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.
THANK YOU TO SEATTLE VOTERS FOR APPROVING LIBRARIES LEVY
I would like to personally thank Seattle voters for again reaffirming their commitment to libraries by overwhelmingly approving a seven-year, $122.6 million property tax levy on the August 7 ballot to support the Seattle Public Library (SPL). I initiated the two year process to prepare this proposal, and chaired the Committee of the Whole on the Library Levy, which placed it on the ballot.
I am very grateful for the strong support of my colleagues on the Council and the Mayor, as well as the commitment of the Library Board, the Library Foundation, the Friends of the Library, and many hundreds of volunteers who support the libraries and joined in this work. This was both a true grassroots effort and a great partnership between community activists and City government. It once again demonstrates that we are most successful when we work together to solve difficult challenges to the health and well-being of Seattle.
The levy vote also reaffirms the confidence of voters that the City Council is making thoughtful and careful decisions about budgets and priorities in the face of a difficult economic climate and the constraints placed on the City by the Eyman initiatives requiring voter approval for revenue increases.
Opponents of the levy (who, in a truly Orwellian twist, called themselves ‘Save Our Seattle Library'), asserted that the City should fully fund the library out of general fund revenues. These claims ignored the impact of the recession on City revenues, which forced libraries to compete with public safety, human services, and other priorities. Opponents never stated what they would cut in order to fund libraries. And, as Seattle voters know, the Eyman tax limitation initiatives limit the growth in City property tax revenues to 1% per year, meaning that the City budget falls behind inflation and population growth even in normal years.
This levy will restore the services that have been cut from the City budget since the recession began, protect the library from further cuts, and add funding that will take the library to a new level of service designed for the 21st century. This means expanded collections, including electronic materials, hours that make branches more accessible for working families and school children, better technology, and maintenance that will protect the investments in our Central Library and 26 branches.
Seattle has set a marker and a model that will be looked to by cities all over the country. Libraries are being cut back as City governments are challenged by the recession. We can be proud of the way the people of Seattle have responded to this challenge by emphatically stating their willingness to voluntarily raise their taxes in order to maintain library services. Our example will give new energy to the many people who are rallying around the vision of the central role of free public libraries as essential to democracy.
Proceeds from the levy will:
- Add back operating hours at branch libraries, increase reference services at branches and the Central Library, and fund security services and technology support. Of the 15 branches that are currently open five days per week, 13 will gain Sunday hours and two will transition to a seven day schedule. 2012 will be the last year that SPL will have to have a week-long, system-wide closure.
- Increase the collections budget to better meet patron demand for materials, increase purchases of downloadable materials, and provide more copies of popular material in print, digital, and other formats.
- Replace and upgrade computers and technology infrastructure and improve online services.
- Support regular and major maintenance activities at SPL's 27 buildings.
For more information, click here.
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WATERFRONT DRAFT PLAN APPROVED BY COUNCIL
On Monday, August 13, the Council unanimously adopted Resolution 31399, which creates the framework for the new Seattle downtown waterfront. The resolution supports the direction developed by the citizen group that has been working for years on this project, the Central Waterfront Committee, lays out a funding plan, and delineates the timeline for the next steps in implementation. A key provision calls for forming a local improvement district, a mechanism whereby the City can generate funds for the project by taxing property owners whose property will increase in value as a result of the removal of the viaduct, creation of the new park and other waterfront development.
This is a huge step forward in realizing the dream of transforming the central waterfront from the existing conditions dominated by the noise and structure of the viaduct to a park that is focused around public access for Seattle residents and visitors and linked to downtown through a series of corridors and connections that will make access easier and more attractive.
The City began the public process of developing a waterfront plan in 2003, approved guiding principles in 2004 based on forums supported by the Planning and Design Commissions, and created the Waterfront Concept Plan in 2006. In 2009, the City created the Central Waterfront Partnerships Committee to advise the Mayor and City Council on the strategies and partnerships necessary to successfully develop and manage new public spaces along the Central Waterfront.
This group's report, published in January, 2011, was then turned over to the new Central Waterfront Committee for further development. In turn, the Central Waterfront Committee, informed by numerous public meetings, developed the strategic plan and a funding strategy.
The core strategy calls for an urban street and promenade along a new surface Alaskan Way, park space, strong east-west connections, spectacular views, spaces for diverse social and recreational programs, and access to Puget Sound. While there are many decisions and details left to be developed, the strategy includes access to the water in several ways, a diverse set of parks along the water and on the public piers, an expanded Aquarium, a new urban space connecting the Aquarium and the Pike Place Market, and a series of other changes in the way in which transportation and urban development will relate to Alaskan Way, the waterfront, and connections to downtown.
While funding requirements for this plan is estimated at about $1.07 billion, the good news is that there is a viable funding strategy. The strategy is anchored in the public investments in the WSDOT Alaskan Way Replacement project and the Seawall Bond which will appear on the November ballot. The State money is already secured, and if the Seawall Bond is approved, these two sources and funds that are already budgeted by the State and City will cover about 60% of the projected costs, $650 million of the projected $1.07 billion.
The local improvement district is anticipated to fund the largest part of the remainder, between $200 and $300 million, and private philanthropy is also anticipated to provide $80 to $120 million. That leaves between $70 and $150 million to be financed through the City's general fund and/or a future levy. The next step is to begin forming the local improvement district, anticipated to be in place in the spring of 2014.
Other near-term actions will include developing agreements between the City and the Pike Place Market and Seattle Aquarium to continue the design work in that area of the waterfront and develop funding plans for their projects. And the City will work with partners in the community to foster creating a not-for-profit Friends of the Seattle Waterfront to further advance the projects. In addition, the City will begin developing a plan to maintain, operate and program the Central Waterfront after Waterfront Improvement Program project components are constructed.
It is incredibly exciting to see the planning for our waterfront moving into this next stage. When I was elected to the Council in 1997, I had no idea that we would have the opportunity to reshape our waterfront. Although the State and City had already begun reviewing the seismic issues relating to the seawall and Alaskan Way Viaduct, it was not until the Nisqually Earthquake in 2001 that the work became more visible and took on a new sense of urgency.
It has taken us more than ten years to get to the point where the transportation system work is underway and we can begin to fully turn our attention to the possibilities of the waterfront. The controversies seem to be behind us, and the public engagement has been strikingly successful. Only a few people from the public were present when the Council approved this plan – and none of them were opposed to it. The next five years will continue to see challenges, but they will be the challenges of realizing a vision. The rewards of that vision will become increasingly apparent as we continue this work.
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MORE TREES FOR SEATTLE
Seattle has accepted a big challenge: to turn around the loss of tree cover from developing a City on this formerly forested land, and to restore and regrow as much of the urban forest as we can. Trees not only make the City more beautiful and our neighborhoods more livable, but also help with stormwater management, reduce air pollution, provide food and habitat, and reduce global warming by absorbing carbon. Our goal is to protect as many current trees as possible, ensure that existing trees are maintained and encouraged to grow stronger, and plant and establish new trees.
We have made progress. We created the Seattle Green Factor, which requires new development to include an appropriate array of trees and bushes. We implemented the Green Seattle Partnership, which mobilizes volunteers to cut back ivy and other invasives and plant trees in our parks and public lands. We adopted an Interim Tree Ordinance that makes protecting groves of trees a priority. Groves provide healthy ecosystems for other forms of life and a better environment for sustaining the trees themselves. Actions like these have resulted in measurable increases in Seattle's tree canopy.
Over the next few months, there will be four decisions that will help determine how successful we will be in the next stages of this work.
- A proposed Street Tree Ordinance is expected to reach the Council sometime in early fall. This ordinance would formally create requirements for the maintenance of the thousands of trees planted in the right-of-way. Many of these trees suffer from poor maintenance, from trimming and topping to prevent conflicts with power lines, or because the wrong tree was planted in a place where there is limited space to grow without cracking sidewalks or interfering with underground utilities. The proposed ordinance would codify requirements to plant appropriate trees, create requirements for best practices for care and maintenance, and prevent improper trimming practices. This ordinance will go to Councilmember Rasmussen's Transportation Committee.
