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Sound Transit Board selects options for EIS; The First Electric Garbage Truck in the US; Amazon Switches to Union Security Workers; East Marginal Way Funding Adopted, Phase 1 Proceeding; Public Hearing on extension of Pike Place Market Boundary re: Showbox June 4

Sound Transit Board selects options for EIS

On May 23rd the Sound Transit Board selected options to study for light rail to West Seattle and Ballard in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Sound Transit Board has regional membership from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and approves all projects and spending for Sound Transit.

The Board’s decision was in line with the recommendations made by the Elected Leadership Group (ELG) I served on.

The recommendations identify Preferred Alternative(s), and other alternatives for study. The Draft EIS will be published in late 2020, and the Final EIS in 2022. It will include significantly more fine-tuned cost estimates; current design is only in the 3-5% range.

For some areas, the Board adopted two preferred alternatives, in line with the ELG’s “current budget” options and the “additional resources” recommendations. The terms used by the Board are “Preferred alternative” and “Preferred alternative with third party funding.”

ALASKA JUNCTION

The Preferred Alternative with Third Party Funding calls for a tunnel station in the vicinity of SW Genesee St, SW Avalon Way and 35th Street SW, and a tunnel station in the vicinity of 41st and 42nd Ave SW.

The Preferred Alternative calls for the “representative alignment”, which has little support, due to impacts on residents and businesses. It includes an elevated Avalon station in the vicinity of SW Genesee St, SW Avalon Way and 35th Street SW, turns southwest onto Fauntleroy, with a station oriented north/south either on Fauntleroy, or in the vicinity of 41st/42nd SW.

An elevated alignment in an Urban Village would be unique in Seattle. Urban Villages are designated to accommodate growth in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, which implements the State Growth Management Act. The Seattle Design Commission recommended the “proposed alignment between Alaska Junction and Avalon Station should be located below grade to reduce the negative impacts within an established neighborhood with an existing commercial core.”

The Board also directed staff to evaluate potential cost savings opportunities and look for opportunities to minimize community impacts and create a high-quality transfer environment for both the Avalon and Alaska Junction station locations.

This action accepted the recommendation of the ELG and the SAG to eliminate the former “yellow” option that would have traveled through the heart of the East Alaska Junction residential community.

DELRIDGE

In Delridge there is one Preferred Alternative, the “blue” line with a station north of Genesee on a diagonal between Delridge Way SW and 26th Avenue SW north of Genesee Street.” This option has significant residential impacts. The Board also included an alternative for the EIS with a station south of Andover, further to the north. This station would be above Delridge Way (the “yellow”) option, and would have similar residential impacts.

The Board also directed staff to conduct an initial assessment of two alternatives, to establish whether further study is warranted.

The first is the “Pigeon Point Tunnel” option I proposed at the ELG meeting in April, to address residential impacts in Youngstown and Pigeon Point; it is a refinement of the former “Pigeon Ridge Tunnel” option; the line would travel in a tunnel through Pigeon Point, with a station at Genesee. It would minimize impacts to the Youngstown residential neighborhood, and has the best transfer environment for buses from the south, an important conclusion of the Race and Social Justice analysis. The motion notes that based on current information this alternative option would require third party funding.

The second option for additional study is the “Yancy/Andover alignment”, “along the Yancy/Andover corridor with a Delridge Station serving Youngtown.” These two options were requested by the Youngstown neighborhood.

The assessment of these options will be brought back to the Board for review and potential action.

The Board also directed staff to “explore refining the Delridge station location, prioritizing a further south location and looking for opportunities to minimize potential residential impacts, create a high- quality transfer environment, optimize transit-oriented development (TOD) potential and reduce costs.”

DUWAMISH RIVER CROSSING

For the Duwamish River crossing, the Board adopted a Preferred Alternative that crossed to the south of the West Seattle Bridge, and listed a North Crossing as an alternative to be studied in the EIS. The most recent cost estimate has the north option costing $300 million more; it would also impact the Port Terminal and Nucor. Staff have indicated it needs to be studied to have an alternative to potential impacts on Pigeon Point in the south crossing alternative.

The Board directed staff to conduct an initial assessment of the Pigeon Point Tunnel option I proposed and return to the board for review and potential action. This option would cross closer to the West Seattle Bridge than the earlier Pigeon Point option, to reduce potential impacts to fishing rights raised by tribal governments, and concerns raised by some industrial businesses.

Here’s a link to the motion adopted by the Board.

Thanks to all the West Seattle constituents who got involved and helped develop these options. They are better because you took the time to get involved!

While I served on the ELG, I’m not on the Sound Transit Board; for the City of Seattle, the Mayor and Councilmember Debora Juarez serve on that board. Thanks for their work on implementing the recommendations of the SAG and the ELG. Thanks also to Board Members King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and County Executive Dow Constantine, and to former City Councilmember Rob Johnson for his work as a board member.

