MAKING IT WORK
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city. You can request additional information or comment on the newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
COUNCIL ADOPTS CARBON NEUTRAL GOAL, WORKPLAN
On Monday, October 3, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31312, endorsing a path toward reducing Seattle's net greenhouse gas emissions level to zero by 2050. Section 1 of the resolution resolves that the "City adopts the following climate protection and adaptation goals:
- Seattle will strive to reach net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050; and
- Seattle will be prepared for the likely impacts of climate change."
The Council action sets preliminary emissions targets for Seattle in three sectors: transportation, building energy and waste. The resolution is the culmination of a year-long process guided by community input and informed by in-depth technical analysis and includes some of the most aggressive emissions targets among cities in the world. A City Council stewardship team of Councilmembers Richard Conlin, Sally Clark, and Mike O'Brien developed the resolution in cooperation with the Office of Sustainability and Environment and with the support of Mayor Mike McGinn.
This action is a historic and significant step in our quest to stabilize the Earth's climate. Seattle becomes one of the first city governments in the world to declare that the goal of being carbon neutral – reducing our net (GHG) emissions to zero – is desirable, realistic, and attainable.
The City Council began the path towards being a 'climate positive' city in 2001, when we first adopted the goal of meeting the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, the internationally negotiated treaty that the United States is the only industrialized nation never to ratify. We have reached that goal of a 7% reduction in GHG emissions by 2010. Now the impacts of climate change are increasing, and the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 acknowledged that the world must reduce carbon emissions by more than 80% by 2050 if we are to avoid the risks of catastrophic impacts. Net zero emissions is an ambitious but likely necessary goal to set for a city like Seattle in the nation that produces the most GHG emissions per capita.
When we initiated the community dialogue around carbon neutrality in 2010, the City also commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to develop scenarios to determine whether net zero emissions was achievable. The SEI report concluded that current technologies and an array of public and community actions could reduce emissions by more than 85%. The remainder could be achieved using offsets or sequestration.
We are now ready to take the next steps in developing our forty-year plan, including a set of targets for those areas that the City has the most influence over, and recommendations for areas where we need collaboration and cooperation from the community and other governments.
Highlights of the adopted targets include (see Resolution 31312 for complete table):
14% reduction in VMT
20% reduction in VMT
8% reduction in energy
20% reduction in energy
Increase waste diversion rate to 69%
Increase waste diversion above 70%
Total GHG emission reduction
30% reduction in GHG
58% reduction in GHG
Reductions are a percentage of 2008 baseline figures. VMT stands for Vehicle Miles Travelled.
The resolution launches the Climate Action Plan update, which will be the next major step in this process. The Office of Sustainability and Environment will engage the community to help identify climate action priorities and will convene technical advisory groups to analyze and recommend specific strategies for reducing the city's greenhouse emissions in the transportation, building energy and waste sectors. The Climate Action Plan will be our road map for meeting our carbon neutrality goals.
The resolution also outlines a set of additional steps, including:
- Evaluating potential changes in City regulations and policies, incentives for private action, intergovernmental coordination at the regional, state, and federal level, and public education campaigns;
- Addressing how offsets and other beneficial City actions can be used to reach climate goals, such as urban and watershed forest management, recycling, and energy conservation and renewable energy resource development that could help position City Light as a climate restoration utility;
- Identifying how climate protection and adaptation actions can be integrated with City economic development objectives;
- Developing strategies (including consumption-based GHG reduction strategies) for businesses, households, and individuals to contribute to climate protection through their purchases, participation in the Local Food Action Initiative and other means.
Seattle was recently named as the greenest city in North America. Living up to that honorific and attaining these ambitious emissions goals will require the engagement of the whole city. This resolution is the starting point for a community dialogue about how the public and the private sectors can work together toward carbon neutrality.
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HEALTHY COMMUNITIES GUIDELINES ADDED TO COUNTYWIDE PLANNING POLICIES
The King County Growth Management Planning Council (GMPC) has adopted the set of Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs) that will guide King County and its 39 cities in their Comprehensive Plan updates. One new element: a set of guidelines developed by the Board of Health that emphasize healthy eating and active living (HEAL).
The "Healthy Communities Guidelines" were adopted unanimously and with little debate by the GMPC, thanks to careful and effective staff work, as well as strong advocacy by the members of the Board of Health (BOH), which had previously adopted a resolution advocating for them. This is in contrast to the situation a few years ago, when a similar set of proposals was tabled because of opposition by some cities, who saw them as too intrusive and prescriptive.
There are several reasons why this changed. First, these guidelines were carefully worded to avoid language that suggested mandates. Second, over the last few years, awareness of the importance of healthy eating and active living has increased, and the evidence is clear that city land use and transportation policies can have a major impact on these important concerns. Third, the leadership of the Board of Health was both united and fully engaged this year, while during the previous attempt we were surprised by the emergence of the opposition. This is a good lesson in how to make public policy change happen – it takes careful and systematic work, and it takes time to get people used to the idea of doing something different.
King County and its cities will all engage in a major 20-year update of Comprehensive Plans over the next several years, as mandated by the State of Washington under the Growth Management Act (GMA). Comprehensive Plans set the stage for more specific land use, transportation, and other regulations and actions – under the GMA, policies adopted by local jurisdictions must be congruent with the jurisdiction's Comprehensive Plan. In turn, these Comprehensive Plans must follow the CPPs. Both Planning Policies and Comprehensive Plans generally point in directions rather than including specific mandates – in Seattle, we are fond of using phrases like 'strive to' rather than 'will'. Despite this, the Comprehensive Plans do set limits and directions that define what actions will be taken.
The "Healthy Communities Guidelines" are informed by the leading and actual causes of preventable death and illness in King County, and focus on nine areas: physical activity, nutrition, harmful environmental exposure, transportation-related injury, violence-related injury, tobacco use, alcohol use, mental health and well-being, and health services access. In each of these areas, the Board of Health recommended a guidelines and specific elements that should be considered in Comprehensive Plans.
The guidelines adopted by the Board of Health were included in the CPP"s in the relevant chapters. For example, the section on Development Patterns included the following BOH suggested language:
"DP-6 Plan for development patterns that promote public health by providing all residents with
opportunities for safe and convenient daily physical activity, social connectivity, and protection
from exposure to harmful substances and environments.
DP-7 Plan for development patterns that promote safe and healthy routes to and from public
DP-8 Increase access to healthy food in communities throughout the Urban Growth Area by
encouraging the location of healthy food purveyors, such as grocery stores and farmers
markets, and community food gardens in proximity to residential uses and transit facilities."
Adoption of these kinds of provisions by the GMPC lays out a clear direction towards more healthy eating and active living, which can then be translated by each jurisdiction into their Comprehensive Plan and specific implementation steps. King County is breaking new ground by including these kinds of strategies in the GMA implementation policies – it is a great step forward in the long path towards a healthier and more sustainable society.
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TOURISM IMPROVEMENT AREA APPROVED
On Monday, September 26, the City Council unanimously approved Council Bill 117258 creating the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area (STIA). The legislation creates a special taxing district that will charge $2 per bed night to guests in hotels with 60 or more rooms in the greater downtown area. The estimated $6 million that will be raised will be used for promotion, advertising, sales and marketing services to get people to visit Seattle. Councilmember Tim Burgess led the work to bring this idea from concept to reality, taking it through the many legal steps that are required to implement this kind of program.
This is, in effect, a voluntary taxing district. Like a Local Improvement District (LID), which is a mechanism that can be used by communities to come together to tax themselves for a specific improvement, the STIA was developed and advocated for by the hospitality industry. 77% of the 53 hotels that will be taxed under the STIA signed a petition asking the City to impose this tax. None of those who had not signed opposed the tax during the Council deliberations.
The hotels did this because we are entering a strange era in promoting tourism. Tourism is a very important part of the Seattle economy, supporting over 50,000 jobs in the Seattle/King County area – 20,000 in Seattle. Seattle is a renowned destination, known around the country and around the world as a City that is a great and interesting place to visit. The estimated $6.9 billion that tourists spend in our area generates $416.2 million in taxes for the state and city.
