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 email@example.com. CONTENTS:
SHORELINE MASTER PROGRAM UPDATE APPROVED
On Tuesday, January 22, the Council unanimously adopted a 378 page ordinance comprising the first comprehensive update of Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) since 1987. Department of Planning and Development (DPD) staff began working on this update in 2007, and my Committee began our review last August.
The SMP is an important and complex set of regulations that govern development and uses on and adjacent to shorelines. For Seattle this includes Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Lake Union and the Ship Canal, the Duwamish River, Green Lake, and wetlands and floodplains around these. The SMP affects land uses, structures and activities, including those occurring over water and on vessels, the location of structures including setbacks and allowed over water coverage, public access requirements, and construction practices related to bulkheads, docks and piers.
Updating the SMP is required under the State Shoreline Management Act (SMA), created by citizen initiative and adopted by voters in 1972. The SMA establishes policy goals for the management of shorelines, and the state’s SMP guidelines set requirements for how to achieve these, with some flexibility for local concerns and conditions. The Department of Ecology has overall responsibility for approving state and local regulations under the SMA. Ecology issued guidance to local governments on how to complete this required update, and will review the final product. Our goal is to craft an update that Ecology can approve; if Ecology staff finds that there are provisions that do not comply adequately with the SMA, they will return the ordinance to the City for revisions.
The SMA specifies three major policy directions:
Preferred Shoreline Uses: Water-oriented uses such as port facilities, shoreline recreational uses, and water-dependent businesses are preferred uses.
Environmental Protection: The Act requires protecting shoreline natural resources, including “… the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the water of the state and their aquatic life …” to ensure no net loss of ecological function. No net loss of ecological functions means that the existing condition of shoreline ecological functions should not deteriorate because of development in the Shoreline District.
Public Access: The Act promotes public access to shorelines, including view protection.
The intense and comprehensive efforts of DPD and staff in the City Attorney’s Office, along with several phases of public involvement, resulted in legislation that addressed most of the actions required under state law. The Council held a public hearing along with public comment sessions at each of our seven Committee deliberations on the SMP. We met with representatives of key affected constituencies, including people who live on boats and floating homes and water dependent businesses. We also took field trips to visit houseboat communities and affected businesses. As a result of our work, we initiated and approved some 50 amendments to the legislation. Many of these amendments were technical modifications, and most of the others clarify various situations involving water dependent businesses. However, the Committee also strengthened some provisions relating to environmental protection and modified provisions relating to future regulation of people living on vessels.
The core of the legislation adopts the key recommendations from DPD, including:
- Ensuring No Net Loss (NNL) of ecological functions.
- Regulating environmentally critical areas located in the Shoreline District.
- Developing a restoration plan that results in improved ecological functioning of the shoreline.
- Requiring that non-water-oriented uses include ecological restoration.
- Requiring that ecological restoration be included when replacing non-conforming uses and structures.
- Including shoreline buffers for all shoreline environments.
- Allowing 20% of a site to be used for uses that are not water-dependent or water-related (WD/WR) if they support WD/WR uses.
- Allowing additional height for permitted structures that are not WD/WR and for accessory uses.
- Allowing WD/WR uses to be located over water on lots in the Urban Commercial and Urban Maritime shoreline environments and allowing certain non-water-dependent or water-related uses to be located overwater as a Conditional Use.
- Requiring projects to avoid impacts and mitigate remaining impacts to achieve NNL.
- Defining and protecting priority freshwater and saltwater habitat.
- Allowing existing structures in the urban shoreline environments built in the required setback to be replaced if they can demonstrate that this will provide environmental benefits.
- Allowing recreational marinas in the Urban Industrial and Urban Maritime shoreline environments in the Lake Union Ship Canal.
- Maintaining current regulations allowing floating homes to be repaired, maintained, and replaced.
- Prohibiting new floating homes.
- Maintaining current regulations prohibiting house barges after 1990 and requiring water quality protection while providing for the preferred uses and public access of the shoreline.
