What’s next for Seattle’s head tax? Sawant pivoting on ‘Tax Amazon Movement’ after repeal

Even as they voted to repeal it, Seattle City Council members said Tuesday that an employee hours tax is probably the city’s best route forward to creating an alternative, non-regressive revenue stream to combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The moves begin, now, to come up with a new, stronger tax plan.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who has claimed the “Tax Amazon movement” as a follow-up to the successful $15 minimum wage fight, will be first out of the gates for shaping what comes next, saying Tuesday in council chambers that a “Tax Amazon Movement: Campaign Launch & Organizing Conference” is still happening. Continue reading

Good news, Amazon, Seattle won’t be taxing you after all — UPDATE: Repealed


UPDATE 2:10 PM: In a vote interrupted by a chanting crowd and District 3 representative Kshama Sawant’s refusal to voice her yay or nay despite threats from President Bruce Harrell that he would close council chambers if outbursts continued, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to repeal the city’s yet-to-be-implemented, unanimously-passed head tax on Seattle’s largest businesses.

As she seemingly goaded on her supporters in the council chambers, Sawant paused and let the chants swell before finally casting her vote against the repeal. Continue reading

Up against a wall of *if*, here’s *how* Seattle head tax money would be spent on Capitol Hill


If it survives a voter referendum cooked up this week by business and economic groups opposing the plan… And if the spending plan put forward by the City Council somehow can survive mayoral opposition…

How much of the roughly $237 million over five years in head tax revenue will come to Capitol Hill? The short answer is, some, but it’s too early to say exactly. A Seattle City Council resolution, however, gives a starting point. Along with the head tax, the council approved a companion resolution that laid out broad preliminary plans for the windfall of cash.

The resolution is non-binding and could change during the council’s budget process in the fall. Additionally, the Mayor Jenny Durkin’s office has indicated that she opposes the preliminary spending plans, council staff say. Continue reading

Seattle approves plan for ‘reasonable’ tax on its largest businesses to help pay for housing, homelessness — UPDATE

The Seattle City Council Monday afternoon chose a smaller, simpler, “reasonable” compromise to create a new tax on the city’s largest companies to help pay for affordable housing and homelessness services.

In a 8-1 vote, the council — some reluctantly — chose a new version of the plan introduced as Amendment 24 during the afternoon full council session with sponsorship from eight of the nine members — all save Capitol Hill’s District 3 rep, Kshama Sawant.

UPDATE: The council unanimously approved the final ordinance modified by approved Amendment 24 with a 9-0 vote.

“I’ve been really struggling with how I feel about this compromise because I’ve been really, really focused on the spending plan and the dire needs of our communities,” co-sponsor of the original legislation Lisa Herbold said before the vote. But she said she was proud the plan for a new tax had “evolved more towards progressivity” and would do things like protect the city’s small businesses. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Special Yesler Terrace crew begins work to address Seattle’s affordability crisis

Change is coming for Yesler Terrace. But, in the meantime, weeds keep growing. CHS found this work crew taking it easy on a slowly warming Seattle spring day not far from Washington and Yesler, just off Broadway. Continue reading

Seattle looks at insurance on Downtown Transit Tunnel traffic in Convention Center expansion deal

The future of Boren at Olive

The $83 million “community package” of public benefits including cash for affordable housing, bike infrastructure improvements, and Freeway Park enhancement will go in front of the Seattle City Council Monday afternoon for final approval in a move that should clear the way for the vacation of city right of way needed to construct the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion in downtown Seattle at the foot of Capitol Hill.

There is, however, one small point to consider on the vote necessary to allow the project to begin construction of the expansion later this year with a goal of opening the new 1.2 million-square-foot structure in 2020. The City Council will consider an insurance plan of sorts on the the traffic impact from moving buses out of the downtown transit tunnel. “If the WSCC sends a request to King County to close the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) to buses in March 2019, the WSCC shall provide $50,000 to SDOT when the closure request is sent to King County,” the proposed substitute version of the bill up for vote Monday reads. “SDOT shall use the funds to analyze the impacts of closing the DSTT on transit service on 2rd, 3rd, and 4th Avenues between Jackson and Stewart Streets.” Continue reading

Groups announce First Hill plan for Seattle’s ‘largest’ affordable housing building

Nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group announced Monday morning that they are moving forward on an affordable housing project on surplus Sound Transit land on First Hill. The project will be “the largest building constructed by any affordable housing provider in Seattle, with 12 to 15 floors of housing over a floor of retail, service, and community space.”

Sound Transit has agreed to transfer to the two organizations at “zero-cost” following a November decision on what to do with the land originally acquired for a never-built First Hill light rail station at the corner of Madison and Boylston. Continue reading

Workshop will try to get community priorities out in front of coming, taller 15th Ave E redevelopment

15th Ave E from above

By the time the bulldozers show up, it’s way too late to have any impact on how a new building might look.

So a pair of architecture firms located on 15th Avenue East are planning to get ahead of any development on the street they call home. Board & Vellum and Environmental Works are hosting a design workshop, open to the public, to discuss what 15th Ave E could look like as redevelopment happens.

Thus far in the recent building boom, 15th has largely been spared much redevelopment, save for the old Chutney’s site being replaced by the Stream 15 building in 2013. And the lack of change hasn’t just been during the current boom. Chris Parker of Board & Vellum notes that in going back through archived photos, the neighborhood looks largely the same as it has for decades.

“It hasn’t changed much since the 1950s,” he said. Continue reading

‘Histories of Capitol Hill’ event reveals divides even as community comes together

Sara Galvin (Images: CHS)

Community thought leaders, activists and performers are organizing events around the city as part of Town Hall’s a year-long artists in residence event series. Designer Erik Molano brought together passionate activists for an ambitious undertaking with his first event, Histories of Capitol Hill and What We’ll Build Next. Before an audience at the Summit on E Pike last week they explored the challenge of maintaining the heritage of a community through growth and development.

“A lot of these buildings are being erased and with them the memories and people who inhabited them or gathered in and expressed themselves in those buildings,” said Molano, co-founder of brand agency Photon Factory. For Molano, who moved to Seattle five years ago to work at Microsoft, the demolition of old buildings “is a loss of history.

Following individual poetry readings and a presentation from Capitol Hill Housing at the Summit on Pike, a group of community advocates responded to prompts from Molano in an effort to determine what preserving heritage in a developing city means. The group spoke on a wide range of intersectional issues related to the affordable housing crisis. Continue reading

‘Community Package’ including affordable housing, park cash gets support in Convention Center expansion hearing

Council member Mike O’Brien (right) views a model of the planned convention center expansion (Image: CHS)

Fine tuning some $83 million in public benefits — and how quickly the cash to pay for them will be delivered — was the theme of the night as neighborhood, transit, and public space advocates came to City Hall Wednesday.

“The sooner we can get more money for affordable housing the better,” said Seattle City Council sustainability and transportation committee chair Mike O’Brien.

Wednesday’s hearing featured mostly speakers in support of the Community Package Coalition formed to create a shared platform of community priorities for a roster of public benefits to be exchanged for the vacation of “Block 33, Block 43, Block 44, Olive Way & Terry Avenue.” The city land is planned to be part of the construction of the estimated $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center addition and development that will create a massive new exhibition facility across I-5 between Pike and Olive Way.

“Equity and equitable outcomes should be at the forefront of discussions around large real estate projects such as this one,” said McCaela Daffern from Capitol Hill Housing. “I ask that you make note of the significant contributions toward affordable housing secured thanks to advocacy of Capitol Hill housing and the rest of the coalition.” Continue reading