- The Council will decide on continuing the Green Seattle Partnership when approving the 2013 budget in November. This program was funded under the 2008 Parks Levy, and has mobilized thousands of volunteers. Levy support is reduced after 2012. The Council will have to find at least $1 million to keep the program going, either in the Parks budget or drainage rates. Unfortunately, the City's general fund faces an estimated $30-35 million shortfall next year, so it will be tough to come up with new money for this program, and there are already great pressures on the drainage utility. I am committed to try to find a solution, but it will not be an easy task.
- Revisions to the City's Urban Forestry Management Plan (UFMP) will come to the Council late this year. The UFMP was created in 2007 to identify goals and strategies to maintain, preserve, restore, and enhance the urban forest in order to reach the City's 30% canopy cover goal. These revisions update key indicators of progress, provide current data on the state of the urban forest, specify actions for tree management, and inventory existing urban forest programs. The draft plan is available for public comment through October 1, 2012 at seattle.gov/trees/management.htm.
- Finally, in late 2012, the Council expects to receive a proposed ordinance that creates a permanent regulation governing trees on private land. It is a difficult task to craft tools that can grow our urban forest while also giving property owners choices that balance other important priorities, such as gardens, recreational space, sunlight, and safety. The Urban Forestry Commission is currently reviewing the draft of the new ordinance.
To restore our urban forest, we must take a holistic approach, considering a full range of strategies to make the most of both public and private property. We should embrace ecosystem thinking. Our goal should be to foster the growth of a diverse, multi-age, multi-species forest in the City with appropriate understory. The Seattle forest should be focused on native or native-adapted trees, and self-sustaining to the extent possible, with minimal requirements for pruning and management, especially on public property. Recognizing that individual trees and small groups of trees can be great assets to property owners and communities, our focus should be on providing a set of incentives and parameters that will encourage groves and stands of trees, whether in linear form along streets, in backyards where property owners are willing participants, on larger parcels of land including parks, or in cooperating neighborhoods where neighbors can come together to steward these groupings.
On private property, an incentive based approach to encourage property owners to plant and retain more trees is the best strategy, including creative ways to engage private property owners as partners in recognizing the inherent value of trees on their property. We should explore neighborhood based conservation approaches, such as LIDs, tree easements, community covenants regarding tree maintenance and preservation, and tree cooperatives, where maintenance and preservation can be planned and shared in the community. In areas being developed, I suggest that the Seattle Green Factor is a great model of how we can best support the maximum amount of trees and an ecosystem approach. While I appreciate the appeal of a ‘tree removal permit' and similar regulatory approaches, an approach based on a regulatory model will be insufficient to meet our city's goals. I do want to maintain exceptional trees that are currently protected, and would not exclude regulation from the toolkit,
but it should not be the centerpiece of our strategy.
The people of Seattle are committed to the health and stewardship of Seattle's urban forest. I look forward to hearing comments and creative thinking as our efforts to implement an updated Urban Forest Management Plan continue.
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SHOULD THE CITY INVEST IN THE SODO ARENA?
The City Council is considering whether it should approve public financing to support the construction of a new arena south of Safeco Field. It appears likely that constructing a new arena to bring an NBA basketball team to Seattle can be done without City participation. The land is zoned to permit its construction, and the developer has purchased that land and lined up several very wealthy investors.
The question before the Council is not whether we think having an NBA team is a good thing, but whether it is necessary and appropriate to use Seattle's bonding capacity to invest public money (in the form of municipal bonds) for a new arena. After reviewing the proposed agreement, I have serious concerns about the proposed City involvement.
Eight Councilmembers share many of my concerns, and sent a letter to Chris Hansen on July 30 stating: "Our review has led the majority of Councilmembers to conclude that the agreements do not represent an appropriate balance of public and private benefits, nor do they sufficiently protect the City from the financial risks inherent in the arena's financing." We then laid out a series of issues that would need to be addressed or changed in order for the Council to be prepared to consider City investment.
It may be possible to craft an agreement to move forward that meets all or most Councilmember's concerns, but that will take considerable discussion and negotiation. We expect to work on this over the next few weeks. All of us would welcome investment in the City and a new basketball team, and are willing to look carefully at these proposals. However, any agreement must be designed to protect and advance the public interest.
