Mayor comes to Capitol Hill to launch $50M affordable ‘Housing Seattle Now’ plan

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Wednesday two early-stage steps for more affordable housing in Seattle. One would allow the city to take advantage of a new state law allowing municipalities to use sales tax revenue to fund affordable housing. Another would renew and improve the city’s current multifamily tax exemption (MFTE) program to limit rent increases.

Durkan made these announcements in a speech in Capitol Hill’s 12th Ave Arts, which includes 88 affordable apartments developed by Capitol Hill Housing (CHH).

“We need more affordable housing in every part of this city and we need it as quickly as we can get it,” she said.

CHH’s CEO Chris Persons, introducing Durkan, stressed the urgent need for cheaper housing in Seattle and money for it, saying the organization has about 1,500 units in the pipeline but it doesn’t have the funding necessary to build them.

Included in those is a plan to create an LGBTQ-focused affordable senior housing project on Broadway.

According to the mayor’s office, the MFTE program, which provides affordable rent currently to more than 4,400 low- and middle-income households in Seattle, is expected to aid 1,300 new such homes by 2022, but without renewal, it would expire at the end of this year. Continue reading

Capitol Hill rally goes off without her but Sawant ready to make another push for rent control in Seattle

Rent control was the topic on everyone’s mind at All Pilgrims Christian Church in Capitol Hill Saturday night as Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant’s office and other local organizations hosted a rally to build momentum for the controversial — and currently illegal — policy.

But Sawant was nowhere to be found.

The Socialist Alternative council member who is facing a contentious reelection campaign for her District 3 seat excused herself from the event because of the threat of an ethics complaint for participating in a political rally after ballots have dropped for the August 6 primary.

Several of Sawant’s challengers for the seat criticized her in the lead-in to the rally for holding council-related events so close to the August 6th Election Day.

“Kshama is clearly using her city office to advance her political campaign by holding a city-sponsored rally and promoting it with her campaign,” entrepreneur and D3 candidate Logan Bowers said Friday, adding “Good policies and good leaders don’t need to resort to unethical tactics when they’re working in the interests of their constituents. We deserve better.”

“If Sawant is using city money to hold an election rally, I find this an egregious breach of trust and another reason why we need a change in leadership,” Broadway Business Improvement Area head Egan Orion said. Continue reading

In Seattle’s most expensive race, District 3 challengers powered by Democracy Vouchers

DeWolf and other challengers in D3 are holding gatherings to collect more support like this “a #DemocracyVoucher / Candidate Meet & Greet” gathering at a home on Capitol Hill (Image: Elect DeWolf)

On a long, wood table at Optimism Brewing Company Thursday night sat a makeshift box decked out in pamphlets talking about Zachary DeWolf and his campaign’s purple stickers, which were also being worn by many of the few dozen supporters that ranged from union members from Teamsters 174 and Ironworkers Local 86 to sitting at-large council members Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González .

“Put your Democracy Vouchers right in here,” Mosqueda implored, holding up the box.

As attendees sipped beers and ate appetizers, González called out the only candidate in the District 3 race not taking part in the Democracy Voucher program: Council member Kshama Sawant .

“Zachary is going to be accountable to this community in this room and in this district,” González said. “You know who he is going to take his words from? It’s not going to be a committee in New York I can tell you that much.”

“The Democracy Voucher program is a beautiful thing,” she added of the measure held up as constitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court (PDF) earlier in the day after being approved by voters at the ballot in 2015.

In the city’s most expensive city council race where loads of PAC cash are coming into play, the Democracy Vouchers are living up to the ultimate test, powering the D3 challengers and creating even stronger reasons for the candidates to get out into the community and meet constituents. Continue reading

With ballots about to head out, District 3 race’s final Primary warm-up laps are all about the money

In the last week before ballots go out, the District 3 race to be fhe top two candidates to go through the Primary and onto the General Election in November appears to be all about the money. One D3 candidate recently got a big boost as the business-friendly Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce doled out its first chunk of cash to its endorsed candidates.

As part of a $307,000 dump, Egan Orion, the Broadway Business Improvement Area administrator who has said he wouldn’t accept campaign contributions from business political action committees (PACs), had $86,750 spent to benefit him by the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, the PAC run by the chamber, for a canvassing, telephone, and texting program; $12,450 for direct mail; and, $8,200 for campaign literature, according to late June filings with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC).

These three sums add up to $107,400 in independent expenditures — first reported by journalist Erica C. Barnett — to aid the flagging Orion campaign, which is getting more money than any other in any city council district, so far.

“It’s no surprise that corporate PACs have already spent more on District 3 than on any other in the city,” Council member Kshama Sawant said in an email. “This year, corporate PACs have made it clear that their top priority this election cycle is ‘anybody but Kshama Sawant’ for District 3.”

This money could serve as a much-needed stimulus for a candidate who has struggled to receive endorsements, sometimes finishing last in voting in local Democratic Party endorsement contests, despite strong ties fostered as head of the now-shuttered Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and as executive director of what Orion is quick to call the biggest single festival day in Seattle, Pridefest.

“I think CASE’s endorsement helps to shape the race,” Orion said in a text message, adding of Sawant: “she’s been demonizing the Metropolitan Chamber for years now and specifically in this election so the fact that I have their support may help the electorate see some strong delineation between my candidacy and that of Kshama Sawant.” Continue reading

New Seattle tenant protections would give renters earlier notification on sales, more time to make ends meet

Some residents at the Central District’s Chateau Apartments said they found about the building’s sale when organizers from Council member Kshama Sawant’s office showed up at their doors

Legislation to shift notification requirements for the sale of low-income housing will be on the agenda Thursday for a Seattle City Council committee while the mayor is rolling out changes she says will protect tenants from eviction and “help keep Seattle residents in their homes.”

The legislation, sponsored by citywide council member Teresa Mosqueda, would modify a 2015 measure that required owners of multifamily rental housing with five or more housing units — at least one of which rents affordably to a household at or below 80% area median income (AMI) — to provide written notice of the owner’s intent to sell the property to the city’s Office of Housing and the Seattle Housing Authority at least 60 days prior to being listed or advertised. This change looked to give these two bodies time to examine buying the property to keep its rental units affordable.

“In Seattle’s current real estate market, tenants and affordable housing providers often struggle to compete,” Mosqueda said in an emailed statement. “Many buyers come with cash in hand and buy up properties within days of being listed, and buildings are often sold without ever being listed at all—leaving few opportunities for lower-income buyers to get a foot in the door.” Continue reading

City Council comes to Central District to talk taking on gun violence with cops on foot, SDOT improvements, economic development

Flowers and a memorial left for Royale Lexing along E Union (Image: CHS)

A slide from the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New
Americans, and Education Committee meeting

One-third of the Seattle City Council, half a dozen city department officials, and the deputy chief of the Seattle Police Department met with a crowded room of Central District residents Thursday evening as they outlined the city’s holistic approach to addressing the recent spate of gun violence in the neighborhood that has left citizens worried.

Lorena González brought herGender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans, and Education Committee committee to the CD for a special meeting In collaboration with the African American Community Advisory Council at the Seattle Vocational Institute in what has been the most significant official response to concerns about gun violence and a deadly shooting in the neighborhood.

On a Friday afternoon in mid-May, 19-year-old Royale Lexing was found dead by police outside Swedish Cherry Hill where he was rushed by private vehicle after multiple shooters exchanged fire in a chaotic scene along E Union. This was the first fatal shooting in the community in the first six and a half months of a year since 2014, according to SPD. Continue reading

No endorsement: Sawant, challengers fail to shine as District 3 candidates make lackluster showing in 43rd Dems endorsements vote

It was Sawant vs. DeWolf Tuesday night — and nobody came out on top

The one time council member Kshama Sawant didn’t want a no endorsement result she got it as the 43rd District Democrats failed to reach agreement on a single District 3 candidate with a standing-room crowd at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall Tuesday night. After two ballots, the attendees were unable to come to an agreement on an endorsement, even when the field was whittled down from the six candidates to Seattle Public Schools Board member Zachary DeWolf and Sawant.

This decision signals a splintered electorate where none of the five challengers have truly seized the mantle in taking on a polarizing incumbent and that anything could happen in the next two months before the August top-two primary. It also could be a sign of things to come in a summer of political races featuring an unprecedentedly huge field of candidates.

The first ballot Tuesday was inconclusive, leaving DeWolf and Sawant to duke it out on a second round. The All Home King County staffer received votes on 46% of ballots in the first set, while the incumbent was on 42%.

“These kids have hope and they cannot wait for us any longer to act,” said DeWolf, catching his breath after arriving a few minutes late to speak as he was running from another school graduation ceremony. “Please do not let them into a world where people are sleeping outside, where people are going hungry, where our cities crumbling because of the climate crisis. We owe it to these kids to deliver results so that they can be proud of the world that they’re living in.”

Unlike in last month’s contentious 37th District Democrats endorsement process, which resulted in a complicated ‘no consensus’ decision after three and a half hours and four ballots, the 43rd’s Democratic Party allows for the endorsement of a candidate outside of the party, such as Sawant of Socialist Alternative. Continue reading

District 3 candidates for Seattle City Council talk safe streets

Transportation equity and city government transparency were the top concerns at Monday’s District 3 candidates forum at Central Cinema hosted by Central Seattle Greenways after a walk through the community featuring a number of specific issues, including bike lanes and automobile speed.

All of the candidates were in attendance at the evening forum and five of the six made it for the hour-long Central District walk beforehand as Seattle Public Schools Board member Zachary DeWolf was busy attending a graduation event. Incumbent council member Kshama Sawant got there a few minutes late walking because of what she called pedestrian deprioritization as the lights were not going in her favor.

Crosswalks came up as the attendees stood on 23rd and Union with talk that they are not always convenient and may not last long enough, which is why one organizer called for a signal policy directly from the city.

“It’s deeply important that we are making sure that our crossing signals prioritize pedestrians and people who bike, but also that they are long enough both for seniors, families, and [young people] to get across,” DeWolf said during the forum later. Continue reading

Has ‘unsheltered homelessness’ really dropped 20% in Seattle in 2019? Probably not

Numbers of “unsheltered homeless” individuals from the county’s annual tally. The full report is below.

The 2019 King County point-in-time count homelessness which reported some dramatic drops in homelessness was met with scrutiny this week in a King County Council briefing.

Throughout the county, the total homeless population decreased by 8% from last year, to 11,199, according to the annual count performed by All Home KC in late January, the data from which should be taken with a grain of salt despite being the most consistent indicator of trends in the region.

According to the 2019 data, the county tally found 17% fewer individuals “experiencing unsheltered homelessness” while Seattle saw an even more dramatic drop of 20% as 3,558 individuals were reported experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the city.

Continue reading

With short-term plans for new protected bike lanes by end of 2019, report released on long-term community priorities for Pike/Pine

(Image: Central Seattle Greenways)

The next hill has been summited in the process to add protected bike lanes to Pike/Pine has wrapped up as Central Seattle Greenways published its outreach findings and recommendations focused on the desire for a continuous and sensible route, safety, and predictable traffic flows.

One message clearly emerged. Community members who responded to the survey including riders, residents, and business owners said a continuous, unbroken eastbound bikeway on Pike and another westbound one on Pine should be a priority. It’s called the “Pike Pine Renaissance design.”

UPDATE: Meanwhile, despite not being an option on the questionnaire, many said they would like to see the Renaissance lanes — a continuous eastbound street on Pike and a westbound one on Pine.

“Creating a couplet of one-way streets all the way to Broadway provides clarity for people walking, biking, and driving; delivers a more intuitive route that cyclists are more likely to use; and shares the perceived burden and benefits of a bike lane for business owners on both Pike and Pine,” CSG writes on its website.

While it would take more outreach to make this happen, Brie Gyncild, co-leader of CSG, said this is her favorite option, although she was not originally a believer.

“Over and over again, what we heard people saying is ‘we just want to extend the Pike/Pine Renaissance all the way up to Broadway,’” Gyncild said. “It’s more intuitive for people biking; it’s more intuitive for people walking; people like the Pike Pine Renaissance design, they like the more pedestrian-oriented feel.” Continue reading