District 4 Wonkathon: Low Income Supports

As a preface, the podcast Planet Money from NPR is a great listen, and they do a good job of covering the gap between rich and poor and the difference between handouts and redistribution.

Rich vs Poor

A mash up of two of the better graphs on income inequality, from Planet Money and the Washington Post

The Question: Seattle has a myriad of programs for people that are low income that must be opted into through a complex set of lotteries and qualifying paperwork. People in low income brackets are deterred from rising across income cut off lines for fear of losing their benefits, while others who qualify but are not able or willing to advocate for themselves are not receiving benefits.

This has led to a push for simplified systems like rent control and a rising minimum wage that benefit everyone who qualifies. Another idea has been to assess developer impact fees and use those funds to subsidize rents. Another option is to have utilities be free up to half the median per capita use rate, then be charged at double the rate above that line, putting in place a revenue neutral, progressive carbon tax.

Do you support rent controls? How about development fees for rent subsidization? How about making utilities free up to half the median per capita use rate? What other systemic changes to address low income needs do you support?

Rob JohnsonRob Johnson’s Answer: I’d like to see us significantly increase the funds in 2016’s housing levy. I’d like to see us explore more housing on public lands. I’d like to see us work more closely with Sound Transit on surplus properties to build more transit oriented development that could be targeted for affordable housing. I’d like to see us increase our height limits around Sound Transit light rail stations, particularly in the University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. I’d like to see us go to Olympia and get the authority (if we don’t believe we have it already) to implement a form of land value taxation to (ideally) flatten out some of our construction booms and busts to fund affordable housing. I’m a supporter of increased tent city encampments provided that they are placed near frequent transit service and that we have the social service workers available to get residents access to the services they need. And most importantly, I don’t want us to build a multi-billion dollar light rail system that is extremely frequent, reliable, and affordable (especially now thanks to ORCA LIFT) that subsequently prices the working families who need that frequency, reliability, and affordability out of the city.

Tony ProvineTony Provine’s Answer: Our current affordable housing crisis disproportionately impacts older adults, immigrants, people of color and other underserved communities.  People are being displaced, rents are out of control, and incentives given to developers are not working.  We can take steps now to address this crisis and produce thousands of low-income and affordable housing units. We should require inclusionary zoning in new developments rather than just incentivizing it. Affordable housing linkage fees should be required of developers to set aside a percentage of units within a building or pay a set fee. The city should also issue $500 million in long-term bonds for a Housing Bond Program; reestablish Seattle’s Growth Related Housing Fund; establish a loan and bond guarantee program for non-profit housing projects; expand the use of housing vouchers; and build more high-quality public housing with job training and social services. Tenants deserve fair treatment and we should strengthen tenant rights and consider rent stabilization tools.

Seattle is experiencing unprecedented growth and development.  Through enactment of Developer Impact Fees, we can cover some of the costs associated with new development.  These fees directly fund schools, roads, parks, and fire services and lessen the burden on the city and taxpayers.

Jean GoddenJean Godden’s Answer: To address affordability concerns, we have to look at simplified solutions that we can implement now. We are building more affordable housing units, and we must ensure that current tenant/landlord policies are being enforced.  Other solutions include easing zoning requirements for detached accessory dwelling units and requiring longer advanced notice of rent increases. These possibilities will help ease the housing affordability crunch Seattle faces, but we need more. I will advocate for local municipality jurisdiction over implementing rent stabilization. Seattle, not the State Legislature, should make the choice about rent control. I signed onto Resolution 31551 which states the City’s intent to implement an affordable housing linkage fee program and establishes policy parameters for such a program. I believe that incentive zoning bonuses and/or linkage fees should be one part of a wider network of solutions to create more affordable housing.

Abel PachecoAbel Pacheco’s Answer: As a renter who lives in a mother-in-law apartment I’m well aware of the housing crunch in Seattle. Homeownership and renting an affordable place to live are becoming out of reach of many of the people who protect our communities, teach our kids, and make our economy function- myself included as a UW employee trying to save, pay off student loans, and make ends meet. As an adjunct professor at North and Central Seattle Community Colleges, I too hear of the struggle many of my students undergo to progress out of many of these low-income programs.

Our rapid growth is coming with a cost on the community through its impacts on infrastructure, transportation, elimination of housing in old neighborhoods, etc. Reasonable and appropriate fees which consider the costs to the public are ideas I am open to exploring. Under a comprehensive plan to address growth and our housing crisis, developers should pay its share in dealing with the consequences of growth. Having said this, our city leaders must also do a better job at preparing for our growth to minