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Seattle View
        April, 2011 E-News

 

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SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL
Committee on the Built Environment

April 13, Wed
9:30 a.m.

April 27, Wed
9:30 a.m.

For more information, please call us at (206) 684-8802


Upcoming Seattle Events:

Free Tax Help
Various Seattle Public Library locations

Star Wars Exhibit
3/19 – 5/8
Pacific Science Center,
200 2nd Ave N

Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival
4/1 – 4/3
Seattle Center House,
305 Harrison St

Financial Fitness Day
4/2, 10 a.m.
Rainier Community Center,
4600 38th Ave. S

Equitable Growth Dialogues – Great City
4/2, 12 – 5 p.m.
Franklin High School
3013 South Mount Baker Boulevard

Whirligig! 
4/8 - 4/24
(Kids Free on Thursdays)
Seattle Center House,
305 Harrison St

Central District Neighborhood Transportation Forum
4/12, 6 p.m.
Seattle Vocational Institute,
2120 S. Jackson St

GoGreen! ’11 Seattle
4/20, 8:30 a.m.
WA State Convention Center,
8th and Pike Street

Ballard Jazz Festival
4/20 – 4/23
Ballard neighborhood

World Rhythm Festival
4/22 – 4/24
Seattle Center House,
305 Harrison St

King County’s Earth Day Expo
4/22, 10 a.m.
Westlake Plaza, Downtown

International Children’s Friendship Festival
4/23, 11 a.m.
Town Hall Seattle,
1119 8th Ave

KPLU presents: Can Seattle Save the World?
4/26, 7 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle,
1119 8th Ave

Content:

Current Issues

Tunnel drama - Dave Niehaus Way

A few weeks ago I spoke with a colleague who remarked, "You haven't talked about the tunnel in your past couple of newsletters.  People have noticed."  I thought, "Really? I don't think that's right." For one thing it seemed unlikely that I hadn't written recently about the city obsession. Second, it seemed unlikely that anyone would remember the contents of a quarterly newsletter in sufficient detail to recall subject areas. I checked my archives. He was right. I haven't included anything about the tunnel since March of 2007. However, I don't think anyone has noticed. It always seems like there's plenty to share in this newsletter without rehashing the latest Viaduct replacement scrum. In honor of the four-year anniversary of my last Highway 99 newsletter post, I include here another.

And that's the extent of what I can write that will clear the Ethics & Elections screen. With initiatives, referendums and lawsuits in play, elected officials shouldn't use taxpayer-supported resources to advocate (or be perceived to advocate) for a particular team.  Instead, let's talk baseball.

Seattle Safeco Field

Like a lot of people right now I am excited for opening day of baseball season. I have no idea if the Mariners will have a great season or not. I'm happy Felix threw hard in his last spring start. I'm sad Josh Wilson was shown the door. Mostly I'm just looking forward to hearing the games. I'd like to sit in the stands, but more often I'm in my car moving between after-work meetings and home. One thing I know about this year is that I'll miss the voice of Dave Niehaus. Sure, I watched the 1996 victory and pig-pile of Mariners and his voice is a special part of that moment, but more often we listened to Dave call the regular games of the season.  Balls and strikes, ground outs and homers (rather Grand Salamis), statistics and anecdotes.

After Dave passed away last year talk started about how to best honor his place in Seattle sports. I was contacted by Glen Garnett and others asking what the City could do with regards to both the passing of Dave and the departure of Junior. Thankfully, Junior is back with the club as a special advisor.

As for Dave, I've worked with the Mariners and businesses on First Ave. S. to make the stretch of the street in front of the ballpark "Dave Niehaus Way S". Technically, it will still be First Ave. S. on your street maps and GIS systems, but you'll see a special brown sign with Dave's name. The M's have been great partners in this- they're paying for the sign fabrication and installation.  On opening day we'll do a small ceremony unveiling the signs with the Niehaus family.  Then we'll really honor Dave by watching some baseball.

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Councilmembers Clark, Rasmussen, and Godde
Sally joined Mayor Mike McGinn, Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen
and Jean Godden, and a couple dozen other Jet City residents
to get an on-the-ground view of Portlandís transit system.
The group also compared patterns of new development
in the Pearl District and Portlandís South Waterfront.


Neighborhoods - A Quick Update

It's been one year two months and 31 days since I've chaired a Council committee with "neighborhoods" in its title, but who's counting?  I've written on neighborhood planning and the workings of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) previously, so I thought I'd update you on a couple of things. Visit Councilmember O'Brien's website (the current chair of the Neighborhoods Committee), for more information on any of these.

Welcome to Interim Director Bernie Matsuno! 

