Seattle looks at city retirement savings program for workers

Not a retirement savings plan (Image: CHS)

Fresh from being sworn into office, Mayor Tim Burgess unveiled his 2018 budget for the city, including a proposal to establish retirement savings accounts for an estimated 200,000 Seattle workers whose employers don’t provide such benefits. Some Capitol Hill business leaders are lining up to support the plan, arguing that freelancers and the nightlife industry stand to benefit.

Tuesday, the Burgess legislation was sent to the City Council to begin deliberations. “In Seattle, 200,000 workers have no retirement savings plan,” Burgess said. “That’s a recipe for long-term financial instability for those individual workers, their families, and our local economy. We know that people are far more likely to save for retirement if they have an option easily available. That’s exactly what my plan provides.”

The idea, which has been a Burgess pet project, boils down to this: The city would contract a third party administrator to process the payroll of workers within city limits whose employer doesn’t offer any savings program and deduct a small percentage of their pay to personal retirement savings accounts. The amount deducted can be determined by the employee, but the default option is between three and five percent. (Workers could also choose to opt-out of the program at any point.) This account would be portable, and would remain with the employee even if they changed jobs, a boon to freelancers and service industry employees who frequently change jobs. Continue reading

10 PM paid parking is coming to Capitol Hill

Starting in late October, paid parking hours on streets in Capitol Hill’s commercial core will be extended into the late night hours, from the current cutoff hour of 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM. It’s not all bad news, parker. Rates in some areas will come down. Of course, they’ll jump in others.

The policy shift comes as evidence shows that demand for evening parking shows no loss of appetite on Capitol Hill. Since 2010, SDOT has conducted studies of parking trends and behavior along Broadway and the Pike/Pine nightlife blocks. The most recent study from May 2017 showed that parking in these areas was at capacity between 7:00 and 10:00 PM. Data from the 2016 study illustrated a similar trend: there was no parking available between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM.

“For the past several years it’s consistently shown that parking is very full until late in the evening which makes reliable access for customers and visitors very challenging,” said Mike Estey, SDOT’s Manager of Parking Programs. “Charging for paid parking until 10:00 PM should allow access on the block[s].” Continue reading

In 43rd Legislative District race, ‘nobody has really had a chance to get to know the candidates’

With the August primary inching ever closer, the race for representing Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District in the state legislature is slowly shaping up.

It’s a crowded race, but one that hasn’t been particularly noisy so far. Since Brady Walkinshaw—a 31-year old gay Cuban American and one of the standing state representatives for the 43rd district alongside long-time Speaker of the House Frank Choppdecided to run for retiring congressman Jim McDermott’s seat in the 7th district and opted out of seeking re-election in the 43rd, eight candidates jumped into the ring to represent Capitol Hill, the University District, and Wallingford.

None of the 43rd candidates names ring a bell? Unfamiliar with their campaign platforms and personality traits? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

“At this point it’s a relatively low voter education race,” said Michael Maddux, a longtime Democratic party activist in the 43rd and former candidate for City Council who has endorsed Macri in the race. “Nobody has really had a chance to get to know the candidates.” Continue reading

As ridership booms, economic impact of light rail on Capitol Hill a guessing game

South Wall, Broadway/Denny Entrance: Link Light Rail Capitol Hill Station

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 4.40.20 PMSome numbers around light rail on Capitol Hill are clear. According to Sound Transit’s latest service report, April light rail boardings are up nearly 80% compared to April 2015 thanks to the opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station. If you’re looking for signs of a likely Capitol Hill effect, while weekday ridership is up 78%, and Sunday has climbed around 64%, Saturday boardings have leapt 108%. Since the Capitol Hill light rail station opened in late March, ridership has exceeded expectations. Adding to the hype have been reported anecdotes from Capitol Hill businesses who said they had seen a spike in customer traffic due to the new station. Ridership is booming. Is it possible to empirically measure light rail-related economic activity on Capitol Hill?

Both the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Office of Economic Development — the two entities that would have the best sense of how to approach such a question — say that while it is possible, it is far too early to tell and the methods of measuring are limited. There are also other variables to consider, such as general population growth on the Hill.

“While we’re optimistic Link Light Rail will have a positive impact on Capitol Hill’s economy, at this point, it is too soon to draw a conclusion until we have data to evaluate,” OED’s Economic Intelligence Advisor, John Crawford-Gallagher, tells CHS.