The Board motion notes, regarding options with any additional costs, “After publication of the DEIS and receipt of public comment, the Board intends to reaffirm or change the preferred alternative. Board identification of the Preferred Alternative with Third Party Funding as the preferred alternative would be contingent on the identification of third-party funding to cover the gap between the cost of delivering the Preferred Alternative and the Preferred Alternative with Third Party Funding.”

So while there’s work to do moving forward, this action step keeps us on track for bringing light rail to West Seattle in 2030.

 

The First Electric Garbage Truck in the US

Late last week Recology, one of Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) solid waste collection contractors, received their first 100% electric garbage truck. What makes this momentous is not just that Seattle is leading the way in electrifying their waste collection trucks, Chicago also has a pilot program in place, but this truck is the first ever Class 8 rear loader in the United States. These are the typical garbage collection trucks (pictured below) that we see servicing our neighborhoods. The hilly topography of Seattle and the rear load collection of a Class 8 garbage truck make them difficult to fully electrify, but Seattle is the first in the Country to do so.

I am proud of have played a small roll in bringing this to fruition. In 2017 when the City’s solid waste contracts were out to bid, I wrote a letter encouraging SPU to implement an electric fleet pilot program and become an early adopter of electric garbage trucks. The Council took another step closer to meeting that goal when we adopted the new contracts in April of 2018, and I wrote about that then. We now have the delivery of our first Class 8 collection truck. This is the first, and exciting step in the creation of a fully electrified collection fleet. Collection contractors such as Recology can now begin real world testing of this vehicle and begin to iron out any wrinkles.

In addition to this electric truck pilot program, SPU also announced the rollout of new trucks for the City’s “Green Fleet.” which will be made up of nearly 200 collection trucks powered by renewable natural gas (which is collected from our garbage in the landfill!) and hydrogenated-derived diesel which comes from a range of products such as vegetable waste and soybean oil. Both alternatives produce substantially lower emissions than typical fossil fuels. This new fleet of trucks are all model year 2018 or newer and show Seattle’s commitment to combating climate change.

 

Amazon Switches to Union Security Workers

Perhaps you’ve read the recent news that Amazon has announced their plans to contract security needs to two unionized companies, rather than renew their contract with Security Industry Specialists (SIS)?

This is the exclamation point on a conversation workers started with Amazon nearly three and a half years ago. At that time, I wrote my own letter to Amazon’s Director of Global Real Estate and Facilities John Schoettler about the unfair working conditions of SIS workers.  I wrote this letter just 15 days after I first took office.

“For years, SIS has engaged in practices ranging from wage theft and discrimination to harassment and denial of legally mandated breaks and benefits. From the start, I have met regularly with SIS workers, Amazon and SIS leadership, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 6, who has stood side-by-side with these workers who for years have been fighting for better working conditions.

SEIU Local 6 cataloged many claims against SIS and in part stated that, “labor practices of SIS at Amazon show a pattern of disrespect—for workers, veterans, families, local laws, American labor laws and fundamental human rights.”  The Seattle Human Rights Commission have also previously written in regards to this issue.  When SIS took over the security contract at Amazon in July 2012, the company fired more than 200 union security officers who had full-time work, regular raises, affordable healthcare and paid time off. This mass layoff was out-of-step with the customary security industry practice of retaining officers during a transition in security contractors.

From my 2017 letter to Jeff Bezos:

The labor market is changing. We all know that. The gig economy is proliferating and more of our workforce is made up of employees who are contract workers. If this is the new face of labor and you are a visionary leading the evolution of this new model of work, should you not also be a visionary on the forefront of finding ways to help this new workforce – and your workers – thrive? Contract workers don’t have the same rights and are not protected by many of our labor laws. But just because an employer can take advantage of contract employees with few rights under the law doesn’t mean that employers should.

For better or worse, your quest to turn what was once a small internet sales operation into the multinational behemoth has turbo-boosted Seattle’s economy. But not everyone has benefited. You’re providing 40,000 Seattle jobs and your company has become a pillar in the foundation of our local economy while you fulfill your dream – and your customers’ demands. However, you continue to find yourself faced with accusations about hostile work environment and harsh working conditions.

I congratulate the security workers who have struggled and fought for years, and now they will receive better pay and improved working conditions – both of which they have earned.  While there is much to celebrate, there remains so much more work ahead. We cannot forget about the thousands of other contract workers that Amazon employs, such as delivery drivers, who have yet to share in the success of Amazon.  This may be a historic victory for labor unions, but in addition, it is notable that with this decision, Amazon is recognizing their workers as people with real needs and real lives, not as a metric.

 

East Marginal Way funding adopted, Phase 1 proceeding

On Monday the Council voted to accept $5 million in grants for the East Marginal Way Corridor Improvement Project. This will allow Phase 1 work to proceed.

This is good news for bicycle access from West Seattle to Downtown. When I met with West Seattle Bike Connections members in March, this project was a high priority.

Phase 1 work will include work in the northern portion of the project:

  • Constructing a bicycle facility between S Atlantic St and S Spokane St with full separation between people biking and people driving and delivering goods to make biking safer and more predictable
  • Rebuilding the existing traffic signal at S Hanford St to protect all bicyclist and motorist movements
  • Constructing a new traffic signal at S Horton St to provide a protected diagonal crossing for bicyclists
  • Updating the existing signal at S Atlantic St and S Spokane St to work better with the changes to the corridor
  • Potentially relocating the railroad tracks at S Hanford St to provide more space between truck traffic and the bicycle facility

Phase 1 design work will proceed in 2019 and 2020, with construction starting as soon as fall 2020. The project website has an update about the timeline.

In addition to the $5 million in grants, the Council legislation conditionally accepted another $4 million, which may become available soon. Voting to approve this now allows SDOT to accept the funds without an additional vote. The additional funds can be used for design of all the project work on East Marginal as far south as Diagonal Avenue. This will make it easier to apply for large federal grants.

The website notes “Expect to see additional materials and events starting in summer or fall 2019. Comments and questions are welcome by emailing EastMarginal@seattle.gov or calling 206-684-8105.”

East Marginal Way is a major freight corridor that provides access to the Port of Seattle terminals, rail yards, industrial businesses and the regional highway system, and between local Manufacturing and Industrial Councils (MIC’s). It is also a designated Heavy Haul Route, critical last-mile connector and vital route for over-sized trucks or those carrying flammable cargo. In addition, the corridor provides a major connection for people who bike between the West Seattle Bridge Trail, downtown, and the SODO neighborhood.

This project will:

  • Improve safety and reliability in the movement of people and goods
  • Support freight loads by rebuilding the roadway
  • Promote efficiency through signal modifications and intelligent transportation systems (ITS)
  • Improve safety by better separating non-motorized modes from freight traffic

 

Public Hearing on extension of Pike Place Market Boundary re: Showbox June 4

Last year the City Council voted to adopt an interim boundary expansion for the Pike Place Market Historical District to include the Showbox Theater. The ordinance, authorized by RCW 36.70A.390, was adopted to study whether to permanently expand the District to include the Showbox Theater. The interim expansion will expire on July 23, 2019.

The Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, June 4 on legislation to extend the interim boundary expansion for six months, to allow the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to conduct the analysis necessary prior to taking action on any permanent changes.

The June 4 hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall at 600 4th Avenue, between Cherry and James. Here’s a link to the notice. Sign up begins at 5 p.m.

Supporters of the interim boundary expansion to include the Showbox into the Pike Place Market District have pointed to the following factors:

  1. Historic connection to the Market in use and proximity: The Showbox, when built in 1917, was itself a public market
  2. Current, modern-day connection to the Market: There is a commercial synergy; patrons of the Showbox shop and eat in the Market and vise versa.
  3. Visual connection to the Market: the Showbox is both physically contiguous to the Market and visually looks like it is part of the Market

DON expects that their consultant will complete much of the work needed to develop a preliminary recommendation by the end of June. If the recommendation is for a permanent expansion, environmental review would follow the preliminary recommendation. If this review results in a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) and such a DNS is not appealed to the Hearing Examiner, the Council could consider a bill to adopt a permanent expansion of the historic district in time for such a bill to be in effect by January 23, 2020. If the SEPA review results in a Determination of Significance, which would require an Environmental Impact Statement, or a DNS is appealed to the Hearing Examiner, an additional extension of Ordinance 125650 would likely be necessary.

There will be additional opportunities for public comment and a public hearing in the future before any permanent changes are considered by the Council.

Separately, the Landmarks Preservation Board will hold a meeting to consider the nomination of the Showbox as a historic landmark. This meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. on June 5th, in the Bertha Knight Landes Room on the main floor of City Hall. Here’s a link to the agenda, and procedures for public comment.

Landmark designation is governed by SMC 25.12.350 – Standards for designation.

An object, site or improvement which is more than twenty-five (25) years old may be designated for preservation as a landmark site or landmark if it has significant character, interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the City, state, or nation, if it has integrity or the ability to convey its significance, and if it falls into one (1) of the following categories:

  1. It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, an historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or
  2. It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or
  3. It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, City, state or nation; or
  4. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or of a method of construction; or
  5. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or
  6. Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the City and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or the City.
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