Yet, Washington has never spent very much on tourism, especially compared to other destination areas. In 2010, Washington spent only $1.8 million promoting tourism – while British Columbia spent C$60 million. We can't count on people to keep coming just because we have great word of mouth – advertising and information makes a difference. In 2011, the state tourism budget was completely zeroed out as the state tackled its daunting deficit problem. The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau is supported by voluntary donations – and those are the first to go when the economy tightens up.
Hence, the STIA. The City will collect the funds, and will be reimbursed for our costs. The Convention and Visitors Bureau will administer them – and we anticipate that the $5 to 6 million raised annually will generate $34 million in new business, support 500 jobs, and add $3.42 million to Seattle's tax revenues.
This is a classic example of a win-win approach to public-private partnership – with no downside for either party. The hotels get more business, the City gets more tax revenue, and the impact is minimal on local people, since the vast majority of the revenues will come from visitors (who will likely not even notice this small addition to their hotel bill).
Collectively, we can come together and create value for all of us. Individually, this would be almost impossible. This creative approach is also a lesson about the value of working together to make things happen for mutual benefit. The hotels know that they are in competition, but that their success also depends on cooperation. People in Seattle know this better than many people around our country apparently do.
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DISTRICT ENERGY A KEY STEP FOR THE CLIMATE AND OUR ECONOMY
District energy systems are one of the most effective ways to provide affordable and clean energy for heating and hot water. Generating energy in a central location and distributing it to nearby areas is much more efficient than having separate heating units in each building.
Seattle is one of the fortunate cities around the world that already has a very well functioning district energy system, operated by Seattle Steam Company, and serving some 200 buildings downtown and on First Hill. Seattle Steam has been operating its system for 115 years. For much of that time, it was taken for granted as an economical service, but not seen as a particularly innovative player. In the last few years, however, as energy analysts around the world have begun to understand how efficient and clean district heating systems can be, Seattle Steam has taken on a new importance, and the company has invested in new technologies to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and maximize the efficiency of its energy use. The University of Washington also operates a district energy system serving campus buildings.
Last year, the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) reviewed the opportunities for new and expanded district energy systems around Seattle. Based on that study, OSE recommends moving forward with planning to expand district energy systems on First Hill, including at the new Yesler Terrace redevelopment, creating a "strategic district energy partnership", which the City would drive through contracts with private companies who would deliver the actual district heating services. OSE recommends that the City move forward with creating a legal framework and contracts for utility service in 2012. OSE also recommends exploring promising future opportunities in Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and the University District.
As a first step towards realizing the promise of district energy with Yesler Terrace and First Hill as the initial project, on Monday, October 10, the Council unanimously adopted Resolution 31329, supporting the efforts of OSE to prepare the groundwork for district energy in Seattle and identifying the policy analysis the Council anticipates will be necessary to allow the City to take the next steps in the process.
The resolution calls for OSE to work with other City departments, non-City agencies, and entities with technical, financial, legal, or other expertise, to generate key information to provide the framework for proceeding into the next stage of district energy development. OSE is asked to identify the basis for recommending the "strategic district energy partnership" approach and how it compares to other alternatives, such as creating a smaller, stand-alone district energy system for Yesler Terrace which could possibly be expanded in the future or creating a municipal heating district.
OSE is also asked to:
- Conduct or cite policy, financial, legal, and other analysis to the extent necessary to compare the alternatives, evaluating pros and cons and tradeoffs;
- identify entities or groups that have interests in the area or the issues and how they might be affected by the choice of alternative;
- Identify and address challenges or barriers to implementing alternatives;
- identify the changes in City law or practice that might be needed, including revising or waiving City requirements, the pros and cons of making such changes (costs, legal, policy, etc.), and the likely schedule for considering them; and
- Identify the changes in state law (if any) that might be needed, the positions and interests of other groups in the state, and assess the likelihood of the City being successful in securing the changes.
For the partnership approach recommended on First Hill, OSE is asked to respond to the following questions:
- What is the City's authority to select and contract with a retail district energy provider?
- What regulatory authority over scope, operations, guarantee of load, rates, performance etc., does the City have?
- What might the legal structure of such an entity look like? What are the risks to the City of involvement in such a legal construct?
- Does state law provide a feasible basis for such a system? What authority does it give the City in this context? What risks are involved in using that authority?
- If a new district energy system were to include a guaranteed load to a new provider, what consumer protections would exist and how would they be enforced?
