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Durkan’s 2020 budget proposal tips $6.5B with big boost from the Megablock and smaller items like Convention Center cash for Lambert House

(Image: City of Seattle)

There were small bits of good news for Capitol Hill and the Central District sprinkled into larger chunks of progress in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion 2020 Seattle budget proposal unveiled Monday.

“We must do more to lift each other up. We must build more housing, especially housing near transit, so that the nurse assistants, restaurant workers, and the teachers right in this building can live in the city they make great,” Durkan said in her speech on the 2020 proposal given Monday morning at Franklin High School.

Some of the big gains — and small, too — in the proposal come from “one-time” revenue infusions. “For example, the sale of the Mercer Megablock properties and payments to the City associated with the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center have provided significant resources for both housing and transportation investments,” the budget proposal’s executive summary reads.

A good example easily lost in the $6.5 billion worth of line items is $500,000 earmarked for Capitol Hill’s Lambert House. CHS reported last year on the queer youth nonprofit’s efforts to purchase the 15th Ave house it calls home. The 2020 budget will put proceeds from street vacations associated with expansion of the Washington State Convention Center to boost the effort:

This item adds one-time funding for Lambert House in support of its capital campaign. Lambert House empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth through the development of leadership, social, and life skills. The organization offers LGBTQ youth over 30 different annual and ongoing programs, activities, resources, and services. This funding will support Lambert House’s current effort to acquire and renovate the building it currently operates in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The funding will be distributed after an agreement for public benefits has been negotiated with the organization, the mayor’s proposal says.

2020 Durkan Budget Proposal Highlights

  • Policing and public safety: As in 2019, Durkan is pushing to boost public safety spending but the focus this year is on more money for retaining police, and more funding for an alternative to traditional policing with a boost in Community Service Officers.
  • Housing and affordability: $78.2 million in new housing and anti-displacement investments in the 2020 budget including $42.2 million to provide affordable housing and address the pressures of displacement through a strategic investment fund, $15 million to create a revolving Equitable Development Initiative acquisition loan fund, $15 million to increase investments in permanently affordable homeownership and $6 million for a new financing tool to create more affordable accessory dwelling units like backyard cottages and in-law apartments for low- and middle-income homeowners.
  • Families:  Durkan’s budget proposal includes $3 million from the Sweetened Beverage Tax to double the city’s Child Care Assistance Program to help lower-income families.
  • Homelessness: Megablock funding to launch the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, no increase in the city’s Nav Team, funding for “resources that may be needed to ramp down operations at two of the City-sanctioned tiny house villages and replace any lost shelter system capacity with increased space in other villages and enhanced shelters,” funding for costs for the recently opened Mount Baker Family Resource Center, and one-time funding needed to sustain families enrolled in the pilot Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Program.
  • Transit: “$31 Million in New City Investments in Vision Zero Transportation Safety Projects and Transit Improvements” including $2.2 million for priorities in the Pedestrian Master Plan, including new sidewalks, curb bulbs, and curb ramps at five intersections and $8.35 million in protected bike safety projects in the Bike Master Plan. Also, the Durkan proposal includes a one-time increase for the city’s purchase of Seattle Transportation Benefit District transit services operated by King County Metro in 2020 city funds for 25,000 in additional transit service hours in March 2020 ($2.6 million), First Mile-Last Mile Service ($4 million), and transit capital enhancements to improve speed and reliability ($10 million). The mayor is also proposing a new 51-cent fee on Uber and Lyft rides to help pay for completion of the Center City Connector Streetcar.
  • Small business: The proposed budget includes $300,000 for two funds to assist small businesses, the Business Stabilization and Tenant Improvement funds. The Business Stabilization Fund will help small businesses facing short-term emergencies, such as theft, vandalism, or emergency repairs, with a focus on those in high-risk displacement neighborhoods. The Tenant Improvement Fund encourages the development of affordable commercial tenant improvements for businesses in high displacement risk areas.

The one-time infusion from the Mercer Megablock sale unlocks larger plans. Durkan’s budget proposal included $16.7 million of revenue from the sale of the city-owned properties for Vision Zero projects including:

  • $2.2 million for priorities in the Pedestrian Master Plan, including new sidewalks, curb bulbs, and curb ramps at five intersections;
  • $650,000 to construct a new pedestrian, bicycle, and transit-only street on NE 43rd Street between the University of Washington and the Link Light Rail Station;
  • $2 million in greenway projects in the Bike Master Plan, including traffic calming, new curb bulbs, curb ramps, and wayfinding near Seattle Center;
  • $3.5 million in the Highland Park Way Safety Project, including intersection modifications at Highland Park Way and SW Holden Street with traffic calming, new sidewalks and curb ramps, and new transit stops; and
  • $8.35 million in protected bike safety projects in the Bike Master Plan, with funds prioritized for projects listed in the 2019 Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan as funded through design and/or planning, including protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, and trails.

New investments in transit will include:

  • An estimated 90 new blocks of dedicated bus lanes including Rainier Ave, a new northbound bus lane on Lake City Way at NE 98th St. and other locations across the city;
  • Signal timing improvements on Rainier Ave; and
  • $5 million devoted to new bus stop benches, landing pads, and shelters across the city.

The Megablock money will also boost the launch of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority with $2 million from the deal earmarked to provide one-time resources needed to start-up the regional homelessness agency.

The mayor, meanwhile, is not seeking further expansion of the city’s Navigation Team. “The Human Services Department used one-time salary savings to expand the Navigation Team in 2019 by hiring two additional Field Coordinators,” the mayor’s budget entry for the team reads “This expansion has allowed the Team to increase outreach services to those living in unsanctioned locations, and provided the resources needed to remove unsanctioned encampments with a focus on those blocking the right-of-way.” Funding for 2020 is intended to maintain the team at its current size and service level.

The 2020 budget proposal is also marked by opportunities to put changes in state law to use. $25 million in Real Estate Excise Taxes will now be available for “affordable housing investments.” “Building on the $45 million available through the Housing Levy and Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), the $25 million will be added to the Office of Housing’s (OH) 2019 Notice of Funding Availability, the annual competitive process that awards funds for affordable housing development in December of each year,” a statement from the mayor’s office reads.

The budget proposals even has a few line items designed to make life in Seattle not just safe, sustainable, or affordable but, hey, also enjoyable. The mayor is proposing a surprisingly hefty $3,9 million in  one-time funding for P-Patch Community Garden Preservation and Enhancement. “It has been over a decade since the last significant capital investment in the P-Patch Community Gardening Program, provided by the 2008 Parks Levy,” the budget summary reads. “Currently, there are several gardens facing relocation pressures, while others need capital investments to address deferred maintenance, and this funding would help address these issues.” The funds would be allocated through a process that will involve department staff, the Community Advisory Board, and other P-Patch and community leaders, the budget document reads.

Two smaller line items will also be important to Capitol Hill and Central District community groups. The mayor’s budget proposes $65,000 in 2020 funding in addition to $100,000 provided this year to help the creation of the AIDS Memorial Pathway, an art installation and walkway that will connect between Cal Anderson Park and the Capitol Hill Station plaza when development is completed in 2020. Meanwhile, the $6.5 billion 2020 budget also has room in it for a proposed $8,000 in annual funding to power the Teen Summer Musical at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

The mayor’s budget proposal now heads to the Seattle City Council for weeks of adjustments and tweaks along with public hearings through October and into November. You can review the full 2020 budget proposal at

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