For second year in row, King County won’t attempt to count homeless population

(Image: City of Seattle)

King County is again putting of its annual attempt to count the number of people living outside, in vehicles, or under-sheltered here.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority says it plans, instead, to “conduct qualitative engagement with people living unsheltered to learn more about their experiences and how we can better meet their needs.” CHS reported here in 2019 on the formation of the new authority with hopes for more regional approaches to addressing the ongoing homelessness crisis. 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 more than 40% of city’s homeless population living in vehicles, Seattle will restore enforcement of 72-hour parking rule — UPDATE

City officials estimate vehicle residents account for more than 40% of the unsheltered homeless population in Seattle (Image: Seattle.gov)

In what it says will be an initial focus to clear abandoned or dangerously parked vehicles off the streets, Seattle City Hall says its traffic enforcement squad will begin issuing warnings this week for violations of the 72-hour parking rule:

With an increase of abandoned vehicles across Seattle, the City of Seattle will resume enforcing the 72-hour parking rule beginning on October 15, 2021. While warnings and citations may be issued on any vehicle parked in one place for 72 hours, the initial focus will be on clearing unoccupied hazardous vehicles that may have been abandoned over the past 19 months.

“City Traffic Code does not allow a vehicle to be parked on the same block of a city street for longer than 72 consecutive hours,” the announcement from the Seattle Department of Transportation reads. “In general, public streets are not an appropriate place for long-term vehicle storage. The 72-hour parking rule can also help prevent people from abandoning broken or unused vehicles on city streets.”

The city’s transportation department now manages parking warnings and tickets in Seattle following changes to move 911 and parking enforcement out of Seattle Police in an effort to rein in the department’s spending. Continue reading

Did the City of Seattle get fleeced in recent Capitol Hill apartment deals? Recent purchases say math works out

Conservative media around the globe are taking turns blasting the City of Seattle for acquiring new housing providing “panoramic views of the Puget Sound and the Space Needle” in its purchase of three new Capitol Hill apartment buildings, saying the city got taken in its payout of nearly $48 million for the three properties.

“The apartments work out at an average of $300,000 per unit – two to three times higher than what it costs to build,” the Daily Mail reports. “From homeless tents to penthouses with views,” Fox News hissed in its report on the deals, claiming developers say the price is “two to three times higher than what it costs them to build.”

But the most recent apartment building real estate deals in the neighborhood show that the city’s math might be right on and that the Daily Mail and Fox takes don’t add up. Continue reading

City sweeps Capitol Hill’s Thomas Street Mini Park in Seattle’s latest encampment clearance

Thanks to a CHS reader for the pictures. Volunteers were also reported working at the site helping campers move their possessions.

As the Seattle City Council dug in Wednesday on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2022 budget proposal including some $115 million in spending earmarked to address the city’s homelessness crisis, workers were on Capitol Hill executing the latest ordered clearance of tents and belongings from a city park.

“Because of an encampment impeding park access, outreach to Thomas St. Mini Park intensified this week with the goal of getting all who are residing onsite connected to shelter and on a path towards a permanent housing solution,” a statement sent to CHS by Seattle Parks reads. Continue reading

As more neighborhood parks lined up to be cleared, González comes to Capitol Hill to unveil homelessness plan that emphasizes housing, not sweeps

González at Capitol Hill Station for a press conference last week on her plan to address homelessness (Image: CHS)

Earlier this month, her opponent stood in front of the site of a sprawling Seattle encampment to unveil his Compassion Seattle-like plan for adding new housing, new spending, and clearing “parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces, sidewalks, and streets” of tents.

Mayoral candidate Lorena González chose the mix of market rate and affordable housing above Capitol Hill Station to unveil hers — including a vow, she said, to leave fear and sweeps behind.

“Nobody wants an encampment anywhere in the city,” González told CHS Thursday at a press conference in the development’s plaza just north of Cal Anderson Park. “Our goal is to make sure that people don’t have to resort to living outside. My plan focuses on bringing that to fruition and doing that urgently in my administration.”

As González espoused the housing and service principals of her homelessness plan, the candidate and current Seattle City Council president chose to draw the hardest line between her vision and the plan put forth by opponent Bruce Harrell on encampments.

Harrell, she said, wants “heat maps” and dashboards to keep parks and sidewalks clear.

“I am not as mayor going to forcibly remove people out of one public space and shift the issue to another public space,” González said.

Headed into November, the housing-focused approach might be a tough sell. Encampments, especially in parks, have continued to be hot button neighborhood issue across Capitol Hill and the city. The latest issues to flare up here are complaints from neighbors around Seven Hills Park where a camp has grown along with reports of street disorder and disturbances. Continue reading

With planned fall openings, City of Seattle acquiring three Capitol Hill developments for homelessness housing — UPDATE

The City of Seattle announced Monday it is acquiring three nearly complete Capitol Hill developments to be turned into “new income- and rent-restricted housing” as part of a first round of acquisitions powered by millions of dollars of local, state, and federal funding.

CHS reported here on one of the developments part of the acquisition — a microhousing project on Boylston Ave E that had been teed up to include two of its 60 units under the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program.

The seven-story project is being acquired by the city and will be used to offer housing to “adults experiencing homelessness or at extreme risk of homelessness” and will be operated by the Low Income Housing Institute. Continue reading

Appeals court decision snuffs last hope for Compassion Seattle vote

The state Court of Appeals has upheld a King County judge’s decision disqualifying the Compassion Seattle initiative from the November ballot.

In the appeals court ruling, a three-judge panel agreed with last week’s decision by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer that threw a monkey wrench in the downtown chamber-backed plan to change the city charter to require Seattle provide housing, guarantee 12% of the city’s general fund for homelessness and human services, and crack down on encampments by requiring sweeps and clearances of public spaces. Continue reading

ACLU lawsuit takes down vote on ‘Compassion Seattle’ homelessness initiative — UPDATE: Surprise appeal

Seattle’s November election might still end up a referendum on homelessness but it will not include a vote on “Compassion Seattle” after a King County judge Friday ruled the measure would go beyond the scope of Seattle’s initiative process.

Lawyers for the ACLU representing the organization,the Transit Riders Union, and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness sued to remove Compassion Seattle from the ballot, arguing that the vote on Charter Amendment 29 would be “an illegal use of a local ballot initiative and violates state laws that mandate how local governments make and carry out plans for addressing homelessness” that went “beyond the scope of Seattle’s initiative powers.”

King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer agreed, striking the initiative from November’s General Election vote.

UPDATE 8/31/2021 12:00 PM: In a surprise announcement, the Compassion Seattle campaign said Tuesday it will, indeed, appeal the ruling:

This morning, Compassion Seattle’s lawyers filed an emergency motion of appeal with the Washington Court of Appeals seeking a stay of last week’s decision to remove Charter Amendment 29 from the November ballot. If granted, voters will have their say on a critically needed measure to address the number one issue facing Seattle — a measure that has majority voter support.

As we said last Friday, we strongly disagree with Judge Catherine Shaffer’s decision to strike Charter Amendment 29, a decision that blocks Seattle voters from being able to voice their opinion about the continuing crisis of homelessness. The Judge’s decision caused an outpouring of support over the weekend from supporters who want us to press on with an appeal. We decided that we must take this action to represent the interests of tens of thousands of voters who signed petitions to put this amendment on the ballot.

The people of Seattle deserve their say on how City Hall should be addressing this worsening crisis, and we will do everything we can to make that happen, whether by fighting for a vote on this Charter Amendment or by holding the candidates for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney accountable for their positions on homelessness.

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