Seattle LGBTQ Task Force recommendations include public safety, youth — and more rainbow crosswalks on Capitol Hill

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

Its signs may be blue and white but the crosswalks around Capitol Hill Station will be rainbows. While it likely won’t be the most effectual of the recommendations, a proposal to add more rainbow crosswalks to Capitol Hill is part of a plan released Thursday by Mayor Ed Murray’s LGBTQ Task Force “to support a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBTQ people in Seattle.”

Let’s hope this one doesn’t get rolled back.

“Seattle has long been a place where everyone can find an accepting and tolerant home,” Murray is quoted as saying in the announcement of the task force recommendations. “We celebrate our history of advancing equity for the LGBTQ community and we will support efforts to make Seattle even more inclusive. Thank you to the task force for identifying these actions to reduce the violent attacks and verbal harassment experienced by LGBTQ people.”

The LGBTQ Task Force plan is organized into four areas: Public Safety, LGBTQ Youth, the Built Environment, and Public Understanding:

·         Seattle Police Department will continue the Safe Place program to identify local businesses that will shelter victims of harassment until officers arrive.

·         The Department of Neighborhoods will use Neighborhood Matching Funds to support projects that promote LGBTQ safety.

·         The City will direct more resources to support Project EQTY and other social service providers that work with LGBT youth. Continue reading

Only two of Seattle’s 85 pot tickets handed out in East Precinct

Seattle Police issued 85 tickets for public marijuana use in the second half of 2014 — but only two in the East Precinct including Capitol Hill and the Central District. Meanwhile, males and blacks were disproportionately cited for public pot violations.

The statistics were discussed in a Monday morning City Council briefing with Chief Kathleen O’Toole as the department continues to study the public safety impact from I-502’s legalization of retail marijuana. The trends match the first half of 2014 when it was revealed that one downtown bicycle officer had written nearly 80% of Seattle’s pot citations.

The numbers area also important for advocates seeking to create new venues for people to consume marijuana. CHS has reported on the renter’s paradox under I-502 in which apartment dwellers may have nowhere to go to smoke pot due to lease restrictions.

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Of the 85 tickets issued from July through December 2014, only two were handed out in the East Precinct — 94% of Seattle’s citations were handed out downtown.

The citation totals do not, however, include SPD traffic stops and contacts for suspected marijuana use. An SPD dispatch dataset shows five different marijuana related incidents handled in the East Precinct in the past week, each of them in the Pike/Pine core or near Cal Anderson, three initiated by a “suspicious stop” by the officer. None of the five, by the way, resulted in a citation.

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Here are the other breakdowns for the 2014 dataset including the racial component showing 27% of citations were issued to African Americans.

The dataset also reveals one additional aspect of enforcing public marijuana consumption laws — only 9.4% of the 2014 tickets have been paid.

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Sawant and Licata will face-off with pro-development duo in rent control debate

11017071_997832463595084_4462568534337995994_oIt won’t be the decisive bout on the issue of rent control, but a Monday evening debate will be the first major event in Seattle to focus on the policy.

In the left corner, City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant and her Council colleague Nick Licata. In the right corner, Republican state Rep. Matthew Manweller of Ellensberg and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck will officiate.

Rent control has been a key campaign issue for Sawant in this years election. She elucidated some of her ideas on the issue here, including why many of her economist colleagues oppose the policy.

At the developer-backed organization Smart Growth Seattle, Valdez has spent much of his energy advocating for pro-density policies at the city level. He’s also written about how the city should use affordability policies already in place instead of pursuing rent control. Manweller is also not a fan: Continue reading

As District 3 cash race takes lead in Seattle, here’s who is endorsing the candidates

Theoretically, there should be little inherent value in knowing how one person plans to vote in a democratic election. Even when it comes to endorsements from large organizations, those decisions are often made by relatively small groups with dubious representative authority.

Nevertheless, the ritual nods can serve as meaningful bellwethers and can help focus how candidates compare on specific issues. There’s been no shortage of endorsements in the Council District 3 race, where the field of candidates are championing a relatively diverse array of causes.

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CHS Reader District 3 Candidate Survey: LGBTQ safety, affordability, and an I-5 lid

With the August 4th primary just around the corner and ballots soon arriving in the mail, candidates in the District 3 race have just a few precious weeks to make their case to voters before the five contenders are whittled down to two. We’ve reported on two Council District 3 candidate forums so far this year and covered many other facets of this historic election. Now it’s time for CHS readers to ask some questions.

In this digital candidate forum, questions were suggested by CHS readers, selected by CHS editors, and finalized by an online vote before we provided them to the campaigns. LGBT safety, increasing building heights, and creating an I-5 lid are just a few of the topics readers chose.

City Council member Kshama Sawant, Pamela Banks, Morgan Beach, and Rod Hearne all responded to our survey. Lee Carter did not — though we plan to reach out to the candidate to see if we can find another way to get his answers onto the page. Candidates were welcome to answer as much or as little of the survey as they wished.

While an online forum inevitably invites more carefully crafted responses, the upshot is you don’t have to trudge out to a gym in Madison Valley to hear them. Also, no superfluous closing statements. So, saddle up with you’re beverage of choice and let’s get this forum started.


(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Q1: How will you promote an inclusive neighborhood and what steps will you take to end LGBT hate crimes in Capitol Hill?

Banks: There is no excuse for crime of any kind in our neighborhood – especially hate crimes targeting specific groups. The recent increase in violence against the LGBT community on Capitol Hill is extremely disheartening. Capitol Hill has been – and should continue to remain – a refuge for those who do not feel safe, welcome or at home in other neighborhoods. The immediate response to the violence is an increase in police presence during peak crime hours. I am confident in the new leadership at SPD and the reform strategies in place, but we must continue to monitor and promote improvements when necessary. SPD has taken positive steps to work with the business community, implementing the Safe Places program. We need more, better-trained, and more community-focused police officers on the SPD who are working closely with the dozens of LGBT advocacy organizations in Seattle to create a truly safe space for the community. Promoting inclusiveness in our community is also essential to decreasing violence. As a city neighborhood liaison and Mayoral Director of Outreach, I know we need to involve our local neighborhood groups, businesses and residents. You can count on me to have the tough conversations we need to have as a community to promote public safety and accountability. I will provide an open door for all.

Beach: With great pressure and expansion comes fear and reaction to change. This has resulted in the last year of much rhetoric that creates exclusivity rather than inclusivity, and that is not D3. Who we are in D3 and Capitol Hill are the people who accept everyone, who will welcome you in when you had no where else to go or when you moved here to be a part of a city, neighborhood and community that felt that way. That wasn’t just “tolerant,” it was accepting. I plan to support to innovative ideas of the area residents and businesses that build this inclusivity from the ground up, like at Capitol Hill Clean Sweep, when I was out in my “I Am Capitol Hill” tshirt and campaign button cleaning streets with you, or marching in Trans*Pride and the Pride Parade. I will work to increase the public safety of our neighborhoods via soft power like the “Here and Queer” projection project during Pride, and hard power like the Safe Place program with our LGBTQIA liaison officers at the SPD to protect every him, her and them on the Hill.

Hearne: Symbols matter and connecting community by telling our story matters. I’m proud that the city has literally marked our territory on Capitol Hill with the inclusive symbol of the rainbow sidewalks. The LGBTQIA community has always conceived of the rainbow symbol as meaning to include all people, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer/Questioning.., Intersex and Allies. One of the most effective ways we’ve been able to affect attitudes toward civil rights has been to provide opportunities to tell our story. That’s what arts and culture are all about: telling our stories in unexpected, yet accessible ways. It’s not just about engaging understanding with the LGBTQIA community. It’s about helping all communities, minorities, immigrants, everyone tell their story. Therefore, I believe we need to invest more as a city into arts and cultural organizations and venues in which we can support them. Arts and Culture are Seattle’s superpower and we should activate it!

Sawant: To keep the hill affordable rather than simply an enclave for the wealthy we need urgent action on the housing crisis. Skyrocketing rents are rapidly displacing the LGBT community, young people, and working class people. We need rent control, we need to make big developers pay to build thousands of units of affordable city-owned housing, and we need to strengthen tenants rights. We also need to defend the new minimum wage, relied upon by thousands of Capitol Hill residents working in service, retail, medical and hospitality jobs as well as workers who commute to Capitol Hill. As part of this effort, we need to fully fund the Office of Labor Standards to help in the fight against wage theft and discrimination at work. We need to fund community anti-hate crime groups to organize night watches and raise awareness through anti-bullying and public education efforts. We need to fund a community-based hate violence information-gathering hotline. We need self-defense and other community based responses as recommended by Entre Hermanos, The Northwest Network for BTLG Survivors of Abuse, Gender Justice League, and the Center for Multicultural Health. This spring, I joined with the GSBA, YouthCare, Seattle Social Outreach, the Capitol Hill Community Council, the Gender Justice League, SEqual, Peace for the Streets, and others in organizing a forum against LGBTQ hate crimes in Capitol Hill. One of the clear demands from our event was for an LGBTQ community center to be created on the Hill for LGBTQ empowerment and education.

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Mayor Murray’s affordable housing plan ready for official release — UPDATE

Images and background statistics from

UPDATE: Murray and the gang at City Hall Monday morning (Image: CHS)

UPDATE: Murray and the gang at City Hall Monday morning (Image: CHS)

After months of painstaking negotiations, Mayor Ed Murray and members of his Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee are set to officially unveil a long-awaited, comprehensive housing plan.

The 38-page draft report, leaked by the Seattle Times last week, included 67 recommendations to meet the mayor’s call to create 20,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade. UPDATE: The final plan includes 65 recommendations — nope, we haven’t sorted out what got cut.

The mayor and City Council chair of the planning and land use committee Mike O’Brien are set to unveil the final report on the HALA committee recommendations Monday morning at City Hall:

Mayor Ed Murray, Councilmember Mike O’Brien will announce an action plan to build more affordable housing in Seattle. Co-chairs David Wertheimer and Faith Li Pettis will deliver to the mayor and council the recommendations of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda advisory committee.

Meanwhile, the mayor will face immediate opposition to his committee’s recommendations as HALA member and City Council candidate Jon Grant has announced he will release “an alternate housing proposal.” The un-leaked counter-proposal reportedly has the support of Council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata:

UPDATE 12:30 PM: Grant’s proposal has been released. We’ve added the document at the bottom of this post. Although he supported many of the HALA committee’s recommendations, Grant said he abstained from voting on the final plan.

While officials said the draft HALA report leaked by the Seattle Times was incomplete, it was the eighth draft of a document that has been shaped for months and one committee member told CHS was being voted on to finalize early last week. The draft report was broken down into four policy categories:

  1. More Housing — upzones, expand urban villages, reduce off-street parking
  2. More Resources — create a new real estate tax, expand the city’s housing levy
  3. Acquisition — allow city to acquire multifamily properties for affordable housing
  4. Innovation — reform the city’s design review and environmental review process

Most of the major recommendations will at least require action by the City Council.

UPDATE 7/13/2015 11:12 AM: The final report — which Murray said he hoped would end the “two-decade war” in Seattle over affordable housing — has been posted. We’ve embedded it below.

As in the draft version, the set of 67 65 recommendations make their main thrust in pushing Seattle forward in requiring inclusion of affordable housing in new development along with linkage fee taxes on commercial development that would fund affordable housing. Developers that choose not to include affordable housing in their multi-family developments would be required to pay a fee to the city’s Office of Housing, which will be used to create more affordable units. Details on how that system works and where that housing will be created are still getting ironed out, according to one Office of Housing official.

Calling the final plan a “grand bargain,” Murray said the proposed commercial linkage fee was not expanded to residential development because city attorneys said it would face legal challenges.

The plan is multi-year, at least, in making a dent in Seattle’s continuing to rise rents. None of the 67 65 recommendations appear poised to give tenants in the city any form of immediate relief.

The mayor’s office released this map showing where zoning changes would be made in the city — as you can see, a big chunk of Capitol Hill including Pike/Pine and the areas below Broadway are lined up for more change:

New buildings will have taller height restrictions in existing multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial zones throughout the city. A substantial portion of the additional development will occur within the existing Urban Centers and Urban Villages, designated two decades ago as the preferred location for denser housing. Only single-family zoning within Urban Villages and along major arterials will be converted to low-rise residential.

The new recommendations will mean a much larger housing levy in Seattle’s future:

No one in Seattle should have to face homelessness, and our housing resources must be part of the solutions that make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. This means a much higher Housing Levy. A mandate that developers provide a share of the apartments in their new buildings to people who cannot compete in the market, i.e., people with annual incomes at 60% of the area median income or less.

The current $145 million Seattle Housing Levy runs through 2016. “The City should renew and double the size of the Seattle Housing Levy to provide more local resources to build and preserve housing for low-income people and to provide operating subsidies at the lowest income levels,” the report says.

The report also includes a recommendation to work with the state legislature to increase the tax on real estate transactions:

King County currently collects REET at the maximum rate allowed under state law: 1.78%. The state legislature should enact legislation that would allow cities, via Council action, to impose an additional REET, so long as it is specifically dedicated for affordable housing. This additional REET capacity, which the HALA recommends be 0.25% above and beyond the existing State cap, would allow local jurisdictions to capture a portion of the appreciation of real estate prices upon the transfer of property and reinvest it in affordable housing.

In his announcement of the final recommendations, Murray said the plan will meet goals to create 50,000 more housing units in Seattle, including 20,000 new affordable units over the next decade.

The mayor also attempted to quell fears that the recommendations will lead to the elimination of single-family home neighborhoods in Seattle. Under the recommendations, 94% of existing single family neighborhoods would see no upzones, Murray said. However, the committee did recommend easing regulations on backyard cottages and dwelling units in all single family home areas.

Council president Tim Burgess said a select committee on affordable housing to implement HALA plan will begin meeting next week.

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Capitol Hill EcoDistrict | Rent control, yes or no and why?

15-0709 POLL on Rent Controlby Joel Sisolak, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict

How do you feel about rent control? We want to know. Participate in the Dialogue.

Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata are squaring off against Smart Growth Seattle Director Roger Valdez (and a player to be named later) on the topic of rent control. Scheduled for July 20th, this free-to-view cage match (kidding about the cage) promises to be bloody.

Both sides are passionate and articulate advocates from opposite sides of one of the most hotly debated topics in Seattle. Rent control, love it or hate it, is a possible intervention being considered for addressing the skyrocketing rents in Capitol Hill and across King County.

Where do you stand?

Mr. Valdez contends that we don’t need rent control; that rent control feels good (“who doesn’t want to the cost of rent to just stop?”) but actually makes housing prices go up and is, by the way, prohibited by state law.

Councilmember Sawant wants tenants, unions and community organizations to organize to pressure the state to remove its ban on rent control. Councilmember Licata agrees.

There are thousands of people in Seattle already living in rent controlled apartments, also known as affordable or subsidized housing, like the 47 buildings operated by Capitol Hill Housing. But there are far more apartment buildings that are not subsidized where rent rises and falls with the market.

How do you feel about rent control? Do you believe the City of Seattle should institute rent control as a partial solution to skyrocketing rents?



Watch out for the single-family boogeyman on Capitol Hill

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Earlier this week, CHS reported that the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee was finalizing its recommendations for creating 20,000 income restricted units in Seattle in the next decade. As you may have seen, a draft of the recommendations leaked by the Seattle Times has inspired a nearly perfect backlash from slow growth and community groups around the city. The Seattle Times headline — Get rid of single-family zoning? — helped spread the concern as have shallow echo pieces like this from broadcast media. More sensible examination, of course, hasn’t received the same attention.

