City Hall and Coronavirus Updates
Friends and Neighbors, The month of May has brought a glimmer of hope. Governor Inslee announced a multi-phase plan for reopening Washington state. While King County has been in Phase 1 since May 5, the Governor this week approved 10 other counties to move to Phase 2. Thanks to our reliance on public health experts and the science, King County will shift to Phase 2 soon. We are able to start reopening our economy because we have had success in flattening the curve here in Washington. This great progress can hold only if we continue to do what works: stay home as much as possible, wear a mask if you’re going out in public, and wash your hands. We all want to avoid a resurgence of the coronavirus. This pandemic has reinforced the Digital Divide here in our high-tech city. This week I announced my “Internet for All” Resolution to chart a course for universal access to affordable and reliable internet. For details, keep reading or CLICK HERE. For all the action at City Hall and how to engage, keep reading. Thank you.
UPDATES ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELIEF
Even these famous statues in Fremont are wearing masks because they cannot social-distance.
The City of Seattle, in partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health, has issued a new directive effective May 18, 2020 encouraging the public to wear a cloth face covering in any indoor or outdoor space when unable to maintain six feet of distance from people who do not live with you. To read the full press release, CLICK HERE. If you need assistance acquiring a mask or making your own, CLICK HERE.
Announcements from Governor Inslee, Mayor Durkan, and D.C.
STATE: Phase 1 of Governor Inslee’s phased approach to reopening our economy began on May 5th. We welcome the reopening of state parks and existing construction jobs. For more information about Phase 1, CLICK HERE. Of course, moving into the next phase is dependent on data. The Governor issues risk assessment criteria that dictate when we can fully reopen our state. You can follow the Governor’s Risk Assessment Dashboard by CLICKING HERE. King County has not entered Phase 2 yet. Phase 2 will encompass the reopening of restaurants at <50% capacity, hair and nail salons, retail stores, and professional services/office-based businesses (with telework strongly encouraged). For more information on reopening restaurants for Phase 2, CLICK HERE. In addition, manufacturing, in-home and domestic services, and real estate companies will be able to restart their work. Public gatherings and outdoor recreation with <5 people outside will be permitted weekly. Finally, the Governor announced the restart of all medical services in Washington, including some elective procedures. Each medical and dental practice will assess their own readiness and their community’s COVID-19 activity to determine whether and to what degree to reopen. To read more, CLICK HERE.
Tips for Applying for Unemployment Funds
The state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) is experiencing historically high volumes of people seeking unemployment benefits. To minimize delays, use these links:
- For instructions, CLICK HERE and for the checklist CLICK HERE.
- For training videos, CLICK HERE and for FAQ, CLICK HERE.
- MASKS FOR VULNERABLE: Mayor Durkan announced that the City of Seattle will provide 45,000 cloth face coverings to the most vulnerable Seattle residents, including people experiencing homelessness, low-income older adults, and food bank staff. For more information, CLICK HERE.
- INTERNET FOR ALL: This week I announced my “Internet for All” Resolution for universal access to affordable and reliable broadband internet. For details, keep reading or CLICK HERE.
- Home Mortgage Deferrals: Mayor Durkan and my City Council colleagues have been rapidly introducing and adopting emergency measures in the hopes of providing relief and protections to residential tenants in Seattle, yet our local government has little power to mitigate the other end of the equation: the mortgages and other costs of the housing providers. Even those who own just their single home are receiving little local relief except a brief deferral of property taxes and help with utility bills. Fortunately, those with home mortgages backed by FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac (nearly all home mortgages), will be getting additional options to defer payments on mortgages, if they are economically impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, CLICK HERE. This is in addition to a temporary suspension of foreclosures for those types of mortgages. Contact the company that services your mortgage as early as possible.
Where to Find Updates on COVID and Relief
You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog: https://welcoming.seattle.gov/covid-19/
And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County, you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus.
DISTRICT 4 UPDATES
Transportation News in D-4
- To support safety and access to local businesses, the City is rolling out new curbside priority pick-up zones. We are installing temporary 15-minute loading zones to facilitate reliable customer access for pick-ups. These new zones allow 15 minutes to enable people to quickly and safely pick up purchases, while ensuring frequent parking turnover so the locations remain reliably available for use. This is in addition to the existing 3-minute zones for restaurant take-out. For more information from SDOT, CLICK HERE.
- The Cowen Park Bridge seismic retrofit is now complete. 15th Avenue NE will eventually be repaved with bike lanes that I support, after consulting with neighbors and considering the excellent connections to Roosevelt High and 2021 light rail as well as minimal impact on neighborhood businesses. I launched an audit of major bridges in Seattle to provide better info to city officials and the general public. For more info, CLICK HERE.
- Construction to reconfigure N. Midvale Place is underway in Wallingford. To see the report by Wallyhood, CLICK HERE. I conveyed to SDOT my desire that the trees in the triangle be saved and was assured that only one tree on the Midvale Place side would need to be removed for this project. I am hopeful SDOT will do what is needed to ensure existing neighbors have ample access to the area they call home.
- The repaving project on NE 50th Street from U District to Wallingford is nearly complete – finally! For more info from SDOT, CLICK HERE.
PARKS in and near D-4
- GREEN LAKE: While Green Lake is in District 5, many District 4 residents enjoy its breathtaking open space, exceptional trees, and it’s community center and pool. CLICK HERE for the online open house and fill out the survey about possible new locations.
- MAGNUSON PARK: Through the end of May, the artists of Building 30 West in Magnuson Park will continue their virtual opening of their studios to the public on Facebook and on Instagram at @spaceatmagnuson. To attend this virtual event on Facebook, CLICK HERE.
District 4 Restaurants Look Forward to Partial Reopen
I masked-up and sat down with the owners of Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford to learn more about the survival struggles they share with neighborhood businesses across District 4. Murphy’s is getting ready to open when the Governor green lights King County for “Phase 2” even though that means 50% capacity and groups maxing out at 5 per table. How YOU can help: To enjoy Murphy’s beverages, yummy food, and down-to-Earth welcoming spirit, you don’t need to wait until Phase 2 because Murphy’s has mastered the take-out/pick-up routine. Go to their website: https://murphysseattle.com/ then scroll down to order online first. Then go to 1928 N. 45th Street at Meridian Ave N in Wallingford’s business district to pick it up. For Murphy’s menu, CLICK HERE. The same is true for so many eateries throughout our District and our city. For restaurants open for takeout meals in Ravenna, Bryant, and Wedgwood, CLICK HERE for a handy list from a neighborhood group. For a citywide list from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
My colleagues unanimously appointed me to chair the Council’s Transportation and Utilities (and Technology) Committee. It’s a bulky “workhorse” committee that comprises half the city’s budget. Here are highlights of current committee issues:
West Seattle Bridge Update: The West Seattle Bridge continues to deteriorate, with growing cracks. SDOT has prepared for the worst case scenarios of a partial—or even total—collapse of the bridge. Their engineering consultant’s report is titled “Conceptual Modes of Failure” dated May 15; it’s on SDOT’s list of documents here. To read Seattle Times article in which I am quoted, CLICK HERE.) Next steps are numerous:
- Evaluating whether the existing bridge can be saved and repaired;
- Determining, if a new bridge is needed, whether it can be combined in some way with Sound Transit’s bridge for the West Seattle Link rail line;
- Calculating the costs (and finding the money!) and impacts and tradeoffs of all the options.
With the failure of the West Seattle Bridge I launched an audit of all major bridges in Seattle. I formally asked our City Auditor to evaluate the sufficiency of SDOT’s bridge maintenance and monitoring activities, with a preliminary report due in the Fall before the Council considers our City’s 2021 budget. To learn more about the audit of Seattle bridges I launched, CLICK HERE. To read the audit letter, CLICK HERE.