All SMP update documents may be accessed on DPD’s website at:
Here are some examples of amendments that the Council made to the SMP:
- A change in the proposed height and setback regulations for water dependent businesses that matches the requirements for a Seattle company to modify their structure to be able to build ferries. The improvements will not only make it possible to construct our ferries locally in a more efficient and economical way, but will reduce environmental impacts on the waterway.
- A requirement that fueling stations in shoreline areas must only be for boats (the qualifier was inadvertently omitted.
- A provision that excludes the use of historic lot lines not created to define buildable from being used to define buildable lots for single family homes in the shoreline environment.
- Stronger language limiting signs in the shoreline area.
- A provision prohibiting artificial reefs in functioning habitats.
- Language that directs DPD to prohibit the use of pesticides and fertilizers that impact ecological functions in the shoreline environment.
- In several cases, language that recognized that water dependent businesses can depend on certain non water related activities to sustain them financially. We allowed some exceptions to the use standards as long as there was no ecological impact and the property owner made a proportional investment in ecological restoration.
The most challenging aspect of the SMP amendments has to do with figuring out how to address residences on the water. State law specifies that residential uses over water are not preferred uses of the shoreline/water environment. The City cannot change that law – it is based on the SMA initiative, and only the Legislature could modify it. The State did grant exceptions to allow some 480 recognized floating homes and 34 house barges, but has made it clear that there will be no new exceptions.
The SMA also allows liveaboards on “vessels designed and used for navigation”. The SMP language does not change the law for people currently residing on existing structures that meet the State law definition of vessel. There are new standards that will create a clearer process for DPD to determine whether a future moored structure is the type of vessel that is allowed to be used as a dwelling unit, but this language does not apply to current residents.
Unfortunately, some residents are uncertain whether they actually live in a vessel. There have been some structures that are claimed to be vessels that are really houses on floats, which clearly do not meet the intent of the State law. There are enforcement proceedings underway in regards to owners whom DPD believes are in violation of the code. If, in the future, other owners receive a notice of violation, that person would have the opportunity to provide DPD with information showing that the floating residence is a vessel and the opportunity for judicial review. Only a judge can make the final determination as to whether an owner is in violation of the law and determine the consequences.
The Council would like to assist residents who are on vessels that are likely to be legal, but we have not come up with language that would do so and is still consistent with State law. We will continue to work on ways to resolve the uncertainty that the owners of an estimated 150 vessels/structures feel as they try to determine on which side of that line they fall, and will commission a stakeholder process to review options and develop recommendations. Those could include additional SMP language or City administrative measures that could help to resolve uncertainties.
The Shoreline Management Act is a signal achievement of Washington’s commitment to environmental stewardship, preserving water dependent industry, and ensuring public access to the shoreline and waters of the State. As with many such legislative achievements, the details require careful and thoughtful review and management to ensure that the goals are truly being met. This package of SMP amendments is a positive and proactive step in the right direction.
MY TOP TEN LIST FOR 2012
2012 was my first year as Chair of the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee. I also Chaired the Council’s Special Committees on the SR 520 Project and the Library Levy, and was Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Yesler Terrace.
I continued to serve as the Council representative on the Sound Transit Board and was named Vice-Chair of the Capital Committee. My other intergovernmental responsibilities include Chairing the Regional Food Policy Council, serving on the Growth Management Planning Council, the Board of Health, and the Green-Duwamish Watershed Restoration Forum, and representing Washington on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities. A lot of meetings… and a lot that I got done! Here’s my Top Ten achievement list for 2012:
- Led the Council’s work in developing a successful levy to support the Seattle Public Library. The levy was approved by some 65% of the voters in the August primary. This will increase the library budget by about 25%, restoring all the cuts made in the recession years and adding funding for new hours, books and other collection resources, technology improvements, and major maintenance for library buildings.
- As a member of the Sound Transit Board, successfully advocated for a new Transit Oriented Development policy; secured approval for investing Sound Transit and City funds in bicycle and pedestrian access to the Northgate Station, including a ped/bike bridge over I-5; introduced a possible station at North 130th and I-5 into the North Link alternatives study; launched work on a Station Area Plan for the Rainier Avenue Station on East Link; continued to serve on the Board team successfully negotiating agreements with Bellevue to advance East Link; and worked with the Capital Committee to keep University Link and North Link moving forward.
- Won Council approval for new initiatives in the 2013-2014 budget to invest $500K annually in the Green Seattle Partnership to restore Seattle Parks; to add $130K each year to fund expanded domestic violence legal assistance for immigrants and refugees; to add $230K each year for food banks and food policy work; and to allocate $460K to complete new initiatives on earthquake preparedness, including a recovery plan for Seattle and an incentive program to retrofit unreinforced masonry buildings.
- Moved a difficult and challenging set of revisions to the Shoreline Master Program through the PLUS Committee, developing and adding amendments to promote water-dependent businesses, fund and ensure ecological restoration, and preserve floating home communities while preventing residential development over water.
- Secured passage of legislation to advance neighborhood plans and enhance communities, including plan updates for the Othello and North Beacon Hill Urban Villages and an ordinance to prevent construction on historical lots that were not intended to be buildable; began the process for updating the University District Urban Center Plan; moved rezones forward in South Lake Union to implement the SLU Urban Center Plan; secured agreement from the Executive for an accelerated schedule for neighborhood plan updates; and celebrated the opening of the Belltown Community Center, which I had added to the Community Centers Levy.
- Continued to lead the Council work on replacing SR 520, including getting funding for work to enhance transit connections through the Montlake Corridor and to examine more cost effective alternatives to a Second Montlake Bridge for bicycle and pedestrian access across the Cut; launched Council review of proposed bicycle and pedestrian connections in Montlake and across Portage Bay with the goal of recommending an improved access plan to the State.
- Worked with City, community, and regional stakeholders to develop a Seattle Food Action Plan to focus the City's food related programs, priorities, and policies for the next few years; continued a partnership with United Way to promote a Hunger Free King County; worked with the Regional Food Policy Council to recommend Comprehensive Plan policies related to food; won appointment as a member of the State Food Policy Council, to be launched in January 2013; continued work to increase the number of p-patch plots and food production on City-owned lands; began implementation of a Food Web project to work with regional stakeholders in integration of our work; introduced legislation to create a Transfer of Development Rights program to protect farmland in King County, scheduled for Council consideration in early 2013; and began the process of incorporating food system policies, goals, and implementation strategies into the Comprehensive Plan and Climate Action Plan.
- Continued work on restoring Seattle’s economy by initiating an Industrial Development District to promote manufacturing businesses and jobs, and moving forward policy initiatives such as Permit Consolidation and the Economic Development Commission.
- Won Council approval of a comprehensive package of Regulatory Reform measures to support housing and economic development, including encouraging home based businesses, reducing parking requirements in areas with good transit access, exempting small and medium size projects from SEPA review in areas that have not met their growth targets, and modifying requirements for street level retail to allow residential uses in where there is limited pedestrian traffic; secured Council approval of amendments to the Living Building Ordinance to create a “Deep Green” certification with accompanying incentives, with the goal of promoting building construction that is commercially viable and greatly exceeds current environmental requirements.
- Continued to advance implementation of the Zero Waste Strategy by getting the ‘One Less Truck’ pilot project funded, supporting Council passage of new regulations requiring recycling of construction and demolition waste, and working with the Board of Health to develop a ‘Secure Medicine’ product stewardship takeback program for drugs and pharmaceuticals (scheduled for final approval in early 2013).
SOUND TRANSIT ADOPTS NEW TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT POLICY
On Thursday, December 20, the Sound Transit Board unanimously adopted a policy to focus and increase Sound Transit’s involvement in Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Policy guidance on TOD was a key topic of a Sound Transit Board retreat earlier this year. The new policy clarifies what Sound Transit can and will do to promote new development around transit facilities. TOD is a key source of potential ridership for Sound Transit, and the Board decided that the agency was ready to take a more proactive role in advancing it.
As a transit agency with no land use responsibilities or authority, Sound Transit’s mission is to create transit opportunities for the region. The agency has concentrated its efforts over the last decade and a half on constructing and operating light rail and commuter rail systems and creating and operating a network of regional buses. While the agency has been involved in projects that will deliver riders to the system, such as building parking and partnering with other entities that can use Sound Transit surplus properties to develop housing, there has not been a systematic approach to integrating these opportunities with the delivery of transit services. At its spring retreat, the Board decided that new comprehensive TOD policies should be developed. This recognizes that Sound Transit has matured as an agency, proving its ability to deliver on its core mission of providing transit services, and is ready to take the next steps in ensuring that these transit services are well-integrated with regional plans in a comprehensive manner.
Sound Transit’s services are already designed to complement and coordinate with regional and local growth management objectives and land use plans. Sound Transit builds and develops services that connect Urban Centers and other core areas that are intended to be the locus of future population and employment growth. The new policy creates a bridge that more firmly connects Sound Transit’s work to creating great places around stations in cooperation with local governments.
The Transit-Oriented Development Policy defines two categories of Sound Transit involvement: “Agency TOD”, a policy for supporting TOD projects on Sound Transit property, and “Community TOD”, ways in which Sound Transit can foster and support projects in the area around stations.
The new focus developed out of the experience of constructing the first light rail line. While much of the line serves existing developed areas such as downtown Seattle, the hope was that new stations and services in areas like the Rainier Valley would lead to development around the stations that would provide employment and housing for residents and bring riders to Sound Transit. This has turned out to be a greater challenge than had been expected. The experience has shown that greater involvement and coordination is necessary to ensure that transit provides the most successful community service. With three new lines under construction or in planning (north to Northgate and then Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and Redmond, and south through the City of SeaTac), and with many opportunities to develop TOD on the horizon, the Sound Transit Board is committed to learning from experience and finding ways to ensure that TOD is implemented as smoothly and effectively as possible.
Specifically, the Board has mandated that evaluation of future TOD opportunities will play an increased role in siting and designing facilities, and in how the agency buys, uses and disposes of property. The Board will work with other government entities and the private sector to develop regional and local policies and as well as financial, land use and other strategies and tools to encourage and implement TOD, in coordination with stakeholder involvement.
Washington’s fragmented system of local governments, which is a product of the populist era, makes it difficult to implement the comprehensive planning mandated under the Growth Management Act. The kind of strategic approach embodied in this new TOD policy is a significant step towards resolving that.
ZERO WASTE IN CONSTRUCTION AND DEMOLITION
On Monday, December 10, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance taking the next step towards zero waste in the construction/demolition arena. The ordinance prohibits recyclable material from being disposed of in construction and demolition garbage containers, railhead intermodal containers, and the City's transfer stations. It also creates a construction waste recycling facility certification program to ensure that there will be recycling facilities available, and requires construction and demolition waste generators to submit reports that document how they dispose of their waste.
Construction and demolition waste is one of the two major categories of materials that are frequently thrown away but have great potential for recycling (the other is food waste). These two waste streams have been the major focus of City actions since the Zero Waste Strategy was adopted in 2007. The City now has universal collection of food waste from single family residences, is phasing this in for multi-family, and has successfully worked with businesses and commercial waste collectors to ensure that compostable materials are collected in the commercial sector.
Most construction and demolition (C&D) debris is delivered to private transfer stations and recycling facilities that are not under City service contracts. While there is a fair amount of recycling at these facilities, the City’s Solid Waste Plan calls for a 70% recycling goal as part of the Zero Waste Initiative. In 2007, some 52% of the C&D was recycled, and by 2011 the recycling rate reached 63%.
The Council approved legislation that prohibited disposing of asphalt paving and brick and concrete by 2012, and adopted Building Code amendments to require a waste diversion plan and salvage assessment for construction sites in 2013. Between 2010 and 2012, Seattle Public Utilities worked with stakeholders in the construction and waste processing sectors to develop a feasible plan to recycle all major components of the C&D waste stream.
The legislation approved on December 10 will prohibit disposal of metal, cardboard, carpet, plastic film wrap, and new gypsum scrap by January of 2015, and clean wood and asphalt roofing by January of 2016. Making this effective requires that facilities cooperate, that markets are available, and that we collect data on what construction projects are actually doing with their waste. All of these components are built into the program, with provisions for administrative flexibility if there are problems with market development.
The materials that will be included in recycling requirements by 2016 represent more than 80% of the tonnage of waste generated in the construction sector. Since SPU has forged a cooperative agreement with the businesses involved to make this program work, it is likely that we will be able to attain these goals, reducing the waste sent to landfills by 50,000 to 100,000 tons annually.
HEALTH CARE FOR ALL AND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
On January 1, 2014, the people of King County will benefit from the most significant advance in health care since the implementation of Medicare in 1965, when the Affordable Care Act (the health care reform legislation approved by Congress in 2010) goes into effect. On that date, most people in King County will be required to have health insurance, including nearly 184,000 people who will be newly eligible for free or reduced-cost insurance through Medicaid or the State of Washington health insurance exchange.
Today some 16.4% of King County residents are uninsured, a lower percentage than the 21% uninsured in the United States as a whole, but still a very large number of people who lack access to quality health care and whose health depends on luck and the emergency room. The Affordable Care Act will help 85% of people who are uninsured through three major mechanisms:
- Employers of more than 50 people will be required to provide health insurance. This affects few people, since most employers of this size already do this. Employers of fewer than 50 people will receive tax credits if they provide insurance.
- Low income people with incomes less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), currently $31,809 for a family of four, will become eligible for Medicaid. This will cover about 83,000 uninsured people.
- An estimated 101,000 uninsured adults with household incomes between 139% and 400% of the FPL will become eligible for subsidized health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, our state’s health benefit exchange. These people will be able to select a health care plan from a menu of services and entities, and will be expected to pay a percentage of their income for the plan, with the rest of the cost subsidized. The amount subsidized varies by income level, but a family of four with an income between $31,809 and around $90,000 will be eligible for some assistance.
Only a small portion of the King County population will remain uninsured. Legal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid until they have been in the US for five years, although they can qualify for coverage under the insurance exchange; undocumented immigrants are not eligible for assistance. There are also a few exemptions from the requirement to purchase insurance, and some people may choose not to enroll.
Two things need to happen in order to make this health improvement program effective. First, people need to enroll in order to get Medicaid and to be subsidized under the exchange. Enrollment in both of these opens on October 1. Education and assistance campaigns will begin in June to give people information and help them prepare to make decisions and join the system. This planning is coordinated and largely funded through the State. In King County a coalition of organizations and businesses is already in place and developing this campaign.
The second, and more challenging, task is to ensure that there will be enough services and providers to handle the expected new patients. Pressure on emergency services will be reduced, saving money and potentially freeing service providers who can be redeployed to other areas. However, it is likely that many people will seek a variety of new services, and some will be entering the health care system for the first time. The challenge of creating medical records and providing those services will be significant. In principle, there will be funding available to cover these costs, but getting the dollars to the right places to match the new services that are being used will be a challenge, and no one can guarantee that there will be an exact match. And, even if the dollars flow appropriately, finding and hiring staff and providing facilities and equipment takes time and organization.
Intense planning is going on in the health care system to ensure that things work as smoothly as possible. It’s exciting, and also a bit scary! But the benefits will be incredible – a healthier society where so many more people have access to services and where children and adults can be freed from the risks of uncertainty and ill health to become productive and happier members of society.
NEW P-PATCHES AND PUBLIC GARDEN SPACE IN SEATTLE!
Every once in a while there’s an unexpected positive in the midst of negative impacts like those of the current recession. Seattle’s gardeners will benefit because the City projected inflation rates that were higher than have actually been experienced when the Council developed the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy. A lower inflation rate associated with the recession has meant that $427,000 reserved to cover inflated costs can instead be spent on projects.
And the City will spend it frugally, effectively, and in harmony with the City’s burgeoning interest in local food to develop approximately 115 new P-Patch community garden plots. The funds will also be used to add 14,500 square feet of land to the Marra Farm Large Tract Project for low -income households and to create new urban agriculture sites on city-owned land in Squire Park.
The 2008 voter approved Parks and Green Spaces Levy earmarked $2 million to build four additional P-Patch community gardens. We planned to purchase land, and budgeted for the expected cost of new property. However, as a result of significant community involvement and the use of existing City property, by 2014 there will be 17 new gardens, and, in addition, five existing gardens will be expanded. It’s a great example of creative staff work and efficient government making the people’s money go farther!
Along with the new p-patch spaces, the added area at Marra Farm will double the size of the site and provide additional gardening space for three low-income farmers, and there will be two new sites at Squire Park. The sites at Marra Farm provide opportunities for low income families to grow some of their own food, and to become more self-sufficient through marketing their surplus production.
It is great for our community that we can expand opportunities for urban gardeners and farmers and continue to strengthen the P-Patch Program. These will help meet the high demand for fresh, organic, and local food in Seattle households. We can be proud that Seattle’s P-Patch Community Gardening Program now manages 81 gardens with 2650 plots and serves 6100 gardeners across the city, making it the second largest community garden program in the country (after New York City, which has ten times our population!).
HOW TO RECOVER FROM A DISASTER
Those of us involved in emergency preparedness in Seattle, along with thoughtful planners in other cities and the federal government, have realized that the immediate response to an emergency like an earthquake or a major storm is only the first step in dealing with it. It is critically important to have first responders who can provide food, shelter, medical attention, and other assistance in the first few hours or days to ensure survival. But that is not enough to manage the impacts of a disaster.
As the long struggle to recover in New Orleans has graphically illustrated, recovering from a disaster can take years or even decades. Making that happen requires an emergency plan that is built around resilience – having buildings that are designed to minimize damage, having the conditions in place that support communities ability to renew themselves, and having a plan to ensure that damage can be assessed, repaired, and restored as rapidly as possible. Otherwise the economic and social impact of a crisis can lead not only to billions of dollars of economic losses, but disastrous consequences for people who cannot restore their health, vitality, and living circumstances.
Seattle is continuing to develop three initiatives that will help us to achieve more resilience. We are working with communities, organizations, and neighborhoods to build capacity to respond to the impacts of disasters. We are identifying steps that will reduce destruction and allow buildings and facilities to resist fatal damage and be ready to go back into use. And we are creating a Post-Disaster Recovery Plan that will provide guidance on what to do in the wake of a significant disaster. In the 2013-2014 budget, I secured funding for two specific projects: developing a set of incentives to complement proposed regulatory requirements for our most vulnerable buildings, those made of unreinforced masonry, and developing the Post-Disaster Recovery Plan.
At the recent National League of Cities conference in Boston, I attended a session where presenters discussed new approaches to developing resilience. They agreed that natural disasters in most parts of the world are becoming more intense due to climate change (since earthquakes are our most significant risk here, this is less so for Seattle, but the approaches are similar).
The core words that characterize a resilient city are:
- Responsiveness – being ready to take action
- Resourcefulness – having the confidence, training, and capability to act when resources are limited
- Flexibility and diversity – people and facilities that act proactively and are not centralized
- Learning – constantly open to new understandings and responding effectively
- Redundance and Modularity/Robustness – multiple pathways to resources and response
- Safe failure – designing facilities and systems that can contain failures and prevent them from bringing down the whole system
The biggest risk to resilience and recovery from a disaster, panelists agreed, is poverty. People with limited resources will have great difficulty in developing and exercising these characteristics. A poverty reduction program is important for so many reasons, but is also a critical factor in disaster response and recovery.
The federal government has changed since Hurricane Katrina, as the response to Hurricane Sandy showed. One of our panelists was the Mayor of Joplin, Missouri, where a devastating tornado created a path of death and destruction a year ago that resulted in three times as much debris as the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center. In both these cases, the federal government responded quickly and efficiently to help manage the immediate disaster and put the areas on the road to recovery. But panelists emphasized that this response is not enough, and that only emphasizing institutional and community resilience and recovery planning will ultimately allow devastated cities to restore themselves. Fortunately, we have grasped that lesson in Seattle, and are working to build our capacity for renewal for the disaster that we know will happen – the only question is when.
“Now power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose… we’ve got to get this thing right… Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power connecting everything that stands against love…”
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing!) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect."
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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