I've truly appreciated the work of former DON Director Stella Chao. We owe her great thanks for a disciplined focus on wide community engagement and social justice work. With Stella's appointment expired, Mayor Mike McGinn has wisely chosen to temporarily fill the director's position with a DON veteran- Bernie Matsuno.  Bernie, who retired from DON a few years ago, understands the workings of the department, knows Seattle communities and believes in DON's special role in community building. 

The Mayor has not said how he will find the next permanent director of the department. I hope he involves community people from the start and that we maintain a strong Department of Neighborhoods to support and amplify the work of our neighbors.

Neighborhoods map

Neighborhood District Coordinators regroup

In last fall's budget submittal to City Council, the Mayor proposed reducing the number of neighborhood district coordinators (the people who serve as your neighborhood connection to City government) from 13 to 6.  Council chose to restore a few positions, bumping the number of coordinators back up to 10 citywide. 

City Council also requested DON develop a plan for best maintaining the roles and responsibilities of neighborhood district coordinators with a report due back to Council before this fall's budget round.  In the meantime, coordinators have been teamed up by region.  Three coordinators serve the northern part of the city, three serve central Seattle, and four serve across the south.  Check out a map for who works for you here.

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Great City brown bag
Sally, Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith, and City Planning Director Marshall Foster headlined the February Great City brown bag session on 2011 priorities for land use and Seattle’s progress toward
a sustainable future. Great City’s past board chair Brice Maryman facilitated.

Committee on the Built Environment

Setting the table in South Downtown

South Downtown is made up of some of Seattle's most iconic neighborhoods, including Pioneer Square, Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon. We've been at work for many months and are about to take action on a set of rezones and land use rules intended to bring more residents into these areas while protecting the character and history of these neighborhoods.

We've been working on:

Councilmembers Clark and Burgess chat with Maiko Winkler-Chin
  • Affordable Housing - Requiring developers to construct or fund lower-income housing units in exchange for additional building capacity.
  • Historic Preservation - Allowing historic building owners to sell their additional building capacity to help fund renovation of their buildings.
  • Public safety - Identifying ways to have more eyes on the streets and to clean up areas where illicit behavior occurs.
  • Parking - Making parking fit with what will become more densely occupied neighborhoods.
  • Economic Development - Working to make sure smaller, often culturally-targeted businesses can remain and get stronger when change occurs.
  • Pedestrian preferences - Incentives and requirements for developers to create walkways and green streets.

Building heights have proven to be the most contentious subject, particularly when it comes to Pioneer Square, but I think we have reached good compromises. We've debated shading, historic integrity, construction costs, public benefits, affordability balance and more. So much good work is happening in Pioneer Square - the Alliance for Pioneer Square, new tech companies choosing the neighborhood, development on the North Lot starting this year. New residents in market-rate housing are the missing piece of the puzzle, the piece we all want to fit.

Thank you to everyone who has weighed in during this work. We've had great public hearings (including the November meeting at the Wing Luke Museum), and a walking tour with Committee on the Built Environment (COBE) members back in August. The legislation we'll vote out in April is different from what was initially proposed because of your feedback.

You can find committee reports and zoning maps for the South Downtown work here.

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Bringing some spark to vacant, under-used lots

A few years ago a lot of us were concerned that development was happening too fast. (Some people are still concerned that development happens too fast, but that's another issue.) One day people saw a parking lot or vacant property. The next day a big white construction alert board appeared, then the next day a 32-story building appeared.  Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.

parking lot

These days the bigger concern I hear is that neighbors don't want to stare out at vacant, trash-attracting lots for who knows how long while a property developer tries to secure financing again. In response, we passed legislation in March that sets the rules for a pilot project intended to bring a little life and, in some cases, commerce to these vacant building sites and parking lots. Under the rules of the pilot program, temporary use will be allowed - maybe food vendors, maybe art, maybe a temporary tree nursery - in addition to some parking. We're not alone in seeing vacant, abandoned-looking building sites in our city.

Other cities are grappling with the same problem and finding ways to improve neighborhood safety, clean up litter and add a little spark through these same kinds of temporary programs. Successful pilot program applicants could operate for three years and possibly renew for a second three-year term.

Check out some of the creative uses the Seattle Design Commission solicited for those vacant spaces here.

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Temporary OK for commuter parking near light rail

We made a multi-billion dollar investment in our new light rail line, not just to create a direct route from the airport to downtown, but to establish compact communities around the light rail stops that connect people from home to work, school and fun (not that the first two can't be fun).  It reduces vehicle miles, reduces pollution, saves people time, and allows for a fun train ride.

In the long-term we'll likely see new housing develop near the light rail stations in place of surface parking lots (like the new Othello Station apartments), but with the recession it's unlikely we see an overwhelming amount of new construction in the short-term. City policy prohibits commuter parking lots in order to give preference to housing and other development. In light of the economy, it makes sense to over-ride this policy for a while and allow parking.

My committee approved this temporary policy change in March. The legislation limits an owner from tearing down a building to put in a parking lot, and will sunset after three years, by which time I hope we see more interest in new housing around the stations taking the place of surface parking lots.

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Team Lewis
Seattle Seahawk cornerback Roy Lewis coached Sally and her capture the flag team while they played on Qwest Field for womenís heart health. Diet Coke made contributions to charities in the Seattle area working to educate women about and prevent heart disease. Winning institutions were the Benaroya Hope Heart research Institute and the Nick of Time Foundation.


Smarter enforcement of junk, overgrowth rules

In 2007, Council passed the "Clean Up Your Act" legislation that requires property owners to keep their lots in decent condition, for the sake of neighborhood character and safety.  This was one of many actions Council has taken to sharpen clean-up of problem properties.

In March COBE and the Council approved legislation to streamline enforcement. Currently, different violations are regulated under different sections of the city code and most have enforcement procedures particular to the section of code. Not very easy for inspectors to use, nor for neighbors to understand.  This legislation consolidates the information a violator receives so the information is easier to understand, correction easier to undertake and deadlines easier to track.

"Clean Up Your Act" was a slightly controversial measure when it was originally passed, but in the time since, I've heard almost nothing but good. 

Check out a P-I Article on the subject here.

If you know of a problem property that you'd like to report (you can even report anonymously), click here.

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Sally Clark and Andhra Lutz
Sally toured Mercer Middle School in March with Principal Andhra Lutz to learn how the 2004 Families & Education Levy has made student success possible, particularly in math. Councilmembers approved a new Families & Education Levy proposal March 28. The proposal, built by a team of community representatives and education advocates, will go to Seattle voters in November.

Random Thoughts

Police accountability - 11 point letter

Recently Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Sally Bagshaw and I sent a letter to the mayor, the chief of police and the heads of the two police unions  suggesting 11 items we believe would improve performance, transparency and accountability in police operations. Our letter comes at an awkward time given that some of the issues would have to be negotiated and the Seattle Police Guild contract negotiations opened last year. However, most of the suggestions in the letter probably would not have to be negotiated. Recent events captured on cellphones and in-store cameras, public scrutiny and things we've learned recently about training and discipline make it imperative that we take advantage of every opportunity to fix problems when they become evident. Seattle has an excellent police force and it's one that should never shy away from honest self-examination and steps toward improvement

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State Legislature Wades Through Red Ink

The legislative session in Olympia has less than a month to go before sine die and the end both can't come soon enough for state lawmakers and is barreling down on them at overwhelming speed.

Sally joined King County Councilmember Larry Phillips and Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond to testify in support of additional transit funding at the Washington State House Transportation Committee in March.

The moment they get a grip on one spending plan for shoring up the state budget, a new revenue forecast appears and we're suddenly $698 million down.

Seattle City Councilmembers have been regulars in Olympia this session as we've worked to prevent cuts to services like Disability Lifeline (which assists those of us who are unemployable), health care for children, community health clinics, and worked for proposals like the bill creating a carefully crafted exception to two-party consent rules when it comes to taping conversations in child prostitution investigations.

One bright spot, if you can call it that, is a bill that would allow King County to save transit hours locally by putting a temporary $20 charge on vehicle licenses. Metro, like most city bus systems in the country, is suffering due to the recession-powered dip in revenues and the rise in diesel fuel prices. Snohomish County has already cut all bus service on Sundays and holidays, along with cutting back on general routes.  We need more bus hours in our region, not fewer.

Whatever cuts are made by the state, we'll feel the impacts locally.  Be sure to contact your legislator to let them know your priorities. Go here and click the "Find your District" tab to get the contact info for your state representatives: http://www.leg.wa.gov/.

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Sally joined the crowd to welcome Rachel the Piggybank back
Sally joined the crowd to welcome Rachel the Piggybank back after she was injured by a taxi in February. On March 18, Rachel returned to her home at the Pike Place Market in good health, greeted by well-wishers.


Understanding the 2011 Census - COBE meeting in the community

The 2011 Census numbers are being released in batches throughout the year. How have neighborhoods changed? Where are we growing? Are any neighborhoods shrinking? 

I'll be hosting a special meeting in the community to talk through the census data out so far. We'll look at data with the city's demographer and special guests from across the city. Expect a late-summer meeting.

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Monthly coffee hour sponsored by the Seattle Office for Senior Citizens
Sally spoke in March at the monthly coffee hour sponsored by the Seattle Office for Senior Citizens. Education and Seattleís walkability were the leading topics of discussion.


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