West Seattle Bridge Update; Sound Transit Light Rail Recommendations Resolution; July 14th SW Precinct Community-Police Dialogue; Help for Renters Displaced by Large Rent Increases; City Appeals Arbitration Ruling; Visiting the City’s First East African Senior Center

West Seattle Bridge Update

Bridge re-opening remains on track for week of September12.   As I confirmed last week, the specialized concrete needed for post-tensioning on the bridge has fully cured.

Post-tensioning duct installation continued this week.  The contractor has revised how the ducts are being temporarily supported to allow for quicker removal and provide some time savings on the back end of the work. Strand installation on the north girder got underway today.

A reader has suggested that I start to provide updates to the steps below listed as remaining work:

  • Install post-tensioning ducts (11,000 feet of ducts)
  • Complete a pre-tensioning round of epoxy injections and carbon-fiber wrapping
  • Install post-tensioning strands (~46 miles of strands)
  • Tension the strands
  • Complete a final round of epoxy injections and carbon-fiber wrapping after tensioning is done
  • Complete cure time for the carbon-fiber wrapping
  • Remove work platforms
  • Load test and inspect the repairs
  • Restore the bridge deck by closing holes in the bridge deck created for access
  • Demobilize the site, which means crews remove their equipment (like trailers and tools) from the bridge

In response to this request, SDOT has helpfully offered to create a graphic that shows progress towards reopening by several categories of work.  Hopefully we can provide that next week.

Sound Transit Light Rail Recommendations Resolution

The WSBLE project proposes two light rail extensions, one from West Seattle to Downtown continuing north to Everett, and the other from Ballard to Downtown continuing to Tacoma. Riders will transfer between these two lines at expanded CID and Westlake Stations.

The Transportation and Utilities Committee adopted the amended resolution this week.  it moves to the Full Council next Tuesday.  Amendment 1 listed on the agenda was adopted by the Transportation & SPU Committee; the amendment addresses the Delridge segment, and other portions of the line (Chair Pedersen combined separate amendments into one Chair’s Amendment).

My comments from the meeting are below.

For the West Seattle Junction, there is strong community support for a tunnel option. I support that. A tunnel would minimize impacts to the neighborhood and businesses and provide the best approach for long-term success and the health of the West Seattle Junction community.  An elevated alignment into the heart of the West Seattle Junction Urban Village, and on Fauntleroy Way SW would be unprecedented for light rail in Seattle. It would include impacts that could not be mitigated. 

The Medium Tunnel has a comparable cost estimate to elevated options in the Junction, an important consideration for a regional project.

For the Duwamish crossing, there’s a divided community perspective, and both north and south crossings have clear impacts, so it’s important the resolution notes the south crossing it “conditioned on adequate mitigation of impacts to parks, recreational areas, and natural habitat at Pigeon Point and the West Duwamish Greenbelt”

For Delridge, there is no clear community consensus. All alignments have impacts on residents and businesses, that is evident, as noted in the Draft EIS.

I appreciate the Executive’s addition to the draft version of a request for a transit access study for the communities identified in the Racial Equity Toolkit, including South Delridge and White Center (the Environmental Justice study in the Draft EIS only covers ½ mile from station locations). The resolution also added mention of the importance of protections for Longfellow Creek. These are great additions.

The Del 5- and 6 options were developed to minimize the impacts on the Youngstown community adjacent to Genesee; they were added late in the scoping process at the Board level, so potential impacts of these options weren’t discussed during the scoping process. There are a couple of impacts for Del-6 that have come up since the Draft EIS was published.

First, as noted in public comment the Draft EIS does not mention the existence of Alki Beach Academy daycare center in the Social Resources section in Appendix L, where other daycare centers on the line are noted. The importance of a daycare center of this size on the peninsula has been magnified by the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, and this center provides care for over 120 children, and plans to expand to be able to care for 300.

Another impact would be on Transitional Resources, which offers 24/7 services to persons with serious mental illness, through both living facilities and a service center. The living facilities depend on the 24/7 service center—it is a holistic system—and the Draft EIS doesn’t address the integrated nature of this program. Up to 31 high needs individuals could be displaced, with 122 persons per month losing access to treat acute, long-term mental illness (most clients were formerly homeless). The property deed includes a covenant requiring that the property be used for the provision of these services for the foreseeable future.

