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Happy 2019! And a Look Back on 2018 Accomplishments

 

CONTENTS

PART 1: ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT

PART 2: D1 SPOTLIGHT

PART 3: PUBLIC SAFETY & SEATTLE POLICE OFFICER CONTRACT

PART 4: CIVIL RIGHTS FOR A BETTER SEATTLE

PART 5: HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

PART 6: CONSTITUENT CONTACTS

 

PART 1: ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT


Capital Project Oversight

Cost increases for the Center City Streetcar and a Downtown protected bike lane highlighted the importance of the Council receiving sufficient information on an ongoing basis, to oversee capital project spending, and to be able to identify problems early.

Capital projects (construction projects) are listed in the annual six-year Capital Project Improvement Program (CIP).  Although the most recent CIP, for 2018-2023, is 1015 pages, it provides limited information for these hundreds of projects. More finely-tuned, timely information is needed for adequate Council oversight.

In 2018, the City Council received an update on new Capital Oversight and Quarterly Reporting standards and recommendations to improve capital project oversight reporting. The report was required in response to Resolution 31720 that the Council passed after Councilmember Johnson and I called for additional oversight of city capital projects. The capital project oversight work program, included a CIP Oversight Assessment Report, an agreement among city departments with large capital projects to agree to formalize project stages, with shared terminology.

Then later that year, during the budget process, I proposed and the Council passed legislation to establish enhanced reporting requirements for the City’s Capital Improvement Program projects, and to use a “stage-gate” appropriation process for selected projects.  This resolution memorializes the work that the Council, Mayor and CBO have done over the last few years to increase capital project oversight.

The legislation requires: 1) enhanced quarterly reports for projects on the “Watch List,”, which show project risk in green, yellow, or red, based on risk factors re: scope, schedule, budget, coordination, community impact, and political risks; and 2) identification of projects for “stage-based” appropriations, where the Council establishes spending limits for certain phases or activities on a capital project (such as we’ve done for the Delridge Multimodal Corridor project).

The Mayor will propose a Watch List early this year, and the Council will adopt it; projects can also be added during the year.


SPU/SCL Call Center Improvements

SPU worked with me to develop a committee work plan for review and monitoring the performance of the call center and coordinatization with SPU to resolve identified issues.  I took this issue up in my workplan even though the call center handles both SPU & SCL problems and the data shows that most of the problems relate to SCL billing issues

The most common complaint that I heard is that the phone wait times were far too long, and often people give up waiting to be connected to a customer service representative.

SPU undertook several steps to help correct the problem:

  • Created an offline team to handle all the non-phone related customer requests – emails, escrow requests, solid waste online service requests, and staffing customer service desk.
  • Changes were made to SPU’s website to improve the way customers send us emails to ensure that we receive all the necessary information to promptly respond to the customer’s issue.
  • The contact center hired 8 temporary Customer Service Representatives to exclusively handle Solid Waste calls and emails. Staffing levels had not increased at the call center since 2001

Last summer I had an opportunity to tour the call center and learned about the improvement in call times and abandonment rates. Here are two charts that compare this year’s performance with that of last year.


Making Sure Growth Pays for Growth – Developer Impact Fees

Impact fees are authorized fees by Washington State law to allow local jurisdictions to charge developers to address the needs for capacity improvements to transportation, parks, schools, and fire facilities. Local jurisdictions are only allowed to charge to address the impacts associated with growth. Impact fees cannot be used to pay for infrastructure needs that are backlogged.

In 2018, the Council issued an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan establishing a list of projects, for which capacity improvements are needed to accommodate growth.  We’d planned to, in December 2018, consider 2018 Comprehensive Plan amendments for a transportation impact fee program.

Two appeals were filed to oppose the Transportation Impact Fee Comp Plan amendment.  The appeal means that we are unable to act in December as planned. You can follow the issue here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/issues/impact-fees

There are also Utility Impact Fees called: System Development Charges (SDCs), one-time charges on new customers to buy into or access the utility system. These charges are also authorized by the State, but in the past, Seattle has been hesitant to implement these fees.  Most other jurisdictions utilize these charges in order to hold new development accountable for increased costs for the utility, rather than spreading the costs of this infrastructure to general ratepayers. Much like other types of impact fees (Parks, Transportation, and School impact fees authorized by the State), the graph below shows that Seattle just doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to make sure developers pay their fair share in the same ways that other jurisdictions do.

In June SPU delivered their first report to Council which describes the work which needs to be completed in order to make a recommendation on legislative changes to the Council. The paper covers four main issue areas: SDCs Calculation (how to calculate the fees), Use of SDCs Revenue (where and how to spend the revenue), Latecomer Agreements (how to accommodate “first-in developments”), and Affordable Housing Development.

I have worked with SPU and they have enacted a Director’s Rule to update the water connection charge and water taps installation fees. These changes went into effect in October 2018. Other changes will require legislation to implement.   We should receive this proposed bill in the Spring.  Again, why should you care?  Well, the closer SPU gets to full cost recovery for the costs associated with new customers using the system, the less these costs will be shifted to the general rate payer.  Growth and development are happening now, and the longer we wait the less effective these policies will be in generating needed revenue for the utility which will offset rate increases.


New Green Electric Trucks Save Tax Payer Money

I worked with the members on my committee to send this letter to SPU to specifically explain that we felt strongly that Seattle should pursue a pilot program for electric garbage trucks.

Both Waste Management and Recology submitted proposals for two full size (class 8) electric trucks for feasibility testing, four midsized (class 6) electric trucks for small routes and container delivery, and ten electric supervisor pick-up trucks and support vehicles. As Seattle prides itself on its green values, this important step of introducing electric garbage trucks, puts Seattle at the forefront of developing technologies in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

The new contracts would result in savings of $5 million per year starting in 2019, for a total of $50 million in savings over the course of the 10-year contract. Additionally, the new contract will add routine clean-up crews to proactively address debris, graffiti, and other community impacts.

 

PART 2: D1 SPOTLIGHT


Schmitz Park Property Acquisition

The City Council passed legislation in 2018 authorizing the Parks Department to purchase the 5,000-square foot plot for $225,000, which is less than half of its assessed value of $473,000. The funds will come from the 2008 levy which are mainly used to support property acquisition, capital expansion, development, and renovation of Seattle Parks and Parks facilities. The purchase will also use an innovative policy called the “life-estate agreement” which will allow the property owner to remain in his home.


Crescent-Hamm Building Historic Preservation

As Seattle grows, it’s critically important to maintain connections to our past. Seattle’s Preservation program, in effect since 1973, has designated more than 450 sites as landmarks, helping us to preserve our heritage.

The City Council voted in 2018 to complete the landmark designation process and impose development controls for the Crescent-Hamm Building in the Alaska Junction, located on the northwest corner of Alaska and California. It’s the location of Easy Street Records and other businesses.

These nominations came thanks to the work of the Southwest Seattle Historical Study Group, a collaboration of the SW Seattle Historical Society, SW District Council, West Seattle Junction Association, the Junction Association (JuNO), and ArtsWest.


Alki Vehicle Noise Enforcement – Relief for Alki Coming Soon

Residents of Alki and adjacent neighborhoods developed the Alki Public Safety and Health Survey.  The results of this survey showed clear community concerns regarding vehicle noise; noise from modified vehicle exhaust systems was the #1 community concern.

SPD felt that current laws regarding noise can be difficult to enforce, and that possible adjustments could improve SPD’s ability to enforce. In response the Council passed legislation last year that I introduced to address vehicle exhaust system noise.  The new law uses the standard in the City’s motor vehicle stereo noise law (SMC 25.08.515 (A)(2), in effect since 1989. It simplifies enforcement by allowing officers to issue citations for muffler and engine noise that “can be clearly heard by a person of normal hearing at a distance of 75 feet or more from the vehicle.”

As a beachside neighborhood and a regional destination, the Alki neighborhood and nearby areas face unique public safety and health challenges, especially during the warm-weather months. Residents, community groups, and visitors from elsewhere have expressed concern about public safety, and the growing impact of motor vehicle-related noise issues.  Community members still have concerns about whether the SPD is using this new tool.  I will continue to advocate for enforcement of the City’s laws.


South Park Community Center Late Night Hours Added

The Late-Night Program at the South Park Community Center now runs not only on Fridays but Saturdays as well, between 7pm and 12am from June 2 through September 29, for youth between the ages of 13 and 19.  These extended hours will make the community center more accessible and help meet the needs of our young people living in South Park.

For those of you that have been following last Fall’s report and recommendations of the South Park Public Safety Taskforce, you will know that that I have been working with community members towards the implementation of these recommendations. You can read my last blog post that covers all of the recommendations.

