About Ari Cetron

Ari is a Seattle-based writer and editor. Find out more about him at www.aricetron.com

Beyond Sawant vs. Orion, plenty more big decisions on the November ballot: County Council, affirmative action, Tim Frickin’ Eyman’s car tab B.S.

Gossett, Zahilay, Referendum 88, Eyman

While the District 3 Seattle City Council race has been dominating the Internet around here, there are other important decisions to be made on November’s ballot. These include a potentially big upset in a County Council race, and a pair of statewide initiatives which would have far ranging consequences, arguably of more lasting impact than anything else on the ballot.

State voter pamphlets have already been delivered. Local pamphlets are due to be mailed October 15 and ballots on October 16. Election Day is November 5, ballots must be postmarked or placed in a drop box by then. Online voter registration is available until Oct. 28. In person registration is available up to and including Election Day, Nov. 5 at the county Elections Annex.

King County Council District 2: The County Council race pits a pair of Franklin High School graduates, from classes a couple decades apart, against each other. In the three-candidate August primary, political newcomer Girmay Zahilay received 56% of the vote to Incumbent Larry Gossett’s 37%. If those primary numbers hold for the November election, it would represent a generation change in county leadership. Continue reading

23rd Ave Vision Zero work ready to move into fifth year of construction — including 23rd and John overhaul

We’re still almost a year away from the start of construction on the northern segment of 23rd Ave. When it’s done, expect some big changes to the intersection at John Street, and lots of other little upgrades scattered about.

If it feels like some kind of construction has been happening on 23rd Ave for a long time, that’s because it has. Major roadwork began on 23rd back in 2015, with the section between Madison and Jackson streets. That phase wrapped up in 2017, and then work started on the stretch between Jackson and Rainier. While the work is largely done there, there are still some bits left such as intersections and sidewalk ramps.

The stretch from John to Roanoke is next in line for a series of upgrades. In 2018, the city put that stretch of 23rd (which is actually 24th for most of its length) on a road diet, leaving two southbound lanes, but changing one of the northbound lanes into a turn lane.

But the project is far from over. In the next couple of weeks, the city plans to install High Friction Surface Treatments at Lousia, Lynn and Helen streets. The treatments, a layer of a rough, granular coating, should provide some extra grip to help cars navigate the road without skidding. The hope is that crews will be able to install the treatments over a weekend, probably the weekend after Labor Day, if the weather cooperates. Continue reading

Relax — Washington is now a same-day voter registration state

Washington’s voter registration methods have changed, providing new options for citizens.

Under a new law this year, Washington became one of 21 states, and the District of Columbia, which allow same day voter registration. Under previous rules, voters had to register either 29 days before the election if by mail or online, or eight days before in person.

Now, in person registration is still available up to and including election day, Aug. 6. Voters who want to register in person technically don’t have to bring anything with them, said Halei Watkins, of King County Elections.

People will need to fill out a form which includes a space for either their Washington Driver’s License number, state ID number, or the last four digits of the Social Security Number. While the prospective voter will not be asked to present the identification, elections officials do perform checks. When they input the data, they ensure that the information matches information in other databases. Continue reading

If Seattle is going to preserve its ‘legacy businesses,’ here are a few ways it might do it

Work continues on a program that might help your favorite neighborhood bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops navigate a changing Seattle.

The Seattle City Council first started developing the program in 2017, when an effort spearheaded by council member Lisa Herbold budgeted $50,000 to study the issue of so-called “legacy businesses.” Council staff produced a study that year of what a legacy business might be, and ways the city might help them remain afloat.

The study defined a legacy business as one that has been open for at least 10 years and is small (10 or fewer employees), independent and serves as a community hub. A hub is considered a retail, restaurant or other environment where people gather. While someplace like the Central District’s Cappy’s Boxing Gym and Earl’s Cuts and Styles, or Capitol Hill’s Wildrose might qualify, something like a law office would not likely make the cut. It did not include nonprofits, since they would face a very different set of challenges. The study found that 1,162 businesses citywide might qualify for the designation using those standards.

This definition was only used for the purposes of the study. Changes would, obviously impact the number of potentially qualifying businesses. For example, if businesses needed to be open for 20 years instead of 10, the number of qualifying businesses would drop to 493.

All of this, however, is purely theoretical, as the city has not yet developed an official definition.

What they have developed is a series of potential ways to help these businesses. Simply handing the businesses money runs afoul of the state constitution, and so is out of the question. In fact, the study reports that there’s no easy way to help. Continue reading

Seattle’s promising, extremely early look at congestion pricing: Traffic down, CO2 down, money for mass transit up

London does it (Image: SDOT)

London does it. Singapore does it. Stockholm does it. New York is starting it. And now Seattle is considering becoming one of the cool kids who charge people to drive downtown.

A Seattle Congestion Pricing Study (PDF) report will be on the agenda Tuesday afternoon as Seattle Department of Transportation representatives will begin the discussion with the City Council about how Seattle might implement some sort of congestion pricing program. The study doesn’t really get into details or suggestions of how Seattle might implement a program. It gives an overview of how such programs work in other cities, and suggests how Seattle might take the next steps toward developing a program of its own.

Some of the study’s findings will make you want to implement a plan immediately:

In every case, congestion pricing has reduced vehicle trips (by 10% to 44%), reduced CO2 emissions (by 2.5% to 22%), and lowered travel times (by 10% to 33%).