To address these deficiencies, I developed the West Seattle portion of a Council amendment to the resolution. The amendment states that for the Delridge segment, the City is not able to state a preference given the inadequate DEIS analysis of impacted social resources, and notes it a) did not identify the Alki Beach Academy as a potentially impacted social resource, and therefore did not fully analyze the project’s impact on child care services, and b) that while the DEIS identified Transition Resources in the list, it relies on co-located services to provide comprehensive transitional housing services; and c) states the City’s future support for Del-6 is conditioned on avoidance or mitigation of impacts, or relocation, of impacted child-care and transitional housing service providers.

Update on Hiawatha Community Center Improvements

The Hiawatha Community Center Stabilization Project has been stalled due to new federal guidance on infrastructure projects.  Yesterday the City cleared an important hurdle to addressing this delay.  The State received a waiver from the federal guidance that was holding it up.  The Hiawatha Community Center Stabilization Project is now heading for a FEMA grant award.

Background: I’ve heard from several constituents recently asking for updates on the Hiawatha Community Center improvements, including electrical repairs, water and sewer pipe replacements, furnace and water heater repairs, roof replacement, and more.  Seattle Parks & Recreation has provided this information on the project website:

Seattle Parks and Recreation is waiting on approval of a FEMA grant before we can proceed with bidding and construction for this community center stabilization project.

My office dug a little deeper.  One of the conditions of the FEMA grant is that the project can’t be put out to bid until grant approval is received.  The hold-up at FEMA is connected to the new, federal “Buy American” guidance for infrastructure projects, which has put a hold on all pending sub-grants, including Hiawatha.  This is a national problem facing applicants in two different categories: Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM).

FEMA and the State were working together on a waiver for Hiawatha, and just yesterday, we learned that the waiver was granted!  Seattle Parks & Recreation reports that the Hiawatha Community Center project is ready to move to award.  We are seeking a timeline for the next step.  Parks further reports that, given the current construction market, this project would not go out to bid until mid-September.  With steps including a. contract award, b. contract execution, and c. a 9-month construction schedule, they estimate completion in August 2023.  I do not want the community to go yet another summer without access to this community treasure, the oldest community center west of the Mississippi. I will be inquiring how we can get it open sooner.

The State’s emergency management division directed us to FEMA Region 10 guidance:

FEMA Region 10 would like to share information with you regarding the “Buy American” preference in FEMA financial assistance programs, including the BRIC grant program. As part of President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, beginning with awards received on or after May 14, 2022, any infrastructure project receiving federal funding must source their iron, steel, manufactured products and construction materials from the United States.  The below link provides more details on requirements of the Act, including the programs that are subject to BABAA and those not subject to BABAA. Please note, BRIC, PDM and FMA are subject to BABAA.

“Buy America” Preference in FEMA Financial Assistance Programs for Infrastructure | FEMA.gov

As the website states: These requirements apply to new awards made on or after May 14, 2022, as well as new funding FEMA obligates to existing awards or through renewal awards where the new funding is obligated on or after May 14, 2022. Until more guidance is received, FEMA Region 10 will not be issuing new awards or additional obligations to existing awards.  Additional information on FEMA’s Policy implementing OMB Memo M-22-11 is forthcoming and FEMA Region 10 will share any additional information once received from FEMA HQ.

At our request, Congresswoman Jayapal’s office has also been looking into the delay and advocating for speedy approval.

Hiawtha Community Center

Help for Renters Displaced by Large Rent Increases

This week the Economic Displacement Relocation Assistance program (EDRA) went live.  EDRA was passed by Council last fall and provides relocation assistance to tenants who:

  • receive a housing cost increase of 10% or more after July 1, 2022
  • are low income (80% median income or below)
  • notify the landlord of their intent to move

When tenants qualify for EDRA, landlords will be required to pay up to three times the monthly housing cost. This week SDCI deployed an online application portal for renters and a website with forms and explanatory information.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant sponsored the legislation that was passed unanimously by the City Council.  There has long been a similar requirement, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO), for low-income tenants displaced by renovations, demolition or change of use.  In those cases, the city splits the relocation costs with landlords.  A frequently abused loophole in TRAO was that some landlords, to avoid the relocation assistance obligations of TRAO, would give excessive rent increases to displace renters in buildings that they were renovating, such as this example in my district where renters had received a 100% rent increase and that this increase led to 20 of the 23 households being displaced from the building.   Current law also newly requires 180 days’ notice of rent increases.