The Duwamish Valley Action Plan identifies over 90 near, mid, and long-term actions the City will take to deliver measurable community health and well-being outcomes. Many of the short-term item mentioned in the plan are already completed, thanks to the advocacy of South Park residents working with my office and the Executive, such as adding street lighting in the alley between Cloverdale and Donovan, and hiring a public safety coordinator, as proposed by the South Park Public Safety Task Force.  The plan is also available in Spanish Vietnamese, and Somali.


Funding to Reduce Flooding Impacting District 1 Businesses and Residents

I, with the help of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), successfully secured $14.9 million to be added to the 2019 FCD Capital Improvement Program budget for two high priority urban flood control projects in District 1. The two projects are: $13.1 million for the South Park Drainage Conveyance Improvement Project and $1.8 million for the Puget Way Culvert Replacement Project.

This funding will allow SPU to construct a system of pipes to manage stormwater and will eventually connect to the South Park Pump Station.  In addition to providing a system to manage the stormwater this project will pave many of the streets, and specifically South Monroe will be paved which will help the businesses and residents of the area.

The Puget Way Culvert Replacement Project will reduce flooding impacts to West Marginal Way and Puget Way. Flooding caused by undersized culverts has damaged one of the warehouses along West Marginal Way and caused lane closures to the street.


Added D1 Bus Service

Last Spring I wrote a letter to SDOT requesting that SDOT assess funding additional non-peak hour service to Bus Route 56, which currently only operates on weekdays during rush hour. The letter noted that the among “Seattle’s 30 Urban Centers and Urban Villages, the Admiral Urban Village is one of only two not included the High Capacity Transit Network, and uniquely 1) is not served by the current Frequent Transit Network, and 2) has no off-peak bus service to Downtown. In addition, it saw a decrease in bus service to Downtown, with the 2012 elimination of off-peak service to Downtown on bus route 56. No buses leave for Downtown after 9 a.m. and return buses from Downtown operate only during evening rush hour.”

In response, SDOT, in its reply informed me that King County Metro agreed to add an extra bus trip 30 minutes later in the morning, arriving Downtown around 10 a.m., and a new trip 30 minutes later in the evening, departing Downtown around 7:15 p.m.


Light Rail to West Seattle

2018 was a busy year for planning light rail between West Seattle and Downtown.

I served on the Elected Leadership Group (ELG), which makes recommendations to the Sound Transit governing board about where the West Seattle/Ballard line and stations should be located. We made recommendations in May and October, after receiving recommendations from the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), which consists of community members, including several from West Seattle.

All options include stations in Delridge, at Avalon and 35th, and in the Alaska Junction.

In May I highlighted the need for seamless bus transfers at stations, since stations will be used by people from all over West Seattle; designing stations to allow for future system expansion; minimizing impacts on businesses and residences; the need for visualizations and examining the “walkshed” and ridership of potential stations. The ELG accepted the SAG’s recommendation to move forward with studying tunnel and elevated options. In addition, I requested further examination of the “blue” tunnel option, with a revised alignment to not cross the golf course; it had been proposed for elimination.

In October the ELG adopted recommendations to move forward the “blue” option with an elevated guideway along Delridge, that turns onto Genesee, then goes into a tunnel in the hillside, with underground stations at Avalon and at SW Alaska Street in the Alaska Junction. I supported moving the Pigeon Ridge/West Seattle Tunnel (purple) option, since it scored best for transit integration, especially for riders from South Delridge, Highland Park and White Center; it also reduced impacts on the Delridge neighborhood. However, it didn’t get support from the ELG, due to concerns about cost.  The ELG did endorse elements of the purple option endorsed by the SAG, including moving the station closer to the street for better transit integration, and studying a station location at 41st or 42nd in the Alaska Junction. 44th is also being studied as a station location.

Sound Transit is studying the elevated “Representative Alignment” included in the ballot measure as a baseline; the ELG accepted the SAG’s recommendation to move the Delridge station further south, so that it’s not right by the bridge.


D1 Budget Wins

I fought hard to secure funding in this budget to increase public safety in D1, including funding to maintain a public safety coordinator for South Park, funding for RV Remediation, and enhancing and adding three inspectors to the Vacant Building Monitoring Program, so more vacant properties are monitored and don’t become public safety nuisances for the neighborhood.

I heard from the community and secured $60,000 in funding for Concord Elementary’s Community Learning Center, Citizenship Program funding for Neighborhood House at High Point, funding to allow Colman Pool stay open for an additional 4 weekends a year.

