Equitable Communities Initiative


The City of Seattle recognizes that systemic racism through the investments and policies by government and the private sector have caused generational harm and resulted in disinvestments in Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (BIPOC). The disparities have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

This past week, the City of Seattle, through multiple departments including the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD),  launched the Equitable Development Monitoring Program (EDMP) to measure and accelerate Seattle's progress toward becoming a more equitable city. 

The first EDMP Report, informed by extensive community engagement with BIPOC communities, utilizes twenty-one community indicators of equitable development spanning four broad themes - Home, Community, Transportation, and Education and Economic Opportunity to measure how the City is doing overall with break out data by race and ethnicity and neighborhood.   

This includes a special focus on how Race and Social Equity (RSE) priority areas - neighborhoods where communities of color are a relatively large share of residents - are faring on the key health and opportunity indicators relative to other neighborhoods and the city as a whole. The report details the inequities and disproportionate impacts to BIPOC communities through higher rates of poverty and housing cost burdens, greater disconnection from school and work, limited mobility options and a greater need to take long trips by transit, greater exposure to pollution, and lower access to well-performing neighborhood schools.

On November 28, 2017, the day she was sworn into office, Mayor Durkan signed an Executive Order focused on Race and Social Justice initiatives and directing city Departments to take actions to increase equity throughout Seattle. The Mayor also implemented significant programs to advance opportunity and decrease displacement for BIPOC and other marginalized communities, including expanding quality preschool, providing two years free college and transit passes for all Seattle public high school students, expanding youth employment opportunities, issuing an Executive Order to counter displacement, accelerating the development of affordable housing and dedicating permanent resources for the Equitable Development Initiative.

Purpose and Key Focuses of the Task Force  

The Mayor believes it is time to not just build on these programs, but to make unprecedented and sustained investments in Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. These investments must be centered on and guided by the impacted communities.  The Equitable Community Initiative commits $100 million in new investments annually starting with Mayor Durkan's 2021 budget proposal to both scale some of the City's current programs and examine additional priority areas for new investments. It will be community that collectively guides the investments.

These investments focused on the Black, Indigenous, and communities of color will be guided by a community-led Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force who will receive the technical assistance of at least 18 City Departments to help make policy and programmatic recommendations to support near and long-term community priorities that ensure that Black, Indigenous, and communities of color can thrive.    

The City has suggested initial focus areas for identifying programs and policies, based on ongoing engagement with the community over the last several years including the development of the Equitable Development Monitoring Program which was shaped by deep engagement BIPOC communities. However, the task force has broad latitude to determine whether these focus areas sufficiently cover community needs and can add or remove topics as they see fit.

  • Building Opportunity and an Inclusive Economy: The BIPOC community does not have equitable access to the economy as business owners, workers, youth and students.  The COVID-19 crisis has had a deeper impact on BIPOC communities due to the loss of businesses, higher rates of unemployment, a lack of work for much of the gig economy, lack of access to remote learning and lack of access to internet for education and job seekers. The disparities between workers in the service economy and the innovation economy have never been more pronounced.   This workgroup will be focused on investments and policy changes necessary to build opportunity and center the BIPOC community to have equitable access to the economy.     
  • Community Wealth Building and Preserving Cultural Spaces: Through intentional policy, practices and investments by government and private sector, including, but not limited to, housing discrimination and redlining, the BIPOC community have had a lack of access to community wealth. Gentrification and displacement further eroded families abilities to build wealth.  This workgroup will be focused on investments necessary to build community wealth including land acquisition, affordable homeownership, preserving cultural spaces and other strategies. 
  • Community Wellness: There have been longstanding health disparities in BIPOC communities. This has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis due to a lack of access to health care, food, and housing. This workgroup will be focused on investments and policy changes necessary to provide equitable access to things that increase community resiliency and wellness, like housing, health care, food and other basic needs.   ·      
  • Climate Justice and Green New Deal: Polluted air, soil and contaminated water and lack of green spaces and neighborhood amenities have had a disproportionate impact on BIPOC community for generations. BIPOC communities are also on the frontlines of impacts of climate change while lacking in transit, pedestrian, safety and clean energy investments that improve health and environmental outcomes.  This workgroup will be focused on investments and policy changes necessary to achieve environmental, climate and transportation justice and the implementation of the Green New Deal centered on the BIPOC community.

Task force members will all be connected to the BIPOC community and have diverse backgrounds and experiences, bringing to the table their expertise and lived experience to address the deep disparities in our systems: economic development, education, environmental justice, lands acquisition, health care, youth services and social services.   

Policy and Investment Recommendations

The task force will have broad latitude in setting the timetable, community engagement framework, and agenda for their work.  However, it is contemplated that by December 2020 they will identify the initial areas to prioritize for community investments of shared policy goals and outcomes to achieve.  

In the Spring, the task force will make additional recommendations regarding programmatic investments. The task force, based on technical support, legal requirements of the City, and desired outcomes may consider a range of funding mechanisms and programmatic structures, including participatory budgeting, grants, RFPs and loans. The task force will not make funding recommendations for individual organizations. The task force, centered on community input, will also determine the research, data and technical advice they need in each of those areas in order to focus on how to accomplish desired and measurable outcomes in each area.    

The task force recommendations may focus on, but are not limited to:

  • Expanding current proven programs that could be scaled to serve more in the community
  • Refocusing current City investments to better serve BIPOC community
  • Creating new programs or investments that could be quickly implemented (i.e. COVID-19 response programs like grocery vouchers or Small Business Stabilization Fund)
  • Developing long-term new programs or pilots to address a specific need (the next Economic Development Initiative or Seattle Preschool Program)
  • Capacity building to allow future investments in community-based organizations
  • Identifying new and complementary opportunities for investment by philanthropy, regional, state or federal partners 

In the Spring of 2020, the Mayor will submit a supplemental budget, which will need City Council approval. City Departments would then be tasked with implementation of RFPs, support participatory budgeting, expansion of existing programs, or continued development of policies, pilots, or new programs needed to address disparities. 

Task Force Members

Pastor Carey Anderson,
First AME Church

Sean Bagsby,
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 46 

Sophia Benalfew,
Ethiopian Community in Seattle

Maggie Angel Cano,
Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition

Andrea Caupain,
Byrd Barr Place

LaNesha DeBardelaben, 
Northwest African American Museum

Trish Millines Dziko,
Technology Access Foundation

Mahnaz K. Eshetu,
Refugee Women's Alliance

Ollie Garrett,
Tabor 100

Lynda Greene,
Southeast Seattle Senior Center

Chris Lampkin,
Service Employees International Union 1199NW

Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange,
Seattle Central College

Paulina Lopez,
Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition

Esther Lucero,
Seattle Indian Health Board

Michelle Merriweather,
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Donna Moody,
Marjorie Restaurant

Estela Ortega,
El Centro de la Raza

Carolyn Riley-Payne,
Seattle King County NAACP 

Rizwan Rizwi,
Muslim Housing Services

Victoria Santos,
Young Women Empowered 

Steven Sawyer,

Michael Tulee,
United Indians of All Tribes

Ray Williams,
Black Farmers Collective

Sharon Williams,
CD Forum

Pastor Lawrence Willis,
United Black Clergy

Maiko Winkler-Chin,
Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDPDA)

Christina Wong,
NW Harvest

Beto Yarce,

Ex officio - Debora Juarez,
District 5, Seattle City Councilmember 

ECI Task Force Agendas + Documents

Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force | October 21, 2020

Equitable Communities Initiative - Frequently Asked Questions

Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force | Meeting One