City Council passes 2016 budget with lone ‘no’ vote from Sawant

The Seattle City Council ended its grueling annual budget process Monday afternoon with an 8-1 vote, sending a spending package topping $5 billion back to Mayor Ed Murray for final approval. The council added just over $18 million (PDF) in spending to Murray’s original $5.1 billion budget, along with an additional $5 million to be spent on emergency homeless services this year. City Council member Kshama Sawant cast the lone dissenting vote on the final budget, saying it did not go far enough to address the urgent needs of working people

“… on balance the budget differs little from previous years, and fails to address the acute housing crisis, inadequate transit, and ballooning inequality and injustice permeating Seattle,” Sawant said in a statement.

Outgoing Council member and budget committee chair Nick Licata positioned Seattle’s 2016 budget as a response to federal cutbacks. Federal grants have shrunk from 62% to 26% of the City’s Human Services budget, a 58% decrease, while the City’s General Fund contribution to the Human Services budget has more than doubled, from 25% to 55%, according to a statement on the council’s vote.

Among all the programs and initiatives included in next year’s budget, spending on homeless services stood out as a defining feature. All told, the City Council approved more than $47 million in 2016 to fight homelessness — or, about 1% of its budget for the year. Following up on his declaration of a homelessness state of emergency in Seattle, Murray will be at a Seattle University forum December 2nd to further discuss the issue.

The full council convened Monday afternoon after a short morning budget committee meeting in the morning to consider last-minute amendments. Much of the debate focused on how best to expand paid parental leave for City employees. Continue reading

Seattle set to spend more than $47 million on homelessness in 2016

Seattle will spend more than $47 million in 2016 to fight homelessness following City Hall votes this week — or, about 1% of its proposed budget for the year.

Last Thursday, Mayor Ed Murray joined in the prayers at First Hill’s Saint James Cathedral for the Mass for the Deceased Homeless “in memory of the men and women who died on the streets or by violence in our community this past year.”

45 people have died on the street in Seattle in 2015, Murray said earlier this month as the mayor declared a homelessness state of emergency in the city. That declaration will allow the city to add $5.3 million in spending to the $40 million called for in the mayor’s $5.1 billion 2016 budget proposal. Monday, the City Council boosted the emergency spend by another $2.3 million thanks to Seattle’s windfall from higher than expected real estate tax revenue. Kshama Sawant, set to lead District 3 in the new year, was unsuccessful in her bid to win support from her fellow Seattle City Council members for an even greater proposal of $10 million to build emergency housing. Continue reading

City Council budget debate includes Capitol Hill LGBTQ center plan — UPDATE

George Piper of Seattle LGBTQ Development spoke Monday in favor of a new Capitol Hill community center -- provided the LGBTQ community actually guides its creation

George Piper of Seattle LGBTQ Development spoke Monday in favor of a new Capitol Hill community center — provided the LGBTQ community actually guides its creation

UPDATE: Monday’s City Council budget negotiations didn’t get off to a good start for the future representative of District 3. After a prolonged debate, three proposals from City Council member Kshama Sawant failed to make the agenda, effectively killing or delaying key parts of the progressive action plan she laid out ahead of this year’s budget process.

The City Council rejected Sawant’s amendments for increased spending on homeless services, a study to create a LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill, and funding for a municipal broadband pilot project.

Debate over Sawant’s “statement of legislative intent” to have the parks department study the creation of a new Capitol Hill LGBTQ center zeroed in on the scope of Seattle’s existing community centers and if the parks department was the best agency to oversee the project. City Council member Tom Rasmussen, the council’s only gay member, lead the objection to Sawant’s proposal, saying community centers were meant to serve all residents.

“The LGBTQ community is well dispersed throughout Seattle,” he said. “To confine these services… to Capitol Hill is very limited.”

City council members approved Rasmussen’s alternative amendment (PDF), which directs the parks department to study how it can better serve residents at all of its community centers with special focus on Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center. Rasmussen said he supported the idea of a LGBTQ “impact hub” on Capitol Hill, but urged caution given past LGBTQ centers that shuttered because of dwindling public support. “It has to grow organically from the community and really have a solid business plan,” he said.

Supporters of municipal broadband were also dealt a blow after council members rejected Sawant’s $4.8 million budget amendment for a municipal broadband pilot project. Saying hatred against Comcast was the “great uniter” in Seattle, Sawant proposed funding the amendment though a tax on businesses based on the number of employees they have.

Council members were expected to take a final vote on the budget amendments Monday afternoon.

UPDATE: The Department of Neighborhood’s would reorganize itself around the new City Council districts under a budget resolution put forward by Council member Sally Bagshaw There are currently nine district coordinators assigned to 13 neighborhood districts which now overlay seven council districts. The statement of legislative intent (PDF) doesn’t necessarily require neighborhood districts match council districts, but instructs DON to study its options in a preliminary report due May 1st.