520 Bridge History
Another bridge project affecting District 4 is the “Rest of the West” part of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) new 520 Bridge project. The “West” project is the completion of the upgraded connections between the new Lake Washington Bridge and the I-5 interchange on the edge of the Eastlake neighborhood. A website about the history of the area was created as part of the WSDOT project and is found here.
“Internet for All”: Seeking Universal Access to Affordable & Reliable Internet
The COVID-19 crisis and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order have magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to reliable internet. I have crafted a Resolution charting the course for universal internet access in Seattle. The Resolution requests the city government, led by Seattle’s Information Technology department, to craft an action plan, expand partnerships, and ensure the implementation of Internet for All, so that all Seattle residents have affordable and reliable internet access. “In a city that prides itself in leading the world in technology, the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustice of the Digital Divide. We can no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. It’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. It’s time for Internet for All.” Increased internet access can provide a vital link to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis. As chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, I look forward to discussing the Resolution when the Governor’s order has been lifted for all local governments to consider non-COVID-19 legislation. My Resolution requests Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report to the committee by September 16, 2020. For a link to the press release from May 18,
CLICK HERE. For a link to the draft Resolution, CLICK HERE.
YOUR CITY COUNCIL
Payroll Tax Hearings Postponed
Due to concerns about possibly violating Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28, Council President Gonzalez and Councilmember Mosqueda prudently postponed Budget Committee meetings on the controversial Payroll Tax legislation introduced by Councilmembers Sawant and Morales. Deliberations on this legislation will resume once the order from Governor Inslee is lifted, possibly in June. For my specific concerns with this payroll tax proposal, see my blog post by CLICKING HERE.
Business Improvement Area (BIA) Updates
The University District BIA reauthorization is beings considered now by your City Council. BIAs are authorized by State law (RCW 35.87A) and enable commercial and multifamily property owners to pay a fee to operate supplemental cleaning, safety, marketing, and other services to maintain and improve their neighborhood business districts. The BIA in the U District is expiring this month, so the City Council is proceeding with this “routine and necessary” legislation. For a link to the proposed BIA Ordinance Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE. For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.
Here is the BIA meeting schedule before the Community & Economic Development (CED) committee and full City Council:
- Wednesday, May 20, 2020: discussion and issue identification;
- Wednesday, May 27: discussion at CED Committee AND a public hearing;
- Wednesday, June 3: possible approval by CED Committee;
- Monday, June 8: possible adoption by full City Council;
- Friday, June 19: deadline for Mayor signature;
- Sunday, July 19: Effective Date (if signed by Mayor June 19)
Some key issues remain as important aspects to see represented in this legislation:
- Fair Representation: Small businesses on triple net leases (meaning the landlord can pass the BIA fees onto the small business owner) must have a meaningful voice in the decisions of the BIA. I also believe there should be term-limits so that members of the BIA Advisory Board cannot stay in power for too long.
- Good Governance: I believe nearly all contracts (including the “Program Manager” of the U District BIA) should be bid competitively so that we have a public process and an opportunity for more than one organization to compete to provide the services. I have some concerns that the current proposal more than doubles the length of the BIA term from 5 years to 12 years.
- Prevention of Displacement: BIAs must explicitly make sure their “economic development” activities do NOT contribute to the displacement of existing small neighborhood businesses. A study of The Ave found that nearly 2/3 are owned by women and people of color, ensuring resources for these businesses which are more vulnerable to displacement is important to me.
Those are some of my priorities. I welcome your input; please let us know your thoughts:
- E-Mail: Send official comments on this BIA proposal to: email@example.com. You can write to me as the District 4 Councilmember at Pedersen@seattle.gov and/or to the entire City Council at Council@seattle.gov,
- Virtual one-on-one meeting: nearly every Friday afternoon, I have office hours. During the COVID emergency, we are having them by telephone or Skype. Sign up the usual way via my website: https://www.seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council/alex-pedersen/request-a-meeting-in-district-4
- Public Comment: Sign-up registration begins two hours before the 2:00 p.m. meeting start time. Speakers must be registered in order to be recognized by the Chair: http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment
- For more information, see my blog post by CLICKING HERE.