In addition, here are D1 capital projects in the budget:

 

PART 3: PUBLIC SAFETY & SEATTLE POLICE OFFICER CONTRACT

The Council adopted an agreement through 2020 with the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) for wages, hours and working conditions. The contract increases wages 17% over the course of the contract. I voted yes; officers had worked without an updated contract for three years.

A number factors that made this negotiation more complicated than most, due to the intersection of police accountability issues related to the 2012 Consent Decree between the City and the Department of Justice regarding use of force, and the Janus decision by the US Supreme Court which overturned 40 years of precedent regarding union dues for public employees.

The agreement incorporated elements of the accountability ordinance adopted by the Council, and the use of body cameras. SPOG could have challenged the inclusion of the accountability ordinance and body cameras in this agreement, because they were not included when bargaining began in 2014. SPOG voluntarily agreed to include these issues, which showed a willingness to collaborate on implementing reform. Not all elements of the accountability ordinance were included; they can be in the next round of negotiations. Under state law, officers have the right to bargain over working conditions.

I also supported the adoption of the 2019-2020 budget, which increased funding to add 40 new officer positions in 2019 and 2020. Since taking office in 2016, I’ve voted to increase SPD patrol deployment capacity by a total of 112 new officer positions, all in an effort to advance SPD’s goal to add – and fill – 200 new patrol positions.  This represents, over my 3 years on the Council, about $62 million of new investment that that the Council has included for SPD and public safety. Council also approved a budget action requiring SPD to report monthly to the Council on progress in hiring new officers.

The agreement is being reviewed by US District Court Judge Robart, who has oversight authority for implementation of the Consent Decree. The Council also adopted a resolution requesting review of three items related to police accountability.

The Council approved funding in the 2019-20 budget for the re-establishment of the Community Service Officer (CSO) program, which I co-sponsored.  CSOs are unsworn officers who can prioritize community services associated with law enforcement such as crime prevention and non-emergency tasks, and free up SDP officers for 911 response. The program will begin this year.

I voted to approved funding to add the Southwest and South Precincts to the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program in 2019. LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program, first used in Belltown and Skyway, that allows officers to redirect low-level offenders to community-based services. The program, overseen by the City Attorney, SPD,  and others regional partners, is designed to “improve public safety and public order, and to reduce the criminal behavior of people who participate in the program.”

 

PART 4: CIVIL RIGHTS FOR A BETTER SEATTLE


Hate Crimes

In September the City Auditor published Phase 1 for their review of Review of Hate Crime Prevention, Response, and Reporting in Seattle. They Auditor shared these findings in my committee that found hate crimes had increased 126% from 2012 to 2016. There was a further 64% increase from 2016 to 2017. 2018 figures show high rates as well.  One of the recommendations included in the report proposed a regional approach to responding to hate crimes by supporting a statewide agency or task force.”

The report noted the Community Relations Service from the NW Regional Office of the Department of Justice was willing to facilitate meetings to begin this conversation.  Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is likely to close this office.   Nevertheless, I intend to work to co-convene this effort in 2019.

Other recommendations in the report included recommendations in 4 additional categories:

  1. Reporting
  2. Training
  3. Using Data
  4. City Coordination

This year we will receive Phase 2 audit, which will report on how the City implemented its Phase 1 recommendations as well as including both an analysis of disposition of cases and a socio-demographic analysis with University of Washington/

In 2018, I also began work, with City Attorney Pete Holmes on legislation to establish a hate crime-motivation in the Seattle Municipal Code. The legislation would give the City Attorney’s Office (CAO) greater ability to prosecute hate crimes that aren’t being prosecuted under the state felony Malicious Harassment law.


Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Last year I proposed and the Council passed a bill to extend the statute of limitations on sexual harassment claims brought to the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR). This issue was first brought to my attention by a constituent who reached out because she had experienced sexual harassment on her campus.  She had been bounced around from place to place and when she was finally referred to SOCR the current 180 statute of limitations had already expired.

The bill:

  1. Extends the statute of limitations from 180 days to a year and a half for sexual harassment in instances of employment and contracting
  2. Extends the statute of limitations from 180 days to one year in public accommodations


Civil Legal Aid Update

In March the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution to move Seattle toward incorporating more civil legal aid services into the City’s legal defense contract with King County.  Then later, the Council passed an Interlocal Agreement so that civil legal aid attorneys could begin limited direct representation of defendants.

These civil legal aid attorneys help prevent people from experiencing collateral consequences such as losing housing, public benefits, driver’s licenses, and professional technical licenses, as well as addressing other civil issues in the course of a legal defense for an unrelated charge.  Civil legal aid attorneys work with Public Defenders and advocate for defendants to avoid these potential collateral consequences.

