2021 Annual Report of the Seattle City Council

Overview

Each year, the Seattle City Council reflects on its accomplishments and the impact legislation has made toward making Seattle a more equitable, accessible, and economically resilient city. In 2021, Council faced multiple historic challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic; continuing our nation-leading work to reimagine how we promote public safety; a climate crisis which included both record-breaking heat and snowstorms; ongoing infrastructure repairs of the West Seattle Bridge discovery of critical structural issues with the West Seattle Bridge; affordable housing shortages, and the ongoing homelessness emergency.

The Council used its budgeting powers to address these issues in multiple ways, including through forethought in the 2021 budgeting process, by leveraging funding created by the JumpStart Progressive Revenue passed by Council, and by passing a 2022 budget that makes historic investments where they are needed most. The Council also allocated nearly $200 million in federal COVID-relief funding from the American Rescue Plan. Councilmembers did all of this while simultaneously making important and significant policy changes, from Seattle’s response to homelessness to police accountability.

Explore the following categories below to learn more:

2020 Seattle City Council

Explore the following categories to learn more:

Contents

COVID-19 Response

Small Biz COVID Supports

An infusion of funds from both the JumpStart Progressive Revenue, passed by the Council in 2020, and federal COVID-relief funding passed by Congress in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enabled Seattle to invest in an equitable and effective response to both combat infection and address the effects of the pandemic.

From December 2020 to December 2021, Seattle progressed from receiving its first vaccines to having more than 90 percent of its 12+ population vaccinated – one of the highest rates in the country. The City of Seattle helped accomplish this by working with partners to open vaccination clinics citywide and launch mobile vaccination teams to offer vaccines in high-traffic areas and places like nursing homes.

Combatting the pandemic:

The Council approved an $18 million COVID-relief package to, among other things, increase funding for the Office of Emergency Management to better coordinate COVID-19 recovery efforts, increase vaccination rates in hard-to-reach groups, and provide food aid to families and children in need. This was done using CARES Act funds from the federal government. After reports of inequitable distribution of vaccines and accusations that people with political or civic connections were being given preferential access to vaccines, the Council passed a resolution laying out a plan for increasing equity in vaccinations. That plan included ensuring people most at-risk from COVID-19 received vaccines first, that King County received its fair share of vaccines, and vaccine distribution happened equitably and in a culturally appropriate and accessible manner.

Providing economic relief to working class families and small businesses:

The Council passed the Seattle Rescue Plan in June, investing $128.4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan into direct aid through housing, childcare, cash assistance, small business grants, and investments in an equitable economic recovery. In August, the Council passed Seattle Rescue Plan 2, investing an additional $52.2 million of federal funds towards rental assistance, senior support services, and transportation infrastructure. The Council successfully urged the City and State to extend their moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. Following King County’s implementation of vaccine verification requirements for entry to many public places, the City allocated $2 million from the Small Business Stabilization Fund to help up to 2,000 eligible small businesses and organizations offset the cost of enforcing the requirements. The Council approved $22.7 million in emergency rental assistance in April. The funding built on existing partnerships between the City and community-based organizations to promote racially equitable outcomes and prioritized funding for people with the lowest incomes. The Council approved legislation expanding Seattle Public Utilities’ and Seattle City Light’s emergency assistance programs for 2021 in response to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 9,400 individuals and households received direct cash assistance of up to $3,000 through the Seattle Relief Fund approved by Council. The fund, which was part of the Seattle Rescue plan, helped support income-eligible, vulnerable Seattle residents who were severely impacted by the pandemic. Recognizing the risks they face on the job, the Council created a requirement that grocery store workers receive hazard pay. Using funding from the Seattle Rescue Plan, the Council ensured nearly $3 million was spent to support childcare workers. More than 3,500 childcare workers received one-time, direct payments of up to $835 in recognition of their work on the frontlines of the pandemic. A $5 million fund was created to support small businesses and workers in the hospitality industry. That included $2.17 million for direct cash assistance to hospitality workers impacted by COVID-19.