Reasonable people can disagree on what the public interest is. Councilmembers have a range of opinions on what an acceptable agreement would be, and I am writing to explain my point of view. I appreciate that not everyone will share my perspective. Here are my concerns:
This is a different financing structure from that used for Safeco and CenturyLink Fields. Those financing plans were put in place many years ago, of course, when there were more public dollars available and research on the limited economic benefits of stadia was only just beginning. In both of those cases, funding came from specific taxes authorized by the legislature (in the case of CenturyLink, it was also approved by voters). These taxes had less impact on the City's general fund, which receives taxes from the teams and operations (admissions taxes were used, over the City’s protest, as were some CenturyLink sales taxes).
This proposal takes all of the city taxes which would otherwise go to the general fund to support police, fire, human services, parks, and transportation investments. The approximately $13 million anticipated to be generated annually could, for example, largely restore funding for the City’s parks system to its pre-recession levels. Instead, these taxes are diverted to pay the debt on the arena.
Every other business in town pays those taxes. We make investments in transportation, public safety, and other priorities in order to make the entire community work – and to benefit economic development. But we don’t put those funds back into any other business as a public investment. It would make more sense if the proposed public funding had specific new taxes to support it, or if it relied on taxes that most businesses do not pay, such as the admissions tax. I fear that the precedent of giving up taxes that would support general fund activities sets a precedent that we will rue in the future.
If arena proponents want public funding, they could go to the legislature and propose specific taxes, and take those to the ballot if necessary. Note that (contrary to public mythology), voters in Seattle actually voted for Safeco Field. The baseball field lost in other areas of King County. The football stadium was approved in a statewide vote.
I am not convinced that the proposed arena will make a significant contribution to economic development. It will bring some new money into Seattle and will divert some other money that people might have spent on other activities. The economists who have studied this proposal agree (as do studies of every other such project) that the net effect is very small. Furthermore, I have not been persuaded by the argument that there will be significant tax revenues generated by “ancillary” economic activity in the stadium district following construction of the arena. The evidence is slim or hypothetical.
As the Seattle Planning Commission said in their report, the proposed arena may cause economic problems by interfering with Port and other industrial jobs. The Manufacturing Industrial Council and Port have raised legitimate questions about the impact of the arena on transportation and land use in the area. We will not know how significant these are until there has been a full study when the project goes through environmental review. I think that there are likely to be impacts, but I also think that these impacts probably can be mitigated. There will need to be money invested in this mitigation, but the good news is that addressing transportation impacts from the arena will also likely help with other transportation problems. Under those circumstances, I would support investing public funds for part of these transportation projects.
The investment in this project is fundamentally different from what are cited as comparable investments in places like McCaw and Benaroya Halls. There is no need to get into the discussion of the relative merits of arts and sports. The fact is that the arts facilities that the City invests in host nonprofit organizations. No one is making money off of them – unlike the investors in this proposal. The McCaw family invested tens of millions of dollars into the renovation of McCaw Hall. They get no financial return – they get their name on a plaque.
In contrast, Mr. Hansen said no when I asked him if he would organize the proposal as a nonprofit. In fact, he specifically stated that he is looking for public funds to increase his profits. In his blog response to the question of why he wanted public financing, he put it quite explicitly:
"Public support improves the economics of the project: The first reason why a public contribution is necessary to the Arena project is that it meaningfully improves the economics of the project… the City and County Councils must appreciate that there is a significant difference between operating profitably and earning an adequate return on our investment." (emphasis in the original).
Mr. Hansen has since stated that he believes that the City will receive a 7.15% annual return on investment. While City analysts are skeptical about this number, he must believe it to be true. That suggests that he believes that he is entitled to a significantly larger rate of return, or else he would be willing to replace the public funds at this rate.
The proposed arena is designed to accommodate both basketball and hockey, but the memorandum of agreement provides that there will be only $120 million in public funds used if there is only a basketball team, instead of the $200 million if both teams are secured. When I asked Mr. Hansen what the difference would be in the arena if a hockey team had not been secured, however, he stated that he would build it the same way. That suggests that at least $80 million of the proposed public investment is unnecessary, since he can evidently finance the arena without it. He has never presented a financial plan that lays out what level of public investment he actually needs to make the finances work.
