Out of the tussle over Seattle Council’s rejection of City Attorney’s crackdown bid, a plan ‘to expand addiction treatment, diversion, and address public drug use’

Andrew Lewis, the downtown representative on the City Council, is working quickly to back up his swing vote that helped sink City Attorney Ann Davison’s hopes of a public drug use crackdown in Seattle with a new plan that he says would address the lack of structure for treatment and diversion in the proposal voted down Tuesday.

CHS reported here on Tuesday’s vote by the council that narrowly rejected the bill that would have enabled the city attorney to prosecute drug use and possession on Seattle’s streets over the plan’s lack of investment in city resources for treatment and diversion and a history of drug enforcement that has consistently and disproportionately targeted people of color and the homeless.

Drug prosecution has been left to the county where the prosecutor’s office has said it does not currently have the resources to charge people arrested under the state’s new harsher penalties for low-level drug crimes.

Lewis moved quickly Wednesday to begin a push for a new plan “to expand addiction treatment, diversion, and address public drug use” in Seattle that he says would enable the city attorney to move forward under the new state drug law. Continue reading

City Council to vote on new law but is Seattle ready for a crackdown on drug use and possession on its streets? — UPDATE: Bill fails in 5-4 vote

Seattle Police have made drug busts for years — including this alleged dealer in an operation a decade ago downtown. The bill up for vote Tuesday could bring a crackdown on lower level drug crimes in the city. (Image: SPD)

The Seattle City Council will vote on a proposal Tuesday afternoon that would allow the city to do something it has never done before — prosecute drug use and possession on Seattle’s streets.

With a new state law in place making low level drug crimes in Washington a gross misdemeanor and giving the state a harder stance on drug law penalties, Tuesday’s vote would open the door to Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison’s plan to act on the new status of the crimes with the King County Prosecutor’s office already slammed with more serious drug dealing and felony cases.

The move could represent a major step away from decades of efforts to better address drugs and addiction through treatment and services.

Sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, the bill would make possession of controlled substances and use of controlled substances in a public place a gross misdemeanor. It would codify the City Attorney’s responsibility for prosecuting gross misdemeanor drug use and possession in Seattle, a move that city council analysis says would produce an unknown increase in cases handled by the office — and costs related to the prosecution. Continue reading

Special session on crucial drug law begins in Olympia — UPDATE: Quick resolution with agreement on tougher penalties

Washington legislators are back at work in Olympia starting this week to pound out a new state drug possession law.

Gov. Jay Inslee called the special session after failed attempts during the regular legislative session to reach a compromise on overhauling how Washington handles drug possession, substance abuse, and addiction. A 2021 Washington Supreme Court ruling struck down the state’s felony drug possession statute. Continue reading

2023 in Olympia: Housing and the end of single-family zoning, gun control, abortion protections, police pursuits, and the end of advisory votes

A view from the 8th floor of the under construction Heartwood development, an affordable mass-timber apartment building from Community Roots Housing at 14th and Union (Image: atelierjones)

The mass timber Heartwood’s central stairs (Image: atelierjones)

Housing, and how to make more of it across the state, has been the driving theme in Olympia’s 2023 session. While some proposals fell flat, others including what amounts to an end to single-family zoning, pushed through and look likely to become law. There were, of course, dozens of other laws passed this session, and a budget is still pending.

The Legislature is set to adjourn April 23. In a budget year, like this one, whether or not a given bill is dead is tougher to pin down. There are a number of cutoff dates built into the system, and in theory, a bill needs to meet those dates, which typically involve being passed by either the senate or house. If it doesn’t meet the date, it won’t become law. However, if a bill has budget implications, then it can be revived even if it missed the dates. And since virtually everything has some budget implication, virtually everything can be brought back.

With that in mind, these are where many efforts stand as of the writing of this story, but, some things that seem dead make yet be revived, we won’t know for sure until adjournment. For details about any of the bills in the story, go here, and enter the bill number.

Keep in mind the session is not over. If you see something up in the air that you find compelling, now is the time to contact your legislators, state Reps. Nicole Macri and Frank Chopp, and state Sen. Jamie Pedersen.

(Image: seattle.gov)

Washington needs about 1 million new homes by 2044, according to the state Dept. of Commerce. To open up options for more housing, the Legislature has decided to, essentially, end single-family zoning as we know it across much of the state with HB 1110. Cities with populations more than 25,000 will need to allow for at least duplexes on every lot. Cities with populations of greater than 75,000 will need to allow at least four houses on every lot. Some of the space is to be set aside for affordable housing. There are some exceptions and fine print surrounding environmentally critical areas and other specially designated areas. Cities will also be required to allow at least six of nine so-called middle housing types. These are all varieties of more density than single-family, without going full blown apartment building. The state defines them as: duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes, townhouses, stacked flats, courtyard apartments, and cottage housing. All this adds up to lots of potential infill development in the coming years.

This does not mean, however, the bulldozers are going to start rumbling toward the big old houses in North Capitol Hill, let alone the rest of the city. Just because a type of building is allowed does not mean it is required. Homeowners can continue to live in their existing houses. They can tear down an existing house and replace it with another single family house if they so desire. This simply mean they would have the option of tearing down the single-family house, and replacing it with more units. In land use circles, the general expectation is that over time, most properties are eventually are built out to the highest density levels permitted and practical, though it can take a generation of more before it actually happens. Continue reading

Seattle Fire Department announces naloxone donation as FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan

The Seattle Fire Department has received a donation that could save hundreds of lives after a national medicine nonprofit has given the department 1,000 dosages of intramuscular naloxone to help the city combat fentanyl and opioid overdoses. Meanwhile, a FDA decision will make Narcan-brand naloxone available over the counter by the end of summer meaning the overdose-reversing medicine can be sold on the shelves at pharmacies, grocery stores, and corner markets. Continue reading

Health officials warn after three dead in Capitol Hill fentanyl ‘Overdose Cluster’

(Image: Public Health – Seattle & King County)

Health officials say the December 23rd death of a man found unconscious with two other people also suffering suspected fentanyl overdoses in a Boylston Ave apartment is part of an “Overdose Cluster” identified in the neighborhood.

Public Health – Seattle & King County says three people have died as part of two overdose events in the neighborhood. CHS reported on the Thursday, December 23rd incident here in which one person died and two others were reported revived by Narcan and taken to the hospital after a neighbor saw the man slumped through the apartment window and called 911.

Public Health could not immediately provide information on the two additional deaths or the second incident identified in the cluster but confirmed the three deaths among the six reported people who overdosed. Continue reading

City Council wraps up 2022 budget with focus on ‘Housing, Homeless Services, Healthy & Safe Communities’

Seattle added a new Black Lives Matter outside City Hall in 2021 (Image: City of Seattle)

The Seattle City Council put a bow on the city’s annual budget session Monday with a vote approving the $7.1 billion spending plan marked by increased spending on the city’s three major crises: affordable housing, homelessness and addiction, and COVID-19 recovery. There were plenty of echoes of recent budget sessions past including a major tangle over ultimately minor changes to Seattle Police, and, yes, another year without unanimous approval as District 3 representative Kshama Sawant continued her long-running practice of voting against the final spending package.

Like last year, Sawant blasted colleagues and budget chair Teresa Mosqueda Monday for an unwillingness to make more substantial changes to the way Seattle spends its revenue. The big change, Sawant said, is how her fellow council members were spinning the numbers, saying last year’s budget “was described by the same council members as on track to defund the police by 50%, which was not true.” This time around, Sawant said she could not join the council’s efforts when “the police budget is actually growing.”

Sawant is facing a December 7th recall vote in a campaign that has focused as much on her political style as the charges brought against her.

Overall, the council’s final 2022 budget package includes $355 million for SPD, a $7 million cut from 2021 and $10 million less than Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan called for. Continue reading

Seattle 2022 budget proposal would create team of ’24/7 Citywide Mental Health Crisis Responders’

A Seattle Crisis Center holding area (Image: CHS)

The winners and the losers emerging from this week’s moderate-leaning Seattle election results agree: Seattle policing needs to change. Like his opponent Lorena González, likely victor Bruce Harrell campaigned on a platform including calls to “reimagine” the Seattle Police Department and “revisit where a gun and badge shouldn’t go.”

A proposed amendment to the city’s 2022 budget would create a much needed resource in reducing Seattle’s dependence on gun and badge responses.

Northwest Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss, along with Councilmember Lisa Herbold and Councilmember Andrew Lewis have proposed spending $13.9 million next year to expand the city’s existing Mobile Crisis Team and to boost behavioral health programs to establish a 24/7 citywide mental health crisis first response system in the city. Continue reading

With firefighters and social workers, not cops, Seattle expands Health One to respond to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues

(Image: City of Seattle)

After more than a year providing aid for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues across downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill, Seattle Fire’s Health One is adding a second unit to expand its reach across new parts of the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SFD Chief Harold Scoggins announced the expansion of the innovative program Tuesday.

“Seattle has pioneered community safety initiatives like Health One. As we continue to reimagine public safety, we will expand civilian public safety alternatives like Health One that sends a firefighter and social worker to a 9-1-1 call,” Durkan said. Continue reading

Amid record spike in overdoses and with money to spend, Seattle and county still working on plan for ‘supervised consumption’

(Image: yestoscs.org)

Supervised drug consumption sites have been a bone of contention in the city for years, but could Seattle see progress this year?

The Seattle City Council included in its 2021 budget $1.12 million specifically for health services for drug users after approving funding earmarked for facilities meant to give space to use opioids or other drugs with medical supervision multiple times in recent years, but that was never spent.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s Public Safety & Human Services Committee, noted that while the council can allocate these funds, it has no power to spend them, a power reserved for the mayor.

“This is really in the hands of the mayor’s office right now,” Herbold told CHS earlier this month. Herbold said she has been involved in conversations with Mayor Jenny Durkan on consumption sites — most recently in December — but Durkan has not made commitments to move forward. At the same time, Durkan has not expressed she wants to reallocate this money against the council’s wishes, so Herbold “remain[s] optimistic.”

Kelsey Nyland, a spokesperson for the mayor, said that the mayor’s office and representatives from the city’s Human Services Department planned to meet with Public Health — Seattle & King County.

“HSD will continue to work with Public Health – Seattle & King County to implement a proposal to expand access to drug treatment and increased services for people experiencing substance use disorders,” Nyland said in an email. She did not have specifics yet on what this might look like, saying that would likely come out of the meeting.

This comes amid a recent spike in overdoses, with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office reporting 42 suspected or confirmed overdose deaths between Dec. 27 and Jan. 9.

Continue reading