Public Safety

Public safety

Creating a public safety system that works for our community:

The Council invested $10.4 million in strengthening organizations working toward community-led solutions to crime that can serve as alternatives to armed police officers. Additional funding expanded the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One program, which allows more behavioral health calls to be redirected away from an armed police response and towards providers that are better capable of assisting those in need – like social workers, firefighters, and EMTs. A second Health One unit began operating in 2021, with a third set to launch in early 2022. Responding to a spike in hate crimes targeting Seattle’s Asian American Pacific Islander Community, the Council established a new $1.5 million fund for community safety in April to combat anti-Asian hate crimes. The Council ensured the City’s 2022 budget included $4 million dollars for the Seattle Community Safety Initiative, which works with community organizations to address crimes like gun violence and offer youth violence reduction programs. In June, the Council invested $3 million to expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a program proven to reduce criminal recidivism that brings together law enforcement, advocates, elected officials, treatment providers, and community leaders to offer harm reduction-based intensive case management that get people the support they need to stay out of the criminal justice system. During the 2022 budgeting process, the Council increased funding for LEAD by an additional $3.9 million. The Council passed an ordinance moving 911 dispatch out of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and into the newly created, civilian-led Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC). The Council approved funding to add 26 new employees to the CSCC in 2022 to address 911 dispatch and operational needs. The Council rightsized its King County jail payments, divesting $16 million from jail operations and investing that money in community-based health and housing programs for communities disproportionately affected by the legal system and incarceration. The Council created and funded a pilot Victim Compensation Fund to explore compensating some victims of crime for their losses and to conduct outreach and long-term planning for a broader restitution and restorative justice strategy. The Council passed a resolution to make enforcement of anti-entheogen laws the lowest enforcement priority for the Seattle Police Department.

Seattle Police Department

As Seattle continues to build new strategies for public safety, the Council fully funded the SPD’s hiring plan – allowing them to fill 125 officer vacancies and making no cuts to SPD officers or officer salaries in 2022. The Council approved a plan to add six additional officers to the Community Service Officer program – a group of unarmed, civilians employed by SPD to respond to non-criminal calls to help people navigate services, engage with communities, and support programming for at-risk youth.

Strengthening police accountability

The Council passed legislation strengthening the subpoena power of two of the civilian-led offices charged with oversight of SPD – the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Council approved new, updated legislation regulating SPD’s use of less-lethal weapons for crowd control purposes such as protests. As of this writing, the legislation is currently under review in compliance with the processes detailed in the Consent Decree. The Council affirmed restrictions on the use of facial recognition programs by City agencies, affirming they are regulated under Seattle’s Surveillance Ordinance and as such cannot be used without completing an approval process that includes a Council vote. The Labor Relations Policy Committee, which includes five councilmembers, continued negotiations on new contracts with Seattle’s two police unions. The Council approved the City’s 2021 state legislative agenda that helped lead historic changes to Washington State’s police accountability laws. Among other things, that included creating a new, independent statewide office to investigate deadly use of force by police officers, strengthening de-escalation and use of force standards, and better ensuring officers who have committed the worst types of misconduct are decertified and no longer able to be an officer anywhere in Washington State.

Housing

Protecting renters from displacement

The Council ensured tenants have a right of first refusal to stay or leave their home when their lease is up. Previously, landlords were able to evict tenants from their homes at the end of a lease through a no faults, no cause removal. This ordinance extended protections afforded under the city’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to all tenants, expanded tenant relocation assistance protections to more renters, and gave tenants more bargaining power in mutual lease terminations. The Council passed Sound at Home, an ordinance that provides a defense to eviction for any renter who has faced a financial hardship brought on by the pandemic that would have caused them to fall behind on rent.

Building new affordable housing equitably

The Council invested $165M for the creation of new, affordable rental housing in the 2022 budget, nearly twice the amount invested in previous years. In the 2022 budget, the Council more than doubled the City’s investments in first-time home ownership development to build generational wealth in communities impacted by past discriminatory policy. The Council passed an ordinance removing barriers and driving down costs developers face when building permanent supportive housing. The Council lifted a proviso, investing $30 million to create a community-driven Strategic Investment Fund that will combat displacement of BIPOC communities by helping groups buy land and buildings to be used for affordable housing and other community benefits such as affordable space for business, community centers, cultural spaces, childcare, and open space. The Council adopted an ordinance allowing for religious organizations to build affordable housing that exceeds zoning restrictions on their property.

Using existing resources to secure affordable housing and community space

The Council passed legislation desincentizing the redevelopment of Seattle’s last two mobile home parks, protecting communities of low-income seniors from displacement. The Council authorized the Seattle Office of Housing to acquire property in South Park for affordable housing development. The project is a community partnership between the Office of Housing, the Office of Sustainability and Environment, the Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, and the Duwamish Valley Clean-Up Coalition to create community-driven development that combats displacement and builds climate resilience. The Council approved legislation that permanently transferred the ownership of the Greenwood Senior Center to the Phinney Neighborhood Association, which has been providing community programming and services to older Seattleites there for 15 years.

Homelessness

Council investments helped lead to the creation of nearly 800 new shelter beds in 2021. 117 tiny homes funded by the Council became operational. The Council funded $18 million to pilot the use of hotels for emergency shelter leading to the creation of 197 temporary, COVID-safe shelter spaces by April. The Council also expanded funding for the operation of JustCARE in Downtown Seattle, creating an additional 89 shelter spaces with wrap-around services.
The Council appropriated funding for three new tiny house villages, or an equivalent form of enhanced shelter, to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. The Council’s Central Staff investigated the impact of COVID on Seattle’s homelessness system, summarizing the demands for shelter, outreach, and housing. Among other things, the report found there are more than 2.5 times as many requests for access to shelter than can be accommodated. $1.5 million was invested toward outreach in 2022 to people living in their vehicles, and creating a Safe Lots program. The Council approved $5 million to leverage community and county partnerships to create a high-acuity shelter. The Council created a Homelessness and Human Services Fund that allows the city to accept donations, gifts, and grants from organizations, corporations, businesses, and individuals to augment it’s the City’s response to homelessness.

Helping Workers and Small Businesses

The Council passed the Bringing Business Home Bill providing additional economic support to small businesses adversely affected by current land use codes during the pandemic. The Council’s Pathway to extended a pilot program that permits restaurants and other retail storefronts to utilize streets outside of their business for outdoor dining or displays while the City considers making the program permanent. The Council increased tenant protections for small businesses and nonprofits, ensuring that rent installments paid according to a payment plan negotiated between a tenant and a landlord cannot be considered “late,” and used against the tenant to break their lease. The Council passed legislation establishing labor standards for independent contractors. The Council passed the Fair Food Delivery Bill supporting local restaurants by ensuring food delivery apps have to get their consent before listing their restaurant on their platforms. The Council broadened the types of businesses allowed in street-level storefronts in Seattle’s Downtown. Previously, those storefronts were largely limited to retail or restaurants. This legislation enabled storefronts to pursue uses such as gyms, public art installations, medical services, and temporary bike parking. The Council passed a pair of resolutions beginning the process of setting up a Businesses Improvement Area for the 15th Avenue E. area in the University District. The Council approved $22.5 million in economic recovery and resilience investments from the JumpStart progressive revenue tax rooted in creating equitable, creative, and culturally appropriate opportunities for entrepreneurship in the 2022 budget.

Infrastructure, Transportation and Environment

Following the plan approved by Council, repairs continued on the West Seattle Bridge. The final phase of repairs began in late 2021, keeping the City on track to reopen the bridge in mid-2022. The Council approved $100 million in bonds to address Seattle’s aging bridges and other infrastructure needs. The Northgate Link Extension was completed, opening three new Link light rail stations in Northgate, Roosevelt, and U District. To better facilitate safe, convenient travel to the Northgate Link Station, the City constructed a pedestrian bridge over I-5, christening it the John Lewis Memorial Bridge in honor of the late congressman and civil rights leader. Council investments in the Clean City Initiative were put into action, investing $3 million toward more frequent removal of litter, needles and grafittifrom public spaces. The Council increased those investments in the 2022 budget, approving $9.3 million for cleaning up litter and garbage across the city. The Council approved $16.4 million in Green New Deal and climate resilience investments in 2022. The Council approved $14.4 million in 2022 for transportation projects focused on maintaining and enhancing our transportation infrastructure, safer streets for people walking and biking, expanding mobility access for all abilities, and activating our public spaces. The Council helped lead a transition away from natural gas, updating the energy code to require electric heat pumps in new construction.

Good Governance

The Council passed legislation creating a first-of-its-kind Indigenous Advisory Council to advise the City on policies of importance to tribes, urban Indians, and Indigenous populations. The Council approved the release of over $1 million to support the Participatory Budgeting process, which will ultimately be the largest appropriation to support a people-directed investment process for community safety projects in Seattle’s history. The Council worked to safeguard government transparency by approving worker protections and job security to public disclosure officers who produce public records on behalf of Seattle’s elected officials. The Council created the Office of Economic and Revenue Forecast, a more robust, transparent, and independent budget forecasting unit that is jointly overseen by both the City Council and Mayor, improving the budgeting process. The Council made appointments to the 2021 Seattle Redistricting Commission – the independent body responsible for overseeing the development of new City Council district lines in response to the 2020 Census.