There are questions about the security of City investment in this arena, identified by Council staff and expert consultants. There are many good policy statements in the MOU, but there are serious questions as to how they will actually be implemented. For example, the City is listed as having ‘first priority’ for revenues – but that is very different from having ‘first lien’, which entitles the holder to actually be first in line if there is a financial meltdown. We are told that the banks will have ‘first lien’. And there is no apparent guarantee from the investors that their personal money would back up the City’s investment if the worst case happened, even though the investors listed have quite large financial resources. It is not clear why the City should take any such risks, even if the chances of problems are relatively small.
Owning the arena at the end of thirty years does not make up for the possible risk and commitment of City tax revenues. The City already owns KeyArena, which struggles financially – why would we want to own two? And no one can guarantee that a ‘state of the art arena’ built now will not be deemed insufficient in 15 years – remember that KeyArena was renovated in 1994, and the Sonics signed a long term lease, which they chose to break after only 13 years. The City thought it was fully protected in that lease, but it turned out to be breakable. Why will not the same situation occur with this arena? The Rose Garden, with Paul Allen owning the team, and surely having the financial assets to handle the issues there, still went bankrupt.
The fact is that running arenas is not the City’s core mission. We have challenges enough with police, human services, electricity, water, and the other areas that are our central responsibilities.
In San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors are building an arena using only private funds. The City is providing the land – but the land is more of a liability than an asset, requiring an estimated $75 - $100 million to make the piers usable. If private money can build an arena in one of the most expensive cities in the country, why not in Seattle?
The City can welcome investors building a new arena and we can play our traditional economic development role by supporting that with complementary investment in city infrastructure such as transportation systems, and with regulatory assistance where that is compatible with the public interest. The investors could finance and own the facility, just like every other for-profit business. Alternatively, the investors could go to the legislature, get the legislature to approve a new taxing authority, and set up a public facility district to manage the arena. Both of these are proven models that can work. The current proposal is a complicated and convoluted arrangement that subsidizes profits for a private investor, takes away tax revenue that should go to the City's general fund, and leaves the City with a potentially money-losing facility down the road.
I've heard from lots of basketball fans and I appreciate their passion. I will continue to be open to possible changes in the agreement that would address the issues I have cited. Ultimately, I must make my decision based on my best judgment of the public interest as I see it and as outlined above.
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SOUTH LAKE UNION SETS THE TABLE FOR GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Since the revisions to the South Lake Union Neighborhood Plan and its designation as an Urban Center, South Lake Union (SLU) has led the City in developing new jobs and housing, just as was hoped. By investing in infrastructure there, the City has successfully encouraged this development. This year, the Council will consider additional rezones in SLU that will continue this record of success.
Since the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan in 1995, Seattle has focused on bringing jobs and housing to Urban Centers and Urban Villages where growth makes the most sense. This protects our farms, forests, and wilderness areas from sprawl and concentrates new development where there are transportation and commercial centers to support it. This also prevents ‘in-city sprawl' from overwhelming our single family neighborhoods.
The core centers for growth are intended to be our designated Urban Centers, initially the 6 Downtown neighborhoods, First Hill, Capitol Hill, Northgate, and the University District, who are generally following the pattern of continued development. The most dramatic change in that lineup was the addition of South Lake Union as an Urban Center in 2004. Like First Hill, Uptown, and Pioneer Square, SLU is adjacent to downtown. Unlike those neighborhoods, its original neighborhood plan, hammered out in a fairly tense process following the defeat of the Seattle Commons proposal, did not embrace growth, and instead called for SLU to remain a relatively low-density, mixed use neighborhood.
That changed as employment centers like the Fred Hutch and Zymogenetics grew around the edges of SLU, as property ownership turned over and Paul Allen's Vulcan acquired much of the holdings of those who resisted change, and as City planners began to think more deeply about the possibilities of this in-city community. In the mid-2000's, the community revised the neighborhood plan, the City adopted the Urban Center designation, and both public and private investment began.