Congestion pricing can take a number of different forms. The one common denominator in all of them is an area is designated for pricing. Basically, draw a circle (more or less) on a map, and attach conditions to people who want to go inside the circle. Continue reading

Despite belt tightening at City Hall, Seattle Police returning Community Service Officers to the streets

Seattle is revising its Community Service Officer program that aims to send non-commissioned police to help with situations that don’t have immediate public safety implications.

“This has always been a part of our history,” said Sean Whitcomb, Seattle Police Department spokesman.

The unarmed community police officers will work Seattle streets to “handle non-emergency incidents such as neighborhood disputes, investigations, and crime prevention.”

The Community Service Officers program had run for 34 years before being discontinued in 2004 due to budgetary constraints. In 2016, under then-Mayor Ed Murray, the city budgeted $2 million that was supposed to have restarted the program by late 2018.

The long-planned revival comes after a wave of gun violence across the city including deadly shootings on Capitol Hill and in the Central District. In May, Mayor Jenny Durkan toured Capitol Hill to talk about her response to rising concerns about street disorder and her focus on adding more budget for more police and first responders as well as trying to bootstrap social service efforts beyond policing. Continue reading

‘New buildings should support and enhance places as they grow’ — Seattle to set new guidelines for Capitol Hill development

The Seattle City Council is poised to approve a new set of guidelines that will shape what Capitol Hill looks like in years to come.

The Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines are essentially recommendations to developers of what neighborhood residents would like to see in new buildings. The neighborhood-specific guidelines were adopted in 2005. The update began in 2017, and was undertaken by city staff in conjunction with a 14-member working group of residents and representatives of various groups around the hill.

A draft was printed in May 2018. But the update was shifted to the back burner as the city wrestled with adopting the Mandatory Affordable Housing program. A new draft was released in January of this year.

Monday afternoon, the full council is prepared to approved the update. Continue reading

‘Where does it go?’ — No big changes for Seattle recycling… yet

Inside a Seattle sorting facility (Image: CHS)

The short version: After a study, there will be no immediate changes to Seattle’s curbside recycling program — even though your “aspirational recycling” efforts are gumming up the system.

The long version is more detailed.

Seattle and King County are loving recycling to death. People are so excited about putting items in the blue bin instead of the black one, that it’s become a problem. The two main culprits are not properly cleaning items before recycling them, and putting things in recycling that aren’t actually recyclable – a phenomenon called aspirational recycling.

Residents are putting items in so often that China, which had been the market for about half of our recyclables, pulled out of the market. (It’s not just us. China is refusing recyclables from across the country.) The problem, say experts, are that items like plastic wrap, individual plastic bags, and soiled glass and plastic among others, gum up the works in the recycling machinery. Continue reading

A Capitol Hill look at Olympia 2019: secure scheduling, vaccine exemptions, crosswalk traffic cams

Rep. Nicole Macri (Image: Rep. Macri)

The 2019 session of the Washington Legislature is in full swing, with lawmakers considering thousands of bills. February 22nd was a key deadline for bills to pass out of their policy committee; any which did not get committee approval are considered dead (except the ones that aren’t, there are still ways to revive them). From there, bills with a financial implication are routed through a fiscal committee (Senate Ways and Means; House Appropriations) before going to the floor of their house of origin. Bills must clear their house of origin by March 13 before moving to be considered by the other house. This year’s session is set to end April 28.

Here is a roundup of bills moving through the Legislature that may be of interest to Capitol Hill with a focus on efforts from our state elected including Sen. Jamie Pedersen and Rep. Nicole Macri.

Anyone interested in discussing these, or any other bills, with Capitol Hill’s legislators can attend a town hall with the District 43 lawmakers at 1:30 PM March 16 at First Seattle Baptist Church:

43rd Legislative District Town Hall

  • Statewide secure scheduling: Rep. Macri is the prime sponsor of legislation that would “ensure that people who work for large fast food, coffee, restaurant, and retail chains in Washington get schedules that are more predictable and balanced.” Macri says, “I’m working closely with business and labor representatives to find the best way forward to support workers and ease impacts on businesses.” The bill would is modeled after Seattle’s law and would help eliminate things like “clopenings” — when a worker works a late-night closing shift and is also directed to work a early-morning opening shift with only a few hours in between. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s upzoning on track to stay intact as Mandatory Housing Affordability enters final stretch

The Miller Park neighborhood could see more projects like the Julia Place Apartments (Image: CHS)

Upzoning plans around Capitol HIll’s Miller Park neighborhood will not be removed from the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability effort as the legislative process to shape the program enters a final phase with a public hearing this week.

Proposed amendments to the still-pending MHA legislation had been identified by council members, city staff, citizens and others. After the first set of proposals was released in January, each district council member had been left to decide what changes they’d like to see move forward within their own district boundaries.

Among the January proposals had been plans to remove some blocks near Miller Park from the program, but those didn’t make the cut. In District 3, which covers Capitol Hill and the Central District, council member Kshama Sawant’s office only advanced four proposed changes to areas in the Central District –- all of which add density.

Keeping all of Madison Miller area in the program is just what affordable housing advocates were hoping for.

“We are hopeful that Council will honor the existing plan for MHA without amendments to the Madison Miller Urban Village,” wrote Erin Fried of Capitol Hill Housing. Continue reading