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Accountability on Spending and Oversight of Ship Canal Water Quality Project; South Park Community Safety Walk & Reflections on our Multi-departmental Programs; In-District Office Hours

Accountability on Spending and Oversight of Ship Canal Water Quality Project

In my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee (CRUEDA) on Tuesday we received another update from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) on the Ship Canal Water Quality (SCWQP) project.

As I’ve written about previously, the SCWQP is a joint project with King County to address a significant amount of combined sewer overflow (CSOs). 85% of Seattle’s 2018 overflow volume was from five outfalls which will be addressed by this project. This project is part of a larger effort for both the County and the City to limit the number of overflows in order to reduce contaminated water from reaching Puget Sound.  This work is required under a Federal and State Consent Decree.

As I wrote about last year, SPU reports that the project will cost $570 million. This is a very large project, one that’s funded with ratepayer funds. Because of the size and importance of this project, during the 2018 budget process the Council included a spending proviso on this project in order to exercise our oversight role on the project to have accountability for the rate payer dollars used for the capital construction of this project.  A budget proviso ensures that spending can’t occur at a certain stage in project development, until the Council specifically allows additional spending. In the case of the SCWQP, the Council stopped spending at the 100% design phase of the tunnel portion of the project.  After reporting on the status of the project, the Council can choose, if there’s good news, to vote in favor of releasing the funds to proceed with the rest of project. If there’s bad news, the Council can stop spending on a project, or change the project scope to address problems that might arise.

The good news is, SPU has updated their confidence rating from 65% to 70%, which means that the project is 70% likely to cost $570 million or less (the City’s share is approximately $393 million). The confidence rating increases as the project moves closer to completion and as risks go down. The SCWQP is actually five major construction projects. The storage tunnel is the largest project estimated at $218 million. As SPU moves closer to securing a contractor for construction of the tunnel – which will be in the 3rd quarter of this year – the confidence rating should continue to go up.

My committee voted to lift the proviso and allow SPU to continue forward with the selection of a construction contractor. The Council will get another update from SPU later this year as a contractor is selected and preconstruction works begins on the tunnel with construction beginning in earnest in early 2020.

 

South Park Community Safety Walk & Reflections on our Multi-departmental Programs

Last Thursday I participated in a Community Safety Walk in South Park organized by community partners with the Duwamish Valley Clean-up Coalition (DRCC) and Seattle Neighborhood Group (SNG) in partnership with the Mayor’s Office. Multiple city departments were present, including the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Seattle Public Utilities, Office of Economic Development, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Department of Transportation, Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle City Light, Seattle Police Department, and the Department of Construction and Inspections.

The Safety Walk started at the South Park Community Center, and took us on a loop down toward the Duwamish Waterway Park on 10th and South Elmgrove, through the industrial parkway along the Duwamish Bike Trail on Kenyon, a stop by César Chavez Park next to SR-99, past the South Park Library on the Duwamish Trail to Henderson by SeaMar, and finally down an alley between Cloverdale and Donovan to the small business district at Cloverdale and 14th.

I pointed out a condemned property that several constituents have contacted me about on Dallas Ave South since 2017. I’ve supported the constituents in working with Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections in requiring the building to be repaired or demolished within 60 days of 4/2/18 so that the property could be put to better use.   Unfortunately, the property still has neither been demolished or repaired and the community is very frustrated that the city is not holding the property owner accountable to fulfilling the requirements of the January 2018 ruling.

Particularly in a housing crisis, this and several other abandoned properties we saw reaffirmed my efforts to strengthen the Vacant Building Monitoring Program (I’ve written about this most recently here).

Other issues pointed out during the tour were:

  • graffiti
  • overgrowth in the public right-of-way, specifically on the trail and the skatepark
  • hotspots for garbage accumulation
  • RV encampments
  • The need for more parks programming that youth can access

With leaders like Paulina Lopéz, Carmen Martínez, Robin Schwartz, and Cesar Roman facilitating the Safety Walk, City officials like myself heard first-hand the priorities from the perspective of active members of the community. For instance, Carmen spoke to the work of the Youth Corps in engaging private property owners whose properties have been tagged, and how graffiti reflects and contributes to youth gang violence. The City has had a Graffiti Nuisance ordinance on the books since 1994 based on reporting and cooperation from property owners. Carmen explained that the Youth Corps should be resourced-up specifically with matching paint to cover the graffiti, because graffiti intervention can be a gang-prevention and community beautification strategy that activates youth in the neighborhood.

This is exactly the kind of community-up collaboration that I find effective. Last budget cycle, I supported and City Council approved $500,000 for the Your Voice Your Choice Neighborhood Parks Street Fund that grants community-driven improvement projects—in 2018 two projects were funded in South Park: one to improve the pedestrian walkway under SR-99 and help connect people walking from Concord Elementary to the South Park Library, and another to install better traffic barriers at 12th and Thistle. These grants provide constituents an opportunity to improve their communities. This is a message that I think many City officials need to hear, and should be a major principle in creating safer, just neighborhoods.

 

In-District Office Hours

On March 31, I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S) from 2:00pm – 7:00pm. The final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, June 28, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, July 26, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 16, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, September 27, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, October 25, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, November 29, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, December 20, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
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