The City's core investments have been creating the South Lake Union Park (fulfilling at least partially the dream of the Seattle Commons – and the majority of the funding for the Park came from private donations), joining with the private sector to create the South Lake Union Streetcar (almost 50% of the funding came from private sources, with most of the rest from federal and state grants), facilitating the relocation of MOHAI to the South Lake Union Armory (again with a significant private investment), and beginning the long-dreamed process of transforming Mercer from the Mercer Mess to a new Main Street for South Lake Union (also largely with grant funds, as well as significant private contributions). Of the estimated $480 million in public investments committed or planned in South Lake Union, only $96 million came from the City's budget resources.
In turn, new zoning and land use policies have facilitated private investment pouring into the neighborhood, with some 12.5 million square feet of new development between 1995 and 2011. The result has been the emergence of a new mixed-use urban community, with approximately 3000 new residents and 8500 new jobs. In 1990, SLU had a population of 677, almost entirely in the Cascade neighborhood. In 2010, the population was 3738.
The new housing has led to a new and more diverse population. The percentage living in poverty fell from 40% to 21%, with many of the low income residents living in publicly subsidized low income housing. Of the nearly 2300 housing units developed in SLU in the last 20 years, about a third were below market affordable units.
South Lake Union has long been an employment center, with 14,570 jobs in 1995. In 2011, there are now some 23,000 jobs. Most of the growth has been in professional and technical services. The principle loss has been in industrial jobs – although even in 1995, these were only 30% of the SLU jobs. It is not clear how many of the 3000 that have left have migrated to other areas and how many have been transformed or lost as a result of the changing economy.
There are many different ways to measure the City's return on investment, but even the narrowest method of computation – direct tax revenues generated in this community – suggests that the City has made a good choice in partnering for development in South Lake Union. When you add the growth management implementation, the jobs for our residents, the new transportation opportunities that emerge from the Mercer rebuild, and the low income housing, it is clear that this coordinated strategy has made a lot of sense.
This fall, the Council will consider the final step in the neighborhood plan revisions, a proposed rezoning of significant areas of South Lake Union. As we evaluate the opportunities and challenges posed by land use changes, we have the opportunity to continue to leverage our investments in the interests of good, thoughtful, and comprehensive public policy.
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SEATTLE CONTINUES TO REDUCE WASTE AND INCREASE RECYCLING
When the Council unanimously adopted the Zero Waste Strategy in 2007, with the goal of shortening the mile-long train of waste that we sent every day to an Oregon landfill, we knew it would require the whole community to pitch in. Our plan is based on an active and innovative set of City programs complementing the commitment of Seattle residents and businesses to environmental stewardship. The good news is that we continue to exceed our goals, and to work to do even better.
Recycling is a critical part of our strategy. Waste reduction is even more central. With numbers now in for 2011, we are making progress on both of those elements:
- We set a goal of capping the amount of solid waste disposed of at 2006 levels (438,000 tons sent to the landfill), and reducing it by 1% a year over the next five years. In 2007, disposal slightly increased, by about .25 percent, but by 2008 we were well on our way to achieving the goal, cutting waste disposal by 45,000 tons. By 2011, the City was only sending 319,000 tons to the landfill, less than 75% of what we disposed of in 2006!
- Much of this has been achieved by waste reduction. The amount of tons recycled in 2011 was 397,000 tons, about the same as 2006. But because we have reduced waste so much, the recycling rate is now 55.4%, compared with 47.6% in 2006 and our low point of 38.2% in 2003.
Some of the reduction in recent years has been the result of a new frugality associated with reduced economic activity. Our challenge will be to remain frugal as the economy continues to recover.
Some specific achievements in 2011:
- Single family households reached their highest ever recycling rate at 70.6%.
- The commercial sector also reached its highest ever recycling rate at 61.4%.
- Construction and demolition waste continued to post a strong 65.8% rate.
- Multifamily households lagged behind, recycling only 28.7% of their waste, but implementation of mandatory food waste service in 2012 should lead to increases in this sector.
- Waste taken to transfer stations continues to decrease, but the recycling rate has dropped, possibly because people are recycling so much more at home and workplaces. The rebuilds of the two transfer stations will make recycling much easier.
In addition to the introduction of mandatory food waste collection at multifamily dwellings, in 2012 the City will also:
- Implement a new disposal ban on asphalt paving, bricks and concrete in the construction and demolition waste sector;
- Continue a variety of education and incentive programs in the residential and commercial sectors;
- Implement more recycling and composting in schools;
- Continue encouraging people to opt out of phone book and junk mail delivery;
- Implement the ban on plastic grocery bags;
- Develop code changes to facilitate house moving as an alternative to demolition;
- Work on carpet, paint, and pharmaceutical takeback programs; and
- Test a pilot program that changes residential garbage collection to every other week (One Less Truck).
The City will keep seeking other opportunities to fulfill our environmental goals -- and to celebrate our achievements!
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COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENTS ADVANCED FOR ANALYSIS
On August 13 the Council unanimously approved a resolution that advances possible Comprehensive Plan amendments for analysis and review by the Seattle Planning Commission and the Department of Planning and Development. These amendments will be considered for adoption in the spring of 2013 (state law limits the City to making general amendments to the Comprehensive Plan once a year)
The amendments proposed for review were culled from those submitted by City Departments, Councilmembers, and members of the public, both in written form and at a public hearing held in June. Another public hearing will be held prior to making a final decision on what amendments should be adopted.
A major Comprehensive Plan update is scheduled for 2015, and some of the amendments scheduled for review will add new policies in advance of that update, or expand on current policies in preparation for it. The new policy areas include:
-- Policies relating to the City's climate action program and progress towards carbon neutrality. Recommendations are being developed by the Office of Sustainability and Environment.
-- Policies that support the production and distribution of healthy food. Recommendations are being developed by the Regional Food Policy Council under a contract with the City.
-- A Transit Communities Policy intended to make neighborhoods complete, compact, connected communities that are well-served by transit. Recommendations are being developed by the Planning Commission.
Three other sets of policies will be amended in response to city planning processes:
-- Urban design policies will be amended to improve the design of public spaces and connections among them. Recommendations are being developed by the Department of Planning and Development.
-- New policies will be added to the Broadview -- Bitter Lake -- Haller Lake Neighborhood Plan and Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan sections of the Comprehensive Plan. These communities are in the final stages of neighborhood plan updates.
One other plan update is proposed to bring Seattle into conformance with state policies by clarifying the Container Port Element of the Plan.
In addition to these seven, which are all likely to result in new adopted Plan amendments, there are four policies that were recommended by the public which will be advanced for further review. These are new policies that may or may not be deemed appropriate for the Plan.
-- The recreational boating industry has proposed to amend the Economic Development Element to recognize the importance of the recreational boating industry and include marinas, boat yards and boat sales as water-dependent and related businesses.
-- The maritime unions have proposed to amend the Land Use element to prohibit the development of spectator sports facilities in industrial zones if they would significantly restrict or disrupt existing industrial uses.
-- Community groups have proposed an amendment that would amend the Neighborhood Planning Element to state that the City is receptive to funding neighborhood organizations to conduct neighborhood planning processes.
-- And community groups have proposed to amend the Transportation Element to discourage pedestrian grade separations in urban centers.
The Council chose not to proceed with analysis of several amendments relating to possible rezones in the Interbay area, pending the outcome of a corridor study of 15th Avenue NW which will provide guidelines on the level of development that can be sustained in this area.
The Council also adopted a companion resolution consolidating several resolutions that defined the process for amending the Comprehensive Plan, and adding a criteria that amendments should be "likely to make a material difference in a future city regulatory or funding decision". The City and Council take the Comprehensive Plan and the process for amending and revising it very seriously. It is intended to be a living document that guides City practices, as well as including the mandatory elements specified by the Growth Management Act. The annual amendment process is an important step in defining the kind of City we will aspire to.
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"You can take out expensive things that do not belong to you and keep them for a month, two weeks, just by proving you live where you live – just because you exist essentially. It's not a bookstore – you don't have to have any money. It's not a bookstore – you can get lots more than what's selling this month, you can get the wisdom of the ages and the crap of at least the last century and that's important too --…"
"Doesn't paradise consist of a huge library?"
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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