There will be more to report when the final recommendations are released but, for now, we’re sharing portions of Page 8. The page about how to “increase opportunities for multifamily housing” is what inspired the Seattle Times headline and appears to be a core plank to the recommendations.

“Opportunities to create new housing to help meet Seattle’s growing population and corresponding demand for housing are limited by the relatively small portion of Seattle’s land zoned for multifamily housing,” the section is introduced in the draft. “In addition, only about 10% of the parcel land area is zoned for Lowrise (LR), Midrise (MR) or Highrise (HR) multifamily housing. In areas of the city where new multifamily development is feasible and where demand is highest (i.e. where people want to live, based on access to amenities, transit and other livability factors), development sites are in short supply.”

The recommended solutions banged out by the committee — at least in this eighth draft — don’t call for the end of single-family zone in Seattle but, instead, allowing small forms of multifamily housing in single-family zones within the city’s Urban Village borders — you can see the Capitol Hill Urban Village borders in the map at the top of this post. The farthest east it currently stretches is around 17th Ave, the farthest north, Aloha. Millionaire’s Row, for now, you’re safe from townhouses.

“In order to increase the range of housing options and encourage the addition of new housing in appropriate locations, the City should convert land within Urban Villages zoned primarily for detached single-family development to the City’s existing Residential Small Lot (RSL) zone, a new ‘Low Density Residential Zone’ as proposed below, or Lowrise multifamily zones,” the draft recommendation concludes.

The draft also recommends expanding the Urban Village boundaries for Capitol Hill and beyond but how those change will be determined by rational assessments of resources including transit and services:

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So, there’s what Seattle’s single-family home boogeyman looks like. Just wait until you get a look at the parking boogey! And, if you want to see something really scary, check out the incredible disappearing affordable housing in San Francisco.

The full draft document of the HALA recommendations, is below. Continue reading

Sawant considers Central District for city-owned gigabit Internet pilot program

48% of Seattle Internet subscribers said they would switch to municipal gigabit Internet at $75/month, according to a recently released study.

48% of Seattle Internet subscribers said they would switch to municipal gigabit Internet at $75/month, according to a recently released study.


“We have a good starting point in terms of a mandate from the people of Seattle.”

When it comes to creating a city-owned and operated super-speed Internet utility in Seattle, there are still many unanswered questions. How does it get paid for? Is it a pure public utility or a public-private partnership? How does it reach apartment buildings? Will it utilize the city’s existing electrical and telecommunications infrastructure?

City Council member Kshama Sawant thinks rolling out a small pilot program, possibly in the Central District, could help answer many of those questions on the way to providing the service citywide. To do that, the District 3 candidate is considering inserting around $5 million into this year’s budget to fund the pilot program. She is also planning a town hall forum later in the year to help drum up more support.

“We have a good starting point in terms of a mandate from the people of Seattle,” Sawant said.

Executing the plan, she said, will come down to political will — an indirect rejection of how the Office of the Mayor interpreted a study on the initiative in June. Continue reading

Seattle tries to scale back new apartment buildings near single family homes

After two years of wrangling over what to do about “loopholes” in the lowrise zoning code, the City Council passed a series of code adjustments Monday in an attempt to rein in apartment building size near single-family homes.

With almost no deliberation and only a few comments, the Council passed the bill in an 8-1 vote. Council member Tom Rasmussen opposed the measure after he was only able to insert three of eight amendments he proposed in June to further curb the bulk and scale of certain buildings.

On Monday, Rasmussen cautioned that “exploitative” developers would have a “feast” destroying the city’s older housing stock under Council member Mike O’Brien’s compromise bill.

The vote caps years of bitter debate between vocal contingents of slow-growth advocates owners and pro-density urbanists. At issue was the character of the city’s lowrise zones — residential areas common on Capitol Hill that encourage “a wide variety of new housing … located in between mixed-use commercial areas and single-family neighborhoods.” Continue reading