Seattle, where ‘restrooms are available and safe for all’

Seattle’s LGBTQ task force convened to help fight hate crimes on Capitol Hill is approaching the problems of bias and inequality from all angles. In one of the first recommendations from the 30-member committee, Mayor Ed Murray’s office has proposed legislation that would require all single-occupancy restrooms in the city to be available as all-gender facilities.

“This legislation is a powerful and appropriate step in serving the needs of our time and place,” Marsha Botzer, founding member and secretary of Equal Rights Washington, former chair of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and founder of the Ingersoll Gender Center, said in the City Hall announcement.

The proposed legislation “would require all City-controlled and privately operated places of public accommodation to designate existing or future single-occupant restrooms as allgender facilities. All existing City-controlled single-occupant restrooms (across all City departments, from City Hall to Parks) will be re-signed to conform to this new standard.”

On Capitol Hill, the new proposed signage won’t likely require many changes at local businesses where most bathrooms — including a few of the multiple-occupancy variety — might already be considered fully in compliance.

“The transgender community deserves the dignity and respect that most people take for granted,” Murray said in the announcement. “That’s why Seattle is building upon our history of being one of the most welcoming cities in the world by ensuring restrooms are available and safe for all.”

Friday night, the third annual Seattle Trans* Pride rally and march takes place starting at Cal Anderson. Organizers estimated a few thousand people participated in the 2014 rally and march on Broadway.


In District 3 race, 43rd Dems won’t endorse Hearne, either

Hearne at a May candidates forum (Image: CHS)

Hearne at a May candidates forum (Image: CHS)

The 43rd District Democrats won’t endorse a party fundraiser and leader from the state’s 2012 marriage equality fight, either.

Tuesday night, District 3 challenger Rod Hearne fell well short of the group’s endorsement in his campaign to unseat Socialist Alternative Kshama Sawant from her incumbent position on the City Council.

The vote echoed the results from the May meeting of the 43rd Dems in which none of the rest of the eligible D3 field garnered the 60% of votes needed for endorsement. Only Democrats are eligible for the endorsements leaving Sawant on the sideline for the process.

Hearne was brought up for a vote separately from his fellow candidates after being ruled ineligible for an endorsement in May when his campaign was late to submit a required questionnaire.

The lack of endorsements is a victory of sorts for the popular but polarizing candidate and are a clear blow to the campaign hopes of challengers — especially former Urban League head Pamela Banks who is doing much, much better on the fundraising end of things.

Hearne, meanwhile, is pushing to put his LGBTQ credentials and ideas about transit, Capitol Hill crime, and municipal broadband on the table to compete with the relatively deep Banks and Sawant coffers.

The race for the Council seat to lead the district that includes Capitol Hill and the Central District is pushing toward the August primary in which the top two voter getters will move through to a final vote in November. You can view all CHS D3 coverage here.

UPDATE: Hearne reminded us that, while he didn’t get the nod from the 43rd, the candidate *did* receive the endorsement of the King County Democrats:

Campaign contributions spike in District 3 race

The fight to lead District 3 has many fronts but one area is clearly a battlefield — the money war. According to the latest filings with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, campaign contributions to incumbent Kshama Sawant and challenger Pamela Banks are spiking and pushing the race to the top of the money-powered giving pile with under two months to go to the primary.

According to the SEEC, District 3 remains the race with the second highest contribution totals but, in the latest update of numbers last week, the campaign appears on track to unseat citywide Council Position 8 as the most money-powered race in Seattle. As of today, Position 8 has attracted nearly $330,000 in contributions while District 3 candidates have netted a whopping $291,000, a 55% jump from the last tally in May. Continue reading

Plan would require developers to create more affordable housing — or pay

Updated map where linkage fees could be implemented.

Updated map where linkage fees could be implemented.

The days of trying to “incentivize” Seattle developers to build more affordable housing could be nearing an end. Under a plan released by the city Thursday, developers building in certain Seattle neighborhoods could be required to make up to 10% of their new units affordable and/or pay a fee that would fund thousands of new affordable apartment units.

It’s one of the first tangible results of the City Council’s effort to force developers to contribute more affordable units amid a boom of residential construction in the city, particularly on Capitol Hill. The policy could also be key in realizing Mayor Ed Murray’s goal to create 20,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade.

The Affordable Housing Mitigation Program calls for developers to pay a linkage fee on new developments, as high as $28 per gross square foot, into an affordable housing fund. Over ten years, DPD estimates the fee could generate around $1.16 billion to create 14,500 new affordable units. The inclusionary zoning part of the plan would require developers to make up to 10% of their new units affordable to create 5,900 affordable units in 10 years, according to DPD models. Continue reading

Report says municipal broadband too expensive for Seattle to build alone

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Residential survey results

For Seattle to build a municipal broadband service, more than 40% of households would need to sign up to pay $75 a month for the service — a higher rate of penetration than any other municipal network in the country, according to a consultant’s report released by the City of Seattle Tuesday — or we’re going to need help.

The report completed by Maryland-based Columbia Telecommunications says that it would cost Seattle between $480 to $665 million to build out the system that municipal broadband advocates believe would level the playing field with entrenched providers like Comcast and provide better service to the city.

You can read the full City of Seattle Fiber-to-the-Premises Feasibility Study here.

“Broadband internet service is a necessity in the 21st century but many Seattle residents don’t have equal access,” Michael Mattmiller, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle, said in a statement. “This report builds on past studies and take a comprehensive look at whether the City could provide universal broadband service in today’s landscape that is affordable, competitive and equally accessible to everyone.”

Recommendations for the project identified small businesses as particularly eager customers for a better broadband solution. The study recommends that the any municipal service in the city should be designed to serve households and small businesses:

Three key responses from the business surveys seem to support our recommendations for
providing niche service to residential and small business customers:
 It seems reliability of connection is the most important factor for business survey respondents, with speed and price of service close behind.
 Most business respondents answered that they pay somewhere between $50 and $199 for their current connection.
 Less than a quarter of respondents to the business survey claim that their Internet connection speed is fast enough for their business needs.

In the statement on the release of the report, the city said that if a municipal effort in Seattle failed to reach 40% penetration or was priced below $75 per month, the network would be a financial failure. “With a smaller customer base or prices below a $75 monthly charge, financials deteriorate quickly and the City is exposed to significant potential losses,” the statement concludes. “With a proposed service price increase of just $10, raising it to $85 per month, the study found customer interest fell significantly, also exposing the city to substantial risk.”

The study also considered a tax-funded solution but the analysts found that it, too, would be too risky for the city to take on.

The consultants found that the most feasible approach for Seattle to create a municipal broadband utility would be through a joint venture, “where the City would work with a partner to create a service that allows the City to maintain its status as a technology leader and provide equity to the public.”

‘Tax the rich’ — Sawant’s District 3 campaign goes global with push for Seattle rent control

(Image: Alex Garland with permission to CHS)

(Image: Alex Garland with permission to CHS)

In Seattle’s largest City Council campaign rally and fundraiser of the 2015 campaign, hundreds of supporters of incumbent and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant packed into 8th and Seneca’s Town Hall Saturday evening. A slate of speakers, some traveling from as far as Ireland and Greece, pumped up the crowd for nearly two hours in anticipation of Sawant taking the stage.

“What is taking place in this room is called a revolution,” said author and TruthDig columnist Chris Hedges. Hedges later said, “If we lose this one we lose everything, and it begins tonight with you in this room with Kshama Sawant.”

The City Council campaign rally was not only unusual for its size, but for its sweeping themes that extended far beyond the boundaries of Capitol Hill and the handful of other District 3 neighborhoods. Speakers extolled the importance of spreading Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party ideals globally and the crucial role her reelection would play in that effort.

Sawant continues to push rent control as a top issue in her campaign despite the statewide ban on such policies. On Monday, Sawant and City Council member Nick Licata introduced a resolution stating the council’s support for rolling back the ban.

“Our city is being turned into a playground for the super wealthy,” Sawant said Saturday night.

Also speaking at the campaign rally, State Sen. Pramila Jayapal vowed to work to lift the state ban on rent control, which is key for Sawant to make good on her pledge to pass rent control in Seattle.

“People demanded action with one voice on the housing crisis,” Sawant said. “They demanded rent control to make Seattle affordable.”

Continue reading

Revised lowrise zoning proposals face slow growth fight

Capitol Hill resident Patrick Tompkins has his say Tuesday

Capitol Hill resident Patrick Tompkins has his say Tuesday

Seemingly frustrated by yet another compromise proposal, home — and townhome — owners from around Seattle added their voices to the opposition Tuesday to City Council member Mike O’Brien’s revised legislation to update zoning rules for Seattle’s lowrise neighborhoods.

Capitol Hill microhousing opponent Carl Winter was part of a parade of speakers during the public comments on the proposals who said they were not happy with O’Brien’s legislation strengthening restrictions on the size and scale of developments in Lowrise 3 zones. Winter called O’Brien’s “rewrite” “unacceptable.”

CHS reported in early May on the attempt at strengthening the Lowrise 3 restrictions without stifling the creation of new housing being offered by O’Brien.

Like Winter, many of the public commenters at Tuesday’s session of the Council’s planning and land use committee have been part of recent battles over development on Capitol Hill. Patrick Tompkins, a microhousing opponent and a big part of an unsuccessful fight against the Capitol Hill Community Council’s representatives in the light rail development process, was one of several Capitol Hill residents to voice opposition to O’Brien’s bill. Check out C is for Crank for quotes from many of the day’s speakers and some brutal analysis of the situation.

Seattle’s anti-density and slow growth advocates have kept up the fight even when faced with a city that has continued to boom — and is being planned to continue to do so. Many of the fights have ended in uneasy truces where elements like microhousing developments are still underway in core areas of Capitol Hill and the Central District. Some push-back has been unilaterally successful. But other victories have been mostly empty like the fight against the four-story development at 11th and Aloha that remains four stories and was not required to add parking despite protests from neighbors and conciliatory statements from the developer to a local TV news crew.

We’ll have to wait for later this month to see if the latest wave of slow growth protest will have its desired impact and sway Council members to reject O’Brien’s revisions.

Council’s Licata proposes adding parking tax, development fees to property tax levy for $930 million transportation plan

LevyMapFINAL-400x518A new proposal would allow Seattle to build a $930 million war chest to fund transportation projects across the city but would pay for more than a third of the total with a mix of an increased commercial parking tax, an employee tax, transportation-related fees on developments, and a smaller, $600 million property tax levy.

The proposal from City Council member Nick Licata was released Tuesday in advance of a public hearing on Mayor Ed Murray’s Move Seattle Levy, a proposed $930 million in transportation funding planned to be powered fully by property taxes.

Licata said his new plan should reduce the burden on “those on fixed and low incomes” and, he said, give the transportation levy its best shot at being approved by voters this fall.

“I believe we need to consider the size of the levy, and examine alternative funding sources, in an effort to reach the $930 million goal,” Licata said about the new proposal. “We should also consider the risk that a large levy might be less likely to pass, and consider the potential consequences.”

The Urbanist blog looked at how the two proposals would stack up:

Today’s median housing price is $450,000, which would translate to a 2016 tax bill for the average homeowner of $176 under Licata’s levy plan versus $277 under the Mayor’s. Homeowners of median valued units will pay $136 in the current year for the soon-to-expire Bridging the Gap levy.

In a statement, the Downtown Business Association called Licata’s plan “the wrong message to send to employers that are looking to create jobs in Seattle and those that are already here,” KING TV reported.

Sawant brings back $9K from NYC fundraiser criticized by challenger ahead of Saturday Town Hall campaign event

Our provincial City Council District 3 race is making eyes and checkbooks open nationwide. City Council member Kshama Sawant spent the weekend in New York City attending a conference and a campaign fundraiser where she spoke alongside journalist and TruthDig columnist Chris Hedges. The Occupy Wall Street organizers asked attendees to bring their checkbooks and “consider donating generously! Solidarity!”

The $15 per ticket event generated around $9,000 for Sawant’s campaign, according to her political director Philip Locker.

The trip didn’t go unnoticed back at home. In a Monday morning media release, Sawant challenger Pamela Banks chided Sawant for traveling to NYC instead of attending at Friday City Council meeting about the mayor’s proposed transportation levy.

“Actions speak louder than words—even for someone who speaks as noisily as Sawant,” Banks said in a statement. “She can talk a good game about equity, but you can’t make an impact for the people of Seattle when you’re raising money in Manhattan.”

The statement was the first real political sniping between candidates in the City Council District 3 race, which pits the Socialist Alternative Sawant against three Democratic candidates and one independent.

“The establishment opponents know that in a discussion of (issues), Kshama wins hands down,” Locker said.

When Banks announced she was entering the race in March, the former head of Seattle’s Urban League posistened herself as a representative who would be more available to constituents than Sawant.

As of Sunday, Sawant leads the fundraising race with $81,757 in total contributions and has foregone contributions from corporate donors. Banks is in second with $48,434 raised, closely followed by Rod Hearne.

According to city campaign finance records, 37% of Sawant’s campaign contributions have come from “outside the city limits,” while 22% of Banks’s contributions have come from outside Seattle. One third of Banks’s contributions have come from inside District 3, about double the percentage Sawant has raised from the area.

UPDATE: According to the city’s Ethics and Elections Commission, the “no address” category primarily includes donors not required to disclose their address because they gave $25 or less to a campaign. Those small amount donors account for 40% of Sawant’s contributors, which her campaign says includes people from District 3. Around 6% of Banks’ contributors are represented by “no address” donors.

Sawant will be holding a major campaign event this Saturday with with Hedges and former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, this time in Seattle at First Hill’s Town Hall. Tickets are $15.

Meanwhile, an effort to lessen the impact of the “donor class” on Seattle’s local elections is moving forward. The Honest Elections Seattle Campaign announced Monday it submitted more than 32,000 signatures to the city to get I-122 on the the ballot this November. The initiative would enact a relatively small property levy to fund a system of public campaign financing in local elections. The opt-in program would give voters $100 “democracy vouchers” that they would give to candidates to fund their campaigns.

Civic Notes | June Seattle bus service expansion, parks smoking ban, arts space forum

“The 47 bus is coming back to Capitol Hill! ” (Image: @janeofearth via Twitter)

With consistently warm and sunny days upon us, it’s time to get out and enjoy the city. Here are a few civic issues that may affect your outings in one way or another.

  • Expanded bus service begins: The Rt. 47 bus is coming back. Thanks to Seattle residents who voted to fund Metro last year and the agency’s regular summer route changes, the Capitol Hill to downtown line and a bunch of other routes will be reinstated or expanded starting in June. Last year’s Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 asked Seattle voters if they wanted to buy back sliced Metro services in Seattle and improve existing routes with a $60 annual vehicle license fee and .1% sales tax hike. The measure is expected generate around $45 million annually.

    “The voters of Seattle are funding the largest increase in Metro service in our city in 40 years,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a statement. City funding will help improve Capitol Hill routes 10, 49, and 60 among others. Check here for a full list of route improvements.

  • Parks smoking ban: The Seattle Board of Parks Commissioners approved a tobacco smoking ban (PDF) on Thursday in all Seattle public parks. The ban goes into effect July 1st. On Capitol Hill, where parks serve as the de facto backyard for many renters and homeless people, the ban has been met with considerable opposition. Homeless advocates and other groups managed to get commissioners to drop a $27 fine for violating the ban. Instead, those caught smoking in a park will be met with warnings which could lead to an arrest.

    (Image: Seattle Office of Arts and culture)

    (Image: Seattle Office of Arts and culture)

  • Arts space forum: How can Seattle maintain and expand space for artistic endeavors amid a boom of development activity? It’s a question the city’s Office of Arts & Culture has been trying to find some answers to, and will present some of those findings during a free half-day forum on June 1st. Squared Feet: What’s Next will feature presentations from arts groups and ask participants to vote for an arts project the city should fund. You can learn more at Square Feet 2015 | Where Next?. CHS was there for the first Squared Feet forum in 2013.