the 2014-2019 plan to add 200 officers; approximately 100 of those positions have previously been created and funded Community Police Commission: funding continues in 2017 and 2018 South Park Drainage Partnership: funding listed from 2018 to 2020 to install a pump station to control flooding in South Park, install a drainage system, and repair deteriorated roads; the South Park Pump Station is included in the SPU CIP, will meet the levels of service adopted in the 2004 Comprehensive Drainage Plan; additional funding is listed in the SDOT CIP The Council will be reviewing these proposals during the coming weeks. I think we should explore whether commercial parking tax funds might be better spent on fully funding the long-delayed Lander Street Overpass project—and ensuring it begins on schedule—and funding the Center City Streetcar through a Local Improvement District, the way the South Lake Union Streetcar was partially funded. A 2006 Council Resolution on funding priorities for the “Bridging the Gap” levy/commercial parking tax proposal reserved $80 million in funding for Lander, Mercer, and the Spokane Viaduct. In 2008, Lander was eliminated, and funding re-directed to the other projects. One-third of that 2006 major-project funding, $27 million, roughly equals the amount needed to fully fund the project. We’ll also need clarity about how operations costs of this streetcar would be funded. So far, we’ve used sharply contrasting models: the SLU Streetcar is funded using Metro service hours; the First Hill Streetcar’s operations are funded through the ST2 ballot measure. The Mayor’s speech and issue summaries are available at his website.   Next Week in the Budget Process During the budget process for the next two months I’ll provide a brief update on what’s coming up in the Budget Committee over the next week, and opportunities to get involved. Here’s what’s coming up the week of October 3:
  • October 5: public hearing at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers
  • October 6, 7: Department Overviews
Earlier today, the City Budget Office presented a high-level overview of the Mayor’s proposed budget, and an update on revenues. You can access the presentation at the committee agenda page. You can click here for more on the budget process and schedule.          
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