“There’s not [any substantial evidence] yet mainly because the window time has been so short,” said the Chamber’s Sierra Hansen. “Right now the quickest way to get some hard numbers is to partner with some businesses on Broadway to tell us how they’re doing.” Continue reading

Call them cottages if you must but Seattle looking to ease construction of backyard rentals

(Source: City of Seattle)

(Source: City of Seattle)

(Source: City of Seattle)

(Source: City of Seattle)

With the waves of development that continue to cross Capitol Hill only occasionally breaking into areas currently dominated by single family homes, the Seattle City Council is preparing a new push to ease the creation of new housing in the backyards of some of those single family homes.

“No one needs to be told that we’re in a housing crisis right now,” Mike O’Brien said. “Backyard  cottages are a great place to add more capacity. They could happen in our single family neighborhoods, which cover the majority of our real estate, and [they] can be done in a way without having some of the visual impacts that some neighbors are concerned about.”

O’Brien, who represents District 6 encompassing Ballard and Fremont, has unveiled his new legislative proposal to ease some of the city’s standing regulations on backyard cottages to encourage their construction and add to the city’s overall housing stock.

The backyard cottage blog features design ideas, resources, and news related to Seattle’s backyard cottages

The “detached accessory dwelling units” — or DADUs — have been praised by proponents as a way to add modest density in desirable, family-friendly single-family neighborhoods, increase access to said neighborhoods — where houses are selling for more than half a million dollars for the less affluent — as well as provide an income stream for single family homeowners who construct and rent out DADUs to tenants. Continue reading

‘Clopening’ time: Seattle on the clock for secure scheduling

June on Capitol Hill, Starbucks on Olive

The subject has been bubbling up in Seattle public discourse for around six months now. Last fall, local progressive labor advocacy organization Working Washington and Starbucks baristas protested their inconsistent and unpredictable work schedules, which labor advocates say act as barriers for low-income workers to scheduling life necessities like college classes or childcare or budgeting living expenses. A few months later, in his 2016 state of the city speech, Mayor Ed Murray highlighted secure scheduling as a key low-wage worker equity issue and said his office would work with the City Council to address it.

“We know that having a secure schedule of hours helps workers plan their budget, plan for childcare, enroll in school or take a second job – and we know schedule predictability will most help low-wage hourly workers,” Murray said in his speech.

SECURE SCHEDULING
Here are a couple chances to get involved or learn more: Thursday night, “join a live tele-town hall over the phone and over the internet about the fight for secure scheduling in Seattle. When: 6:00 pm, Thursday, May 26, 2016. Where: You can listen in live over the phone by calling 855-756-7520 Ext. 32020#, or join live online athttp://workingwa.org/ourtimecounts/townhall.” On Friday, the committee will hear from Lonnie Goldan, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute who has studied the issue, on her findings and national data. Tune in to Seattle Channel at 9:30AM to watch. On June 16th,Working Washington is holding a “Secure Scheduling Story Slam.”

With a $15 minimum wage already under Seattle’s belt, City Hall along with labor and business interests have turned their attention to the next big issue affecting the city’s proletariat and their bosses: secure scheduling.

“The response has moved pretty quickly from when workers first spoke out about it, and that’s heartening. There’s been a tremendous amount of support expressed by both the council and the mayor’s office on the need to move forward and do something to address secure scheduling,” said Sage Wilson, a spokesperson for Working Washington. “This is a really urgent issue for workers week to week.” Continue reading

Save Madison Valley: Tensions over planned PCC development

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Last week, around one hundred and twenty people gathered at the Bush School Community Center deep in Madison Valley to attend a presentation and question and answer session with architect Charles Strazzara on his conceptual ideas for what the future mixed use development project on the property that currently houses the much-loved City People’s garden store on E Madison will look like. And since many members of the audience weren’t keen on seeing such a large project go up in the Valley, it was a lively — and at times heated — meeting. And there are still weeks until the project’s first design review in July.

“We’re in that interim of space between now and the submission of that EDG packet. I want to work with you until then. We want to become a good neighbor,” Strazzara told the crowd.

CHS broke the news back in March that the owners of the triangular lot that is currently home to City People’s is in the process of selling the property to the Michigan-based developer Velmeir with plans to build a four-story mixed use project with a 25,000 square-foot commercial space for a PCC grocery market, 75 residential units, and 164 parking spaces. Since the April announcement of the project, neighborhood concerns about the development have coalesced in the form of a group called Save Madison Valley, who say they to have hired a land use attorney to help them shape the project. Members of the group were present at the May 17th meeting, sporting black Save Madison Valley t-shirts and ready to have their say on the Studio Meng Strazzara design.

