MAKING IT WORK
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
LOCAL FOOD ACTION INITIATIVE APPROVED
On Monday, April 28, the Council adopted Resolution 31019, the Local Food Action Initiative, by a vote of 7 to 2 (Godden and McIver voting no). This resolution, which I developed and sponsored, creates a framework for actions to promote a more sustainable and secure food system for Seattle while also reducing the food system’s carbon footprint. It brings together work being done by a wide range of Seattle businesses and organizations, City staff in several departments, and community activists who have created an Acting Food Policy Council.
The Local Food Action Initiative commits the City to join with King County and the Seattle-King County Board of Health to create a Food Policy Council and develop a Food Policy Action Plan. Actions to be pursued are focused around increasing the availability of locally grown healthy food, such as:
- Improving public health by providing increased access to healthy foods, especially for low-income households;
- Bringing more supplies of nutritious foods to local food banks in order to assist them to meet the rising demand for assistance from people in need;
- Increasing the number of community gardens, promoting farmers’ markets, and developing a market garden program to encourage growing food in the City;
- Working with farmers and rural populations to make more direct connections between consumers and food producers through Community Supported Agriculture and bring more farmland into production closer to urban areas;
- Reducing the climate impacts of our food system;
- Improving the security of our local food supply in the event of a major disaster;
- Reducing the negative environmental effects relating to the food system including minimizing energy use and reducing food waste;
- Creating local economic opportunities related to local food production, processing, distribution, and waste management;
- Supporting strategies to connect major institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and jails, to locally grown food.
More details about this important initiative can be found in Making It Work, Volume X, Issue 3.
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SOUND TRANSIT CONSIDERS 2008 BALLOT
SOUND TRANSIT CONSIDERS 2008 BALLOT
On Thursday, April 24, the Sound Transit Board forwarded for public comment a set of new options that would modify last year’s mass transit expansion plan to form a faster and lower-cost package than Proposition 1, the Roads and Transit Package, which voters turned down in 2007.
Polls conducted for Sound Transit indicate that voters continue to support transit, and voted down the package because it was too expensive and did not deliver benefits soon enough. The Sound Transit Board has been reviewing its options for returning to the ballot with a transit package that voters might approve, which it could do in either 2008 or 2010.
Sound Transit’s current system of regional express buses, commuter rail and light rail currently carries about 50,000 riders each day, a number that will more than double following the 2009 opening of light rail service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport. Construction of that light rail line is moving forward on schedule and is now 85 percent complete.
Expansion of Link light rail between downtown and the University of Washington is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2016. University Link is projected to nearly triple the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030. Last month, the Federal Transit Administration awarded the University Link project its highest rating for proposed transit projects in the nation, and $100 million for the project was included in the Bush administration’s proposed FY 2009 budget.
However, Sound Transit must seek additional funding from the voters to continue to expand its services beyond the University Link. Unfortunately, only a sales tax increase is available to Sound Transit. Board members have not agreed yet as to whether it makes sense to go out in 2008 with a modified proposal. While a smaller, faster proposal could extend light rail to Northgate and construct a line across I-90 to Bellevue and Redmond, Snohomish County Board members are concerned that it would bring them limited benefits, while Pierce County Board members are divided on whether proposed increases in Sounder commuter rail bring enough benefit without additional expansion of light rail. Some Board members question whether voters will support a measure in the light of economic uncertainty, or believe that the proposal would fare better once the original light rail line is actually in operation,
and there is also uneasiness about the appropriateness of the sales tax as the primary funding source.
There will be continued discussion on the Board, and no final decision will be made until late June at the earliest. Voters are encouraged to participate in the public outreach process by reviewing and commenting on the proposed packages.
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PARKS LEVY COMMITTEE NAMED
On Monday, April 21, the City Council took the next step in deciding whether to renew a parks levy. By a vote of 7 to 1 (McIver voted no, Licata was absent but announced his support for the resolution), the Council created the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Advisory Committee, to advise the Council, by June 30, on the pros and cons of asking voters to renew a parks levy on November’s ballot. As part of that process, the Committee will analyze specific parks projects that could be covered by renewal of the levy.
The Committee was created by Substitute Resolution 31055, sponsored by myself along with Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, Sally Clark, and Jean Godden. Earlier this month, the Council released a poll that showed that sixty-seven percent of Seattleites favor a renewal of a parks levy.
In addition to a series of meetings to review the issues and consider a possible parks package, the Committee will also hold three public outreach meetings. Seattle residents are invited to attend these meetings to express their thoughts and concerns about a possible Park levy renewal.
All meetings will run from 6:30 to 9 PM. Dates and locations will be:
Monday May 12, Bertha Knight Landes Room, 1st floor, City Hall, Fifth Avenue and James (Enter building from 5th Avenue)
Wednesday May 14, Northgate Community Center, Multi-Purpose Room, 10510 5th Avenue NE
Thursday May 15, Rainier Community Center, Multi-Purpose Room, 4600 38th Avenue South
The Council will review the report of the advisory committee and deliberate on final action on a possible renewal during July.
Click here for more information on the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Advisory Committee.
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SEPA THRESHOLD LEGISLATION APPROVED
On Monday, April 21, the Council unanimously adopted Council Bill 116010, increasing the size of some kinds of projects that will be exempted from doing separate analyses under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) within Seattle’s Urban Centers. Larger and more complex projects, which may have more significant and complicated environmental impacts that cannot be adequately captured under other environmental protection ordinances, will still have to perform separate SEPA analyses.
The State Environmental Policy Act defines the maximum size of developments that can be exempted from SEPA analysis, but in the early 1990’s Seattle set these thresholds much lower than that allowed by state law in order to provide for the maximum protection under the circumstances then prevailing. Since then, the City has adopted a series of environmental regulations, such as the Environmentally Critical Areas Ordinance, as well as policies such as Design Review, which collectively provide for protection of the natural and built environment, and mitigation of many types of environmental impacts.
Seattle’s Urban Centers are designated as compact communities, and all of them have plans and policies that are intended to incorporate the impacts of development under the zoning intensity that has been approved by the City Council. The combination of these plans and policies and the citywide environmental ordinances and policies will provide for careful and orderly implementation of needed protections in developments that are below the new thresholds. Most Washington cities have already adopted these higher thresholds, even though they may not have as comprehensive a set of other protective policies as Seattle.
Leaving these lower SEPA thresholds in place in our Urban Centers duplicates the protections that Seattle has in place through other means, and adds red tape that drives up the cost of housing. A careful review of the impacts of SEPA analyses that would now no longer be required failed to identify any significant mitigation that had been implemented as a result of having the lower thresholds in place. For those reasons, the Council agreed with the Mayor that these thresholds can be brought into conformance with those permitted under State law.
The Council did not adopt the Mayor’s recommendation to raise the thresholds in other areas of the City, primarily because the Council wants to make sure that proposed modifications to the commercial code which would further complement the environmental protections in some areas have been approved by the Council and are in place prior to taking action on SEPA.
Legislation increasing the SEPA thresholds.
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COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENTS PROPOSED
On Monday, April 14, the City Council unanimously adopted Substitute Resolution 31049, approving a series of possible amendments to the Seattle Comprehensive Plan to be carried forward for analysis and consideration.
The Comprehensive Plan is the central policy guidance document for Seattle government, and can only be amended once per year (with some limited exceptions) under Washington’s Growth Management Act. The Council begins the process of amendment by soliciting suggestions from the public early in the year. These are then reviewed by the Department of Planning and Development and the Seattle Planning Commission, who may also suggest other amendments. After reviewing suggestions from the public and recommendations from DPD and the Planning Commission, as well as from Councilmembers, the Council then creates a docket of potential amendments to move forward for further analysis, which is scheduled to be completed by August. The Council then holds a formal public hearing on the final list of recommended changes, and sometime in the fall will adopt an ordinance making changes to the Plan.
This first stage, which resulted in Resolution 31049, screened amendments to ensure that they are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, conform to applicable state and local law, are practical, and, if they apply to a neighborhood plan, have been reviewed by the affected neighborhood. Including a proposal in this resolution does not necessarily indicate that the Council supports it, but only that it meets those criteria.
Amendments that the Council will consider include:
- Endorsing additional lids over I-5 to connect First Hill and Capitol Hill to Downtown;
- Moving policies relating to Sand Point from the Comprehensive Plan to another planning document (DPD believes that these are too specific to be in the Comprehensive Plan);
- Amending the Future Land Use Map to change zoning designations in South Lake Union from Industrial/Commercial to Commercial;
- Consolidating Comprehensive Plan goals and policies related to trees and tree canopy preservation in one location in the Plan, except where a separate location is important to the meaning of the policy, such as when a policy is contained within a neighborhood plan.
- Prohibiting new surface parking in the Downtown Mixed Residential zone (Belltown);
- Adding a goal or policy to the Transportation Element with the clear intent to seek safe street crossings at transit stop locations, particularly on roadways with more than one vehicle lane in any direction;
- Amending neighborhood planning goal NG-3 to make neighborhood planning a greater possibility for areas of the City that are not expected to take significant amounts of growth;
- Adding a policy discouraging extra-heavy transit buses and solid waste trucks, provided potential conflicts with City solid waste contracts are resolved in any finally recommended policy;
- Adding a goal requiring a reduction in vehicle miles traveled;
- Adding amendments proposed by the Seattle Planning Commission based on its affordable Housing Action Agenda;
- Amending the Environment Element to add that the City must prepare for, and adapt to, the effects of climate change;
- Establishing level-of-service standards for safety and access for non-motorized modes of travel, or alternative means of ensuring that non-motorized travel facilities keep pace as development occurs;
- Adding goals and policies addressing surplus City property; and
- Adding goals or policies that strongly encourage or require the development of housing in structures that are to contain a commercial or governmental use, unless all zoned development capacity is taken by the primary use of the building, and develop implementing regulations. Examples of developments that would be affected include community centers, libraries, fire stations, grocery stores, and drug stores.
The Council also agreed to consider, contingent upon a recommendation from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), Future Land Use Map amendments in South Downtown, 15th Av. NW (Nelson Property), the Harbor Avenue Corridor, Stadium East, and BINMIC (Dravus/Interbay), all of which would change the uses of some industrial land to more commercial or mixed use purposes.
At my recommendation, the Council responded to a citizen request for a new Comprehensive Plan section on Open and Participatory Government by committing to develop a coordinated plan and policy on open and participatory government outside of the Comprehensive Plan. The proposed amendment included a variety of ideas, some of which may be suitable for the Comprehensive Plan and others which are not. Developing the plan and policy will include reviewing existing policies and considering additional policies where gaps exist or there are opportunities to extend and increase the City's commitments. The Council's review will include consideration of possible Comprehensive Plan policies for the 2009 Comprehensive Plan amendment cycle.
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RECYCLING IN PARKS BEGINS
Everyone has seen garbage cans heaped with recyclable cans and bottles after a little league game or family picnic. The City Council has funded a pilot project to capture these resources through a new outdoor recycling pilot program for glass, plastic, and aluminum at 42 locations in Southeast and Southwest Seattle Parks that was launched in April.
The colorful, clearly marked recycling bins are strategically situated at ball fields, picnic areas, and beaches to capture the most recyclables. Parks staff estimates that the program will divert 45 tons of recyclables from the trash over the next nine months. Parks also believes that placing recycling bins at places where children gather will reinforce the development of lifelong habits of recycling and conservation.
The outdoor recycling pilot program compliments comprehensive recycling already going on at Parks facilities including plant debris, construction materials, hazardous waste and bottles, cans and paper at all indoor facilities.
Historically, Parks attempted outdoor recycling in 1992 but found contamination by non-recyclable garbage an insurmountable challenge. This time, Parks hopes to address this problem with increased outreach and education of park users. Staff will track tonnage collected and operations costs, and use those figures to evaluate the program’s effectiveness at diverting recyclables from the waste stream. Please participate and encourage others to do so as well!
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PUBLIC BUDGET MEETINGS IN MAY
In May, the Council will hold four community budget meetings around Seattle. Residents will have the opportunity to hear about current budget challenges and discuss their budget priorities directly with Councilmembers and staff. As the economic outlook for the City budget becomes increasingly uncertain, citizens can discuss how they want to balance the City’s need for public safety, parks, human services, and other programs. Designing a city budget is a task that requires a great deal of effort, careful ordering of priorities and as much input as possible from citizens.
Community meeting dates and locations (all meetings are from 5:30 to 7:30 PM):
Thursday, May 8, 2008, Miller Park Community Center, 330 19th Ave. E
Thursday, May 15, 2008, Ballard Northwest Senior Activity Center, 5429 32nd Ave. NW
Thursday, May 22, 2008, High Point Community Center, 6920 34th Ave. SW
Thursday, May 29, 2008, Rainier Valley Cultural Center, 3515 S Alaska St.
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"Men say I am a saint losing myself in politics. The fact is that I am a politician trying my hardest to be a saint."
"Count no day lost in which you waited your turn, took only your share, and sought advantage over no one."
-- Robert Brault, American Poet
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected
officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together
we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting,
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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