The plan should include proposals for changes or modifications to the Neighborhood District Coordinators program, including proposals for updated job descriptions, protocols for working with district Councilmembers, and improvements to the City’s relationship to the existing District Councils and City Neighborhood Council.

Continue reading

Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce tabs PR heavy hitter as next director

Hansen (Image via Linkedin)

Hansen (Image via Linkedin)

A West Seattle public relations star with years of big organization experience will be the next to lead the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. On Wednesday, the group’s board announced Sierra Hansen as the organization’s next executive director, marking an end to the board’s two month search.

Talking about her days as a young lesbian living on the Hill in the 1990s, Hansen said she was excited for the opportunity to be part of the neighborhood that embraced her as she first arrived in Seattle. “It was the one place I could be who I was. It will be nice to give back to the community,” Hansen tells CHS.

The job pays $70,000 to $85,000, requires a bachelor’s, and a “familiarity working within culturally diverse surroundings.”

“Capitol Hill is a diverse, growing community with a vast group of stakeholders,” said chamber board co-chair Jill Cronauer of Hunters Capital in a statement on the hire. “Sierra’s background and experience will be a tremendous asset to the Chamber and our membership to ensure our organization helps shape the community’s future by responding to our neighborhood’s challenges and opportunities. We are excited by the leadership and experience Sierra will bring to this role.”

“I am thrilled to join the CHCC in this role and look forward to working closely with the Board and membership to grow our neighborhood’s business district,” Hansen said in the statement. “I’ve lived, shopped, dined, danced, worked, explored, attended school and walked in Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. I even legally married my wife Barb in Cal Anderson Park on Pride Sunday 2013. It was the first place I felt embraced and accepted and I look forward to give back to the community.”

With a deep resume that includes 17 years of corporate and government marketing and communications work, Hansen will lead the 215-member neighborhood business association through a major shift in culture and purpose as the board seeks to expand its footprint in the neighborhood. Continue reading

Capitol Hill building owner objects to ‘economic eviction’ accusations

The Celeste was originally known The Allen (Image: King County)

The Celeste was originally known The Allen (Image: King County)

A dispute between tenants of a 109-year-old Capitol Hill building and the building’s new owner was thrust into the spotlight last month when City Council member Kshama Sawant said the situation was an example of why Seattle needs stronger protections against “slumlord” rent increases.

Tenants at The Celeste say the The Stratford Company owners are engaging in “economic evictions” by drastically increasing rents to force people out so the company can renovate the building. One tenant told CHS rents were increasing by $500 for units that were renting for under $1,000 a month.

Stratford’s regional manager Julie Medina pushed back against the economic eviction claims on Tuesday, telling CHS that tenants don’t understand how financial constraints and market pricing work.

“The old owners never increased rents and all we did was bring it to market rent,” Medina said. “You tell me where you can rent a unit on Capitol Hill for $800.” Continue reading

A hub for black art, business, and community, CD planned as Seattle arts district

Following Capitol Hill’s designation in 2014, the Central District is being planned as Seattle’s second official Cultural Arts District.

The push for a Central Area arts district stems from organizing efforts between a collection of cultural institutions, community members, and black artists, all hoping to both preserve and nurture the artistic and cultural legacy of Seattle’s historically African American neighborhood as the neighborhood changes and gentrifies amidst the citywide development boom and influx of new residents. The designation backers will be holding an open house this weekend to engage with the public on the designation.

“Particularly in light of all the change that is happening in the central area, this is a moment for us to pool our efforts and make this happen,” said Vivian Phillips, a lifetime Central District resident, director of marketing and communications for the Seattle Theater Group and current co-chair of the coalition pushing for the designation.

The public meeting is hoped to help define “the scope of our work both short term and long term,” Phillips said.

Following months of discussion and organizing among Central District African American arts advocates, the designation legislation is planned to begin its path through City Hall in December. Continue reading

City Council vote sets up 2016 as year for progress on Seattle affordability plan

Sorry -- we've asked for a finer resolution for the "implementation" map but no luck, so far

Sorry — we’ve asked for a finer resolution for the “implementation” map but no luck, so far

The Seattle City Council is expected to pass a set of bills Monday afternoon that will set up 2016 as a year to lay the legislative groundwork for a plan to create 20,000 affordable units in the city by 2025.

Monday’s legislation adds a new chapter 23.58B to the Seattle Municipal Code while amending other portions of the code “to establish the framework for an Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program for commercial development.” A second resolution slated for vote by the full council Monday afternoon states “the Council’s intent to make changes to zoning and land use regulations to implement a mandatory inclusionary affordable housing program for residential development and an affordable housing impact mitigation program for commercial development recommended by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Advisory Committee and the Mayor.”

Got all that? The legislative machinations set up the City Council — including some new names… and old — to shape two new programs in the new year.

The commercial linkage fee will require all new commercial development to pay into an affordable housing fund or create an equivalent amount of housing at another site. In exchange, developers that brave Seattle will be rewarded with additional floor area to help builders offset the costs.

Mandatory inclusionary housing will require all new multifamily buildings to make 5-8% of their units affordable to those making 60% of the area median income or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund. In 2013, Seattle households at 60% AMI took in $40,487.

Here is the timeline for implementation of the new rules.

City briefed on how Seattle is prepping for ‘the big one’

The Really Big One was a scary reminder of how vulnerable Seattle is to not one, but two disastrous earthquake scenarios. City Council members recently asked the Seattle Office of Emergency Management to run down what exactly we’re doing to prepare for them.

A couple weeks back, OEM director Barb Graff laid out the city’s recent preparedness efforts. Among the most notable changes over the past two years was OEM has shifted its advice to being prepared for three days to “a more realistic” 7-10 days. Kits should include on gallon of water per person per day, food, a light source, and a first aid kit.

OEM also directly trains and facilitates training for emergency preparedness. According to Graff OED has:

  • Trained 713 people in disaster skills
  • Delivered Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) programs to nearly 4,300 people
  • Trained 20 Community Safety Ambassadors who teach preparedness to their own cultural communities
  • Formed 18 new “hubs” (more than 50 in place now) where people gather to help or be helped

Unfortunately, Capitol Hill lags behind with no active hubs or SNAP groups mostly due to a lack of involvement, OEM’s community planning organizer Debbie Goetz told CHS earlier this year. While Capitol Hill has three designated hubs where people are supposed to gather after a natural disaster, there are no point groups tied to those locations.

In June, the group Capitol Hill Prepares announced it would dissolving its earthquake preparedness activities at the Cal Anderson Park hub and shutting down its website and social media accounts, which were the most active in the neighborhood.

OEM has also used Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for projects like seismic retrofitting on low income homes and a public awareness campaign about unreinforced masonry buildings.

Over the past two years, the agency has activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center 15 times. The agency is also preparing for a multi-day preparedness exercise in June 2016. Cascade Rising will include local, state, and federal agencies in Western Washington and Oregon.

In August, the city launched AlertSeattle — a service that gives users real time updates in emergency situations through text messages and email. So far, 16,000 people have signed up.

OEM hosts a “Preparing for the Big One” class. The next open class is on November 17th at the Green Lake public library.

45 dead in 2015 — mayor declares Seattle homelessness in a state of emergency

These Seattle Times


Council member Mike O’Brien discussed the $5.3 million package on Monday (Image: City of Seattle)

A state of emergency in the Pacific Northwest is something we might more typically associate with natural disasters. Monday morning, Mayor Ed Murray declared a civil state of emergency on homelessness.

At least 45 people have died on the street this year, Murray said at a media conference to announce $5.3 million in spending to address the issue.

“We are in a moment in our history where decades of service cuts, growing inequality, and untreated mental health and drug addiction has finally resulted in a human crisis seldom seen in the history of out city — indeed, in the history of our nation,” Murray said. Continue reading

Capitol Hill drug arrest drop trails big plunge downtown following diversion program

drug arrest density

A concentration of drug related arrests on Capitol Hill since 2011 is part of the rationale behind expanding LEAD. (Image: SPD)

As the number of 911 calls involving drugs on Capitol Hill has declined in recent years, the decline in drug-related arrests has not kept pace. According to a recent report commissioned by the Seattle Police Department, drug-related calls for service declined 34% from 2012-2014 while drug-related arrests only declined 10%.

The trend is particularly interesting when compared to downtown, where drug-related calls for service rose 13% while drug-related arrests declined by 40% in the same time period.

The report didn’t attempt to identify reasons for the discrepancy but researchers said a successful downtown drug diversion program may be a factor. SPD commissioned the Council of State Governments study in order to determine how best to expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion — a successful downtown strategy for keeping non-violent drug offenders out of jail.

By looking at crime trends since 2008, researchers determined that Capitol Hill’s commercial core (primarily Pike/Pine and Broadway) ranked among the top three highest concentrations of drug-related 911 calls, arrests, and jail bookings along with downtown and Pioneer Square. It’s the statistical basis the city and county are using for expanding LEAD to Capitol Hill sometime this year.

By expanding LEAD to Capitol Hill, the SPD report said the service areas would cover 2.5% of Seattle’s land area — an area that covers roughly 60% of the city’s drug‐related calls for service and about half of the city’s drug‐related arrests. Continue reading