- What might the City's role(s) in a new structure be? These could include regulatory, financial (capital, operating, debt, guarantees), contractual, etc.
- What is the likely financial implication for the parties over 10, 20, 30 years? How might capital costs reasonably be financed and recovered?
- What would be the process and criteria for establishing a rate structure for retail customers? What is the likely range of possible rates? How would rates be expected to compare to those for existing systems, and to those for other alternatives? How might future expansion be financed and paid for?
- If key parts of a new system were to rest on contractual relationships among parties (e.g., City, new retail provider, Seattle Steam, customers), what might happen when the various contracts end? What if a particular party were to choose not to renew a contract? What if a particular party failed to perform?
Great ideas are not enough to make serious change. It is also essential to sort through the legal, technical, economic, and logistical issues that have to be resolved before an idea can be brought to reality. The City is excited about the prospects for making district energy a reality. Now it is time to get down to the hard work of figuring out how to make it actually happen.
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PARKS DEPARTMENT EMBRACES LOCAL FOOD ACTIONS
On Saturday, October 1, the Parks Department and community partners officially broke ground on the Rainier Beach Urban Farm, which will transform the seven acres of the former Atlantic City Nursery into a working organic urban farm and demonstration wetlands restoration site. The Parks Department nursery was closed in January, 2010. Seattle Tilth and the Friends of the Atlantic City Nursery will jointly develop and operate the site, which is funded by $500,000 from the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy and $50,000 from the Neighborhood Matching Fund.
The Rainier Beach Urban Farm is one very visible part of a major commitment by the Parks Department to the Local Food Action Initiative. Parks Department employees, organized as the Parks Urban Food Systems (PUFS) Committee, have adopted the following objectives:
- Promote equitable production of food on Parks property.
- Promote equitable distribution and access to healthy foods for Parks participants and surrounding community.
- Provide programming that teaches and encourages the consumption of healthy foods.
- Provide recycling programs and services that divert Parks facility waste.
- Insure programming and strategies are integrated with the community being served.
- Insure strategies are financially sustainable.
- Promote environmentally sustainable practices.
A series of action steps are being taken in 2011-2012 to implement these objectives, including:
- Developing 7 garden sites at Community Centers.
- Creating an Urban Fruit Tree stewardship program to care for existing trees in five orchards on Parks property.
- Developing drop off sites for community supported agriculture (CSA) at community centers around the City.
- Converting all vending machines in Parks facilities to healthy food options.
- Creating linkages with local food sources to provide healthy foods at low cost for Community Center participants.
- Teaching and encouraging the consumption of healthy foods through a Top Chef Competition for teens and implementing 5 Community Kitchen programs at Community Centers.
- Participating in food waste recycling at special events and Community Centers.
- Developing a Peoples Garden Site with an underserved ethnic community.
- Allowing the sale of products produced on Parks property.
- Developing Best Management Practices for Urban Agriculture on Parks land.
It is terrific to see one of our largest Departments, and the steward of so much of Seattle's land, move into local food work with such great enthusiasm. I am confident that they will succeed in achieving these great goals!
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NEW SOLAR AND GREEN POWER PROGRAMS AT CITY LIGHT
Seattle City Light has launched a new solar and green power program that sets out a bold new approach to bringing renewables to Seattle. The 'Community Solar' program will ask customers to participate directly in new solar projects. The expanded 'Customer Generation' program will encourage customers to install solar projects, and is designed to dramatically expand the amount of renewable resources installed at homes and offices.
Community Solar gives customers the opportunity to receive credits on energy produced from solar photovoltaic arrays that will be owned and operated by City Light. City Light will install these photovoltaics on community facilities, beginning with an initial 24 kilowatt project at Jefferson Park, and expanding as fast as City Light can sign up customers to invest in the project. Customers who purchase shares in the project will get the benefits of net metering at the facility and will also share the rebates that the State provides as incentives to install solar projects. Because this program is open to all City Light customers, allows small-scale investments, and will accept participants based on a lottery conducted among those who apply, it will encourage wide spread participation in renewables investment.
The new marketing program for Customer Generation will offer provide similar incentives to encourage businesses and residents to install solar generation on property they own. Solar installations require significant upfront investments, and City Light will assist customers in developing plans to make these investments, install the photovoltaics, and secure the incentives.