SDCI has notified landlords of their new obligations via the Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) email list that reaches most landlords and property managers. There was coverage of the EDRA program in the Seattle Times last weekend.

The main information for renters and an application portal can be found at www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle/edra .

SDCI provides information for landlords at www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle/landlords/edra.

July 14th SW Precinct Community-Police Dialogue

Seattle University shared the following message about their second community-police dialogue next week:

I would like to share with you the Call for Participants for our upcoming community-police dialogues. We will be holding our second community-police dialogue for Southwest Precinct on Thursday July 14, 2022. If you are willing, please share the flyer and link with your network to help make sure the everyone who lives and/or works in Seattle who would like to participate has the opportunity to do so.

 Here is the link to sign up for the 2022 Community-Police Dialogues. The flyer is attached to this email.

2021 SPD MCPP Reports – Our research team has completed two reports – the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey Results and the 2021 Community Police Dialogues Results. Links to the reports are below. The 2021 Seattle Public Safety Report includes results from the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey citywide, precinct, and micro-community. The 2021 Community-Police Dialogues Report includes results of the virtual community-police dialogues we conducted last spring/summer separated by precinct:

Helfgott, J.B. & Parkin, W. (2022). Seattle Police Department’s Citywide 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey Results (149p.)

Helfgott, J.B. & Parkin, W. (2022). Seattle Police Department’s Micro-Community Policing Plans Community-Police Dialogues 2021 Results (41p.)

 2022 SPD MCPP Seattle Police Community-Police Dialogues  

We began conducting the 2022 virtual community-police dialogues on May 19 and will be running them every Thursday night 5:30-7:30pm from May 19 through August 25, 2022 – 3 for each precinct. The purpose of the dialogues will be to provide an overview of the findings from the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey and to give community members and police personnel opportunity to engage in dialogue that is precinct-specific. 

City Appeals Arbitration Ruling

As Axios Seattle reported, the City has filed a petition in Superior Court seeking to overturn an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate a parking enforcement officer. Interim Chief Diaz fired the officer over a hateful and racist comment advocating lynching.

I appreciate SPD’s action, specifically Chief Diaz, in this case. I also appreciate the City Attorney role in this decision.  The charter language for the City Attorney reads: “The City Attorney shall have full supervisory control of all the litigation of the City, or in which the City or any of its departments are interested and shall perform such other duties as are or shall be prescribed by ordinance.”  I recognize that the ultimate decision in this case resided with the City Attorney, with the understanding that the client’s interests are an important consideration when they evaluate whether to file an action in court.

Seattle’s current arbitration system for appeals of disciplinary findings is broken. This case was yet another example.  Parking enforcement officers have since been moved out of SPD but were formerly included in the SPD system of discipline.

Decisions of arbitrators that overturn the Chief’s discipline decision was a key item highlighted by Judge Robart in his decision to find the City out of compliance with the Consent Decree.  The Seattle Police Management Association contract approved by the City Council substantially modified discipline proceedings for cases involving Captains and Lieutenants.

Visiting the City’s First East African Senior Center

I recently visited with East African seniors gathering for a home-cooked Ethiopian lunch (delicious!) at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands.  The new East African Senior Center operates four days a week in Rainier Beach and at the Yesler Community Center, providing community for elders, culturally appropriate food, classes and activities, support and connections to wraparound services for participants.

I was proud to sponsor the budget addition last fall that made this program possible – the City’s first-ever investment in services focused on East African elders.  With additional funds raised privately by Sound Generations, the program was able to launch with dedicated staff and program supplies, to support East African seniors at two locations every week.

Many thanks to East African Senior Center, Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, and Sound Generations for hosting me!

An Ethiopian lunch at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands