Mayor wants Seattle to open ‘school to opportunity pipeline’ with new education levy

Inside Capitol Hill’s Miller Annex Preschool and with a focus on jobs, income, and affordability, Mayor Jenny Durkan Wednesday made her first pitch to Seattle citizens for a new education levy her office says will cost typical households just under $21 a month — about $7 more than they have been paying to help pay for the Seattle Public Schools system and its some 53,000 students at more than 100 schools.

“The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said Wednesday in a speech focused on the economy as much as it was on learning. Continue reading

Businesses getting their turn to help shape Seattle’s head tax

With reporting by SCC Insight

Tuesday afternoon, Poquitos co-owner Rich Fox was slated to be part of the Seattle City Council’s attempt to get more business voices at the table as it moves toward a planned May vote on a new employee-hours tax to help fund homelessness services and affordability efforts.

Tuesday’s “business roundtable” organized by Sally Bagshaw was part of an attempt to make up for the relatively meager participation by businesses in the Seattle Progressive Revenue Task Force organized by Council members Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold. Continue reading

District 3 renters speak out as Mandatory Housing Affordability public hearing comes to Capitol Hill

“I want our city to be accessible to all income levels, in the interest of equal opportunity and also because the continuing vibrancy of this place hinges on assuring mixed income neighborhoods.”

Brooke Brod: “I’m here to speak in favor of MHA and proposed zoning changes. I really want to challenge the council, if your’e serious about displacement and mitigating it, to do more, go further. Upzone my neighborhood, my single family neighborhood as well.”

Committee chair Rob Johnson and the City Council members in attendance Monday night

Many who hope to see the cost of housing on Capitol Hill and throughout Seattle stabilize — and, someday, maybe even drop — came to the Broadway Performance Hall Monday night for a special public hearing on proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability rezoning. With more than 100 people signed up to speak on the night, the Seattle City Council’s visit to Capitol Hill created a multi-hour stream of two-minute statements on the process to raise key Seattle neighborhood zoning heights tied with new developer requirements to either create more affordable housing or pay for it elsewhere.

Many were forward looking. “We have to make room for new people… cities are places that change,” said one woman in support of the legislation with most of the City Council including District 3 representative Kshama Sawant as an audience.

“Seattle needs more housing, housing in all shapes and sizes, for all our neighbors,” said another, a Capitol Hill Renters Initiative member and a Capitol Hill tenant.

If you can do the math, you’ll understand it was a long night full of ideas and statements from across Seattle’s housing spectrum. Speakers from the Miller Park Neighbors group had more immediate concerns. Resident Ellen Taft asked for rejection of upzone plans around the Miller Park neighborhood because “there is already a surplus” of “high rent projects” in the area. She said residents of the Miller-Madison area will be the “victims” of upzones, not the beneficiaries. “What the plan offers is a lot of units for high income people,” said another speaker from the group. “The current residents are not being considered, only the new development.” Another member of the group said he was worried the MHA would destroy his neighborhood’s “moderately priced homes.” Continue reading

Auditor says SPD should charge events like Capitol Hill Block Party more for policing

The 2016 CHBP is called out in the report as a prime example of SPD not recovering its costs of providing officers to commercial events in Seattle

Seattle spent more than $1.6 million posting its police officers at “free speech events” like protest marches and rallies in 2016. Meanwhile, the city spent $2.6 million policing outside Mariners, Reign, Seahawks, Storm, and Sounders games. The difference — besides the extra $1 million — for sportsball? Around 60% of the sporting event policing costs were reimbursed under deals between the professional teams and the Seattle Police Department. Free speech? That’s the free part. But City Hall might be looking for more help from event organizers to cover the nearly $500,000 spent policing events like Capitol Hill Block Party that currently enjoy SPD’s service at bargain rates.

An audit of Seattle police staffing for special events and “cost recovery” required by a 2016 ordinance overhauling the permitting and planning process includes a recommendation that Seattle move toward increasing its overall recovery of SPD event staffing costs.

“For all permitted events in 2016 that could be charged for police services (i.e., Athletic, Commercial, and Citywide events), we identified an average cost recovery rate of about 27% of SPD’s wages,” the audit report reads. “For 2016 Athletic and Commercial events alone, the cost recovery rate averaged about 60% of wages, and it averaged about 4% for 2016 Citywide events.”

The 2016 Capitol Hill Block Party is highlighted as prime example of the cost imbalance found under current practices. Continue reading

Seattle making plans to set a minimum rate for services like Uber, Lyft

Ride sharing has faced a few bumps in its approach to the rider-rich streets of Seattle

Having already led the way on the $15 minimum wage, Seattle is poised to set a minimum rate for car services like Uber and Lyft. The Seattle City Council approved Monday a resolution that will put City Hall on a crash course studying the so-called “transportation network companies” industry in an effort to better understand the possible impacts of forcing a minimum pay rate for drivers.

Monday’s resolution sets a proposed price point of $2.40 for a minimum base fare for TNC rides in Seattle — the companies currently charge a $1.35 minimum. Before Monday’s vote, Uber and Lyft drivers and customers spoke against regulation and what they said was union-driven interference in the industry. Council president Bruce Harrell went off script to forcefully deny that the Teamsters Union is driving Seattle’s effort. Continue reading

Seattle cuts parking requirements near transit, ‘unbundles’ costs for carless tenants in new buildings

The City Council approved legislation Monday that will give developers fewer reasons to create large parking structures below streets already choked with traffic, providing a new avenue for the ongoing march toward affordability in Seattle.

“It’s unfair for us to have a city where parking is abundant and free and housing is scarce and expensive,” council member and lead on the parking reform bill Rob Johnson said prior to Monday’s 7-1 vote. Continue reading

Seattle LGBTQ Commission holds ‘Community Healing’ event in wake of Murray sex abuse scandal

This is probably not how former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray thought it would end up. Wednesday night, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission will hold a “Call for Community Healing” in the wake of the sex abuse scandal that forced Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, to resign last year:

Over the past year, sexual assault and trauma has been in the spotlight following multiple accusations of such abuse by our former Mayor Ed Murray. For survivors of abuse and assault, this trauma often manifests itself in mental health consequences, increased substance use, and addiction. These can flare up again when old traumas are brought up, as they were for many during this time. Unfortunately, the city was often split on how to appropriately support and manage the difficulties that surfaced for community members around such a significant event.

The Wednesday night event at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center will include “group discussion and mindfulness activities, as well as a number of mental health and other community support organizations tabling at the event.”

“Food will be provided,” organizers promise, “and time will be available for socializing at the beginning/end of the event as well.”

This event is being sponsored by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and Seattle Office for Civil Rights.

City Hall coming to Washington Hall to talk Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning on Hill, in CD

This week, Central Seattle residents will get a chance for an up-close look at how proposed zoning changes will affect this part of the city.

As part of a citywide effort to address housing affordability, the city has embarked on a wide-ranging plan that would allow developers to build extra density in exchange for including affordable housing in their projects or making a payment toward an affordable housing fund. It’s an outgrowth of the HALA program began under then-Mayor Ed Murray, and this portion of it is continuing under a different acronym: MHA, or mandatory housing affordability.

Citywide Open House featuring Districts 3+7 MHA Maps

A City Council committee is digging into the issue and as a part of the process, they’re engaging in a series of open house meetings across the city. Next on the list is a joint meeting for council District 3 (Capitol Hill, the Central District and environs) and District 7 (Queen Anne, Magnolia, Downtown, South Lake Union and the International District). Continue reading

Research, ERPO, and safe storage — Seattle makes a start at gun control reform

As her city prepares for Saturday’s student march for gun control, Mayor Jenny Durkan came to First Hill’s Harborview Medical Center Wednesday, the place many gun violence victims are rushed to from across the region, to announce a push for new legislation that would require safe storage of firearms and could hold gun owners liable who don’t lock up their weapons.

“We should not pretend for one second that the level of carnage in our country from guns is inevitable. We cannot allow it to become the new normal,” Durkan said. “Unsecured, unsafely stored firearms are more likely to be stolen, used in a suicide, accessed by children and teens and unintentionally fired.” Continue reading

Rent bidding banned in Seattle — for now

Amid concern about the growing use of the services jacking up student rents in the University District, the Seattle City Council Monday voted unanimously to temporarily ban so-called “rent bidding” in the city.

Monday’s vote will ban the use of services like Rentberry for apartments in the city for one year to give officials time to study the impact the services could have on Seattle affordability. The Office of Housing, Office of Civil Rights, and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections are now on the hook for a report on the services.

The services work by creating “transparent” rental auctions where potential tenants have “the ability to submit custom offers.”

Last month, CHS reported on the few Capitol Hill properties utilizing the services and the concerns raised about the practice in the Bay Area real estate market. One report on the Rentberry service quoted the company’s founder taking credit for raising rents 5% above listing prices in the already ultra-expensive San Francisco and San Jose markets.

Under the moratorium approved Monday, the Seattle ban can be extended by the City Council if it is determined officials need more time to evaluate the services.