Through the first phase of the pilot, 293 cases received civil legal aid from July through December 2017.

If rehabilitation is the goal of our criminal justice system, we need to directly address the unintended consequences of interactions with that system. Homelessness and unemployment should not result from a misdemeanor when it’s completely unrelated to the offense a person allegedly committed.

 


PART 5: HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS


Housing for People with Disabilities

In July this year the Seattle City Council passed CB 119309 amending the Open Housing Ordinance in Chapter 14.08 of the Seattle Municipal Code to increase the types of entities with an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities.

This issue was brought to my attention after a Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) voucher recipient requested a change in her voucher from a studio apartment to one bedroom as a disability related accommodation.  SHA refused to grant her request.

This bill requires that a Section 8 or other subsidy program administrator has an obligation to grant a reasonable accommodation when requested by a person with a disability just like landlords are.  The bill also clarifies that those applying for units and trying to obtain reasonable modifications are equally protected as are tenants who already have housing.


Outcomes in Homelessness Funding

Prior to this year, results-based accountability was utilized in 77% of HSD’s contracts.  Legislation that I sponsored in 2017 require a results-based framework (RBA) for designing all of its human services investments, From January 1 through June 30, 2018 agencies receiving city funds served 18,356 households and helped 4,459 households exit to permanent housing (2,644) or maintain their housing (1,815). Our investments in 2017 resulted in 5,058 exits to permanent housing (or supporting households to maintain their permanent supportive housing) in 2017. The agencies that the City funds have moved almost as many people into permanent housing in the first 6 months of 2018 as in the entire year of 2017.


$1 Million in Funding for Hygiene and Emergency Shelter Services

This time last year the Council allocated an additional $1 million in bridge funding for emergency shelter and drop-in hygiene services ensuring that these essential services would remain funded through 2018.

Last year the Human Services Department announced that they would run a competitive process to re-issue all their homeless dollars. In November of 2017 the Human Services Department announced the awards. Bridge funding was awarded to some of the previously funded organizations who were not awarded ongoing funding through this RFP. Bridge funding offered to service providers not selected in the Homeless Investments RFP process was originally limited to only less than six months for most recipients. This was an insufficient amount of time for some agencies to work with people receiving their services to find new services. I believed then, as I do now, that efforts to transition people to other services should occur and should services proposed for cuts demonstrate that they are more successful in getting people into permanent housing then bridge funding should not be terminated.


Working to Establish a Community Preferences Housing Policy

Community preference polices are a different type of tool to fight displacement. The common approaches to implement community resident preferences include:

  • A portion of rental or ownership units in affordable development are set-aside
  • Preferred applicants may be local residents, workers, former residents, people who have been displaced
  • Lottery used to select affordable housing residents/buyers
  • Policy must affirmatively further fair housing- explicit analysis of racial impact.

Community resident preferences can address historic and current displacement by providing preference for community residents. These policies can provide affordable housing opportunities, support at-risk communities, and stop segregation. When written poorly on the other hand, community resident preferences can perpetuate segregation.  Community resident preferences can be found in New York City, San Francisco, and Portland.

I believe we can use affirmative market and community preference policies to help communities in Seattle that have a high rate of displacement. However, the policies and marketing tools implemented in the City must be written carefully to take into consideration Seattle’s history of racial covenants and redlining.

 

PART 6: CONSTITUENT CONTACTS

This year I hosted 45 hours of in-district office hours where I met with 95 constituents. There are three locations that I rotate between to help make it easier for constituents to meet with me in their neighborhood. Meeting topics ranged from homelessness to transportation to zoning to public safety issues. Multiple groups utilized this time to connect with me about specific issues their organization or neighborhoods were facing. In addition to my in-district office hours I regularly meet with constituents at my office in City Hall.

In-District Office hours will continue again in 2019; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blog to know when I will be in your neighborhood.

In addition to my office hours, we receive thousands of emails from residents all over the city. Last year I said I would have a better count of the total number of emails responded to according to topic. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get an accurate count for the first quarter; however, excluding the first three months we replied to a total of 9,048 emails. As with my previous monthly reports the unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered, what I refer to as “case management services,” and the shaded categories and numbers are emails answered related to policy or legislation that the Council was considering. This number does not reflect the follow up emails which are often required to gather more information or ensure a response from a department should that be necessary.

Here’s the breakout:

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