Navigation Team Legislation
The Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments will discuss a controversial bill to drastically limit the effectiveness of our City’s Navigation Team and its option to remove dangerous and unauthorized encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic (CB 119796, to see this CLICK HERE.) Much of the discussion around this legislation centers on the Mayor’s recent removal of an encampment at the Ballard Commons. After offers of housing and services, the Navigation Team proceeded with that removal due to immediate and ongoing risks to the public health and safety of the community, including Hepatitis A. Living structures also obstructed public rights-of-way, which created further public health risks. To learn more about this encampment removal, you can visit the City of Seattle’s Homelessness Blog, please CLICK HERE. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and across Seattle, the Navigation Team has distributed 2,233 hygiene kits, 1,837 Public Health—Seattle & King County (Public Health) COVID-19 and Hepatitis A flyers, 352 meals, and hygiene services maps. In mid-April, the City opened 95 new shelter beds that are exclusively available to Navigation Team referrals of people experiencing homelessness. The City is focused on using these new resources to bring individuals living unsheltered into safer and healthier conditions. I’m concerned that this proposed legislation will limit the ability of the Navigation Team to protect safety and public health as the main priorities during this crisis. I share the concerns raised by the Mayor:
- The legislation would hinder our ability to get people into safer conditions due to communicable diseases such as COVID-19 or Hepatitis A.
- It would hinder the City’s ability to address unauthorized encampments associated with criminal activity.
- It ignores the impacts on necessary businesses, and their workers and customers.
- It disregards many types of fire or safety hazards and the impact on our first responders.
- It would prohibit Seattle Police Department officers from removing encampments that are trespassing on private property.
- It would prohibit derelict RVs from being removed from City streets.
- It would drastically impact the City’s ability to address tents that impede sidewalks and public right of way.
- It creates risk by impacting the City’s ability to enforce existing laws and defend against potential causes of action.
- It would effectively authorize camping across the city.
As someone who started my career at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help reduce homelessness during the Clinton Administration, I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of those who are most vulnerable. I also support the Navigation Team’s efforts to connect people with available shelter resources and effectively move people into permanent housing. I look forward to the executive departments clarifying further what is a true “obstruction,” so that local government is not removing encampments unnecessarily during the COVID crisis. On a more positive note, this week the Regional Homelessness Authority held its first meeting to discuss regional solutions to this regional crisis of homelessness. Just as our City and County have worked closely to address COVID, we must rely on evidence-based, proven solutions to address homelessness. For more about the Regional Homelessness Authority, read my blog post shortly after I voted to create it by CLICKING HERE.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
City Council Meetings on the Internet
Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. Commenting: You can also submit public comment by emailing your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org to reach all 9 Councilmembers. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.
How to Participate in Your Community Council
Our District 4 is home to over 20 neighborhoods. I believe community councils and other neighborhood-based organizations play an important role in Seattle. It may seem ill-timed during the COVID crisis to promote participation in community groups, but we hear from constituents that they are yearning to reconnect with neighbors and many groups are already hosting “virtual” meetings online using software applications like Zoom and Skype. As more people participate in community groups, the groups can become even more diverse and effective in dealing with larger institutions like your city government. Community councils are a great way to amplify issues that residents in the community want to see addressed. Community councils give residents a space to air opinions, ideas, grievances, and announcements of interest to you and your neighbors. In addition, they organize residents to work towards common goals identified as priorities by the community and to spearhead events that benefit the community. Here are some community organizations that represent residents in District 4:
For more info, CLICK HERE.
Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen
I continue to have virtual in-district office hours so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to email@example.com
For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.
Hunker down, chin up — and soap up your Seattle hands. We will get through this together, Emerald City.
Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4