The event — organized by Madison Valley Community Council, its president Lindy Wishard and Jeff Floor, a member the Central Area Land Use Review Committee (or LURC), an organization which seeks to facilitate dialogue between neighbors and developers working on projects in central Seattle—was an opportunity for architect Strazzara to explain his ideas for the project and show of preliminary graphic renderings with a powerpoint as well as take questions from the attendees and hear their input.

Floor from LURC asked the crowd to be respectful of the presentation after several outbursts from audience members . “Typically when we get a developer to show up it’s much closer to the EDG phase or after. And not all developers want to do it so I’m appreciative when they want to do it,” he said. Given the preliminary nature of the concept renderings featured in the presentation, Strazzara, Floor, and Wishard asked the audience not to take photos, a request that displeased some. “What’s respectful about not taking photos,” shouted one attendee. Continue reading

What’s next for the Pike/Pine pedestrian zone plan

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What does City Hall do when “the community” seemingly disagrees on how to move forward on a civic project? When it comes to the Pike/Pine pedestrian zone and its wide support among nightlife and entertainment patrons and owners, and street activation activists and less enthusiastic elements like some of the daytime-focused businesses and developers of the neighborhood, the answer will be a “community” meeting to set a new course for the plan.

Last month the Office of Economic Development released its comprehensive report on last year’s Pike/Pine street closure pilot project — otherwise known as the “pedestrian zone.” The city says a community meeting on the plan will be held soon.

OED spokesperson Joe Mirabella tells CHS that they’re still working on nailing down a location and exact date for the first public community meeting as recommended in the report. Sometime in “mid-June” is the current plan. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing to launch transit pass program for tenants, shared parking pilot

With the help of a Capitol Hill nonprofit, Seattle will pilot two innovative programs designed to make public transportation more affordable and better utilize the neighborhood’s apartment building parking.

Tuesday afternoon, the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee will discuss and possibly vote on the two pilot transit projects to be run by the non-profit Capitol Hill Housing and funded by the city of Seattle and King County. The projects — collectively dubbed the CHH Transportation Demand Management Pilot Project — consist of a discounted ORCA pass pilot program for low-income residents of three CHH housing projects and funding to develop a prototype sensor to gather data on parking garage usage in apartment buildings.

“Giving people more access to transit is a goal that we have and the city has, especially for low income people,” said Alex Brennan of CHH in reference to the transit pass aspect of the project. “A potentially new way to connect people with that access [to transit is to go through housing].”

The proposed CHH transit pass is almost identical to King County Metro’s existing ORCA Multifamily Passport program, which allows property owners and managers to purchase pre-loaded, monthly ORCA card transit passes to the residents of their buildings with the intention of encouraging transit and all the accompanying benefits of decreased single occupancy vehicle usage like reduced congestion, pollution, and the personal financial cost of car ownership. The key difference is that while the Multifamily Passport program forces property owners and managers to cover the cost by either splitting it with tenants or just adding it into monthly rents, the city plans to subsidize CHH to cover the costs of providing ORCA cards.

“We heard about it [the ORCA Multifamily Passport program] and we were interested. But unlike a market-rate property manager, we can’t raise your rent to pay for a pass,” said Brennan. “We started having conversations with Metro and SDOT on ways to make it more affordable and ways to raise money.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill, Central Seattle lose in updated bike master plan

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The Seattle Department of Transportation has released the updated, $64.1 million Seattle Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan (PDF) — the agency’s most recent annual blueprint for rolling out bike infrastructure projects over the following five years. But to the frustration of local bike advocates, many infrastructure projects (like protected bike lanes and greenways) have been delayed or dropped altogether from SDOT’s game plan. And Capitol Hill wasn’t spared.

In Capitol Hill and broader Central Seattle, key protected bike lane projects and a number of greenways were either slashed entirely or postponed in the updated BMP implementation. To name a few, the protected bike lanes linking downtown to Capitol Hill on either Pike or Pine has disappeared from the updated BMP entirely (this project was slated to be completed by the end of 2016), along with the protected bike lane on South Jackson street (scheduled for 2019), the East Pine street greenway and the East Denny Way greenway linking the new Capitol Hill light rail station to the eastern residential heart of the neighborhood (both projects were supposed to be completed in 2019). Then there’s the protected bike lane extension on Broadway, which got bumped to 2017 after originally planned to be finished in 2016.

Capitol Hill did, however, gain a planned greenway on E Republican, linking the north end of Broadway to the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway that runs the length of 23rd avenue on parallel streets. But the win isn’t enough to offset the losses for local bike advocates.

“Like everyone else we’re frustrated,” said Brie Gyncild, co-leader of Central Seattle Greenways. “These sorts of [changes] make you wonder, how accurate is any of this?” said Gyncild. “We’re always just about get our next project.” Continue reading