City Light is retiring its existing Green Power program, which collected funds on a voluntary basis from customers to support the development of smaller scale, local renewable energy projects that increase awareness, improve operations, and create demand through demonstration and education. Green Power supported the installation of 30 solar projects, 13 of them at schools. City Light will continue to offer its Green Up program, which encourages customers to invest in large scale renewable installations through voluntary contributions on their City Light bills. Some 2000 customers currently participate in Green Power and more than 11,000 in Green Up.
City Light projects that by 2014, 25,000 customers will participate in the Green Up program, while the Customer Generation program will grow from just over 1 megawatt of installed capacity in 2010 to 10 megawatts by 2014. City Light estimates that 1000 people will participate in the Community Solar program and 1500 customers will have installed their own solar modules under the Customer Generation program.
Seattle City Light is currently looking for investors for the first Community Solar project at Jefferson Park. All Seattle City Light customers have the opportunity to enroll in Community Solar as a founding member until the project is fully funded. Customers may purchase a solar 'unit' for $600 (maximum of two per household). In return, customers will receive energy credits on their bill for the portion of the solar electricity generated thru 2020, which should cover most of the financial outlay. In addition, the 500 founding member's names will be permanently displayed at the Community Solar project at Jefferson Park, and will have helped create a new energy future for our community.
For more information or to enroll in Seattle Community Solar, you can download an application at:
Or call 206-684-3800 (translation services available).
Solar energy in Seattle is on its way towards being commercially competitive. This program is a great transition towards making that a reality.
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'ONLY IN SEATTLE' CAMPAIGN EXPANDED!
The City's 'Only in Seattle' campaign implements the Council's Economic Recovery strategy (Resolution 31135, adopted in May, 2009), which called for a 'Buy Local' campaign to help Seattle's neighborhood business districts. We included this because we know that local businesses are critical parts of our community, and that dollars spent locally stay in the local economy and generate more dollars and jobs as they circulate.
The Office of Economic Development (OED) launched 'Only in Seattle' in November of 2010, in cooperation with five neighborhood organizations – Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Columbia City Business Association, MLK Business Association, Rainier Chamber of Commerce, and the West Seattle Junction Association.
The campaign has been so successful that this year OED is expanding it to eight more neighborhoods – Belltown, Capitol Hill, Chinatown/International District, Greenwood-Phinney, Madison Valley, Queen Anne, South Lake Union, and the University District. The new campaign features 36 businesses that all deliver one-of-a-kind experiences and range from wine shops to butchers to the home of one of the largest video collections in the world.
The goal of 'Only in Seattle' is to allow small businesses to grow and flourish while reflecting the unique character of the neighborhoods where they are located. It is designed to empower business owners to organize around a common vision and attract investment. At the same time, the project encourages consumers to shop locally, not just because it's a good thing, but because they can get unique value for their consumer dollar.
Each of Seattle's neighborhoods has hidden gems for shopping and dining, and we want to encourage people to enjoy them. The 'Only in Seattle' funding is further leveraged and reinforced by investments in multi-year neighborhood strategies in five critical neighborhoods – Capitol Hill, Central District, Chinatown/International District/ MLK/Rainier Valley, and Pioneer Square, with additional targeted investments in many other neighborhoods.
A particular focus is on the South Park neighborhood, where the City has teamed with The Seattle Foundation and The Chase Foundation to develop organizational and community capacity among neighborhood and business associations and service providers to create a strategic business plan. Expect South Park to be one of the next neighborhoods to join the 'Only in Seattle' program!
Check out the website for more info, www.onlyinseattle.org Or you can get information on our Only in Seattle Facebook and Only in Seattle Twitter, where followers and fans will not only discover more about the businesses that are part of the campaign, but will also receive announcements about discounts, special events, new business openings and neighborhood news. And throughout the year the Only in Seattle Facebook and Twitter accounts will serve as a locals' and visitors' guide to businesses in neighborhoods all across Seattle.
Visit your local businesses today!
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"Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to an untiring effort."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
"Is economic value intrinsic or relative? To a bird, a dollar bill is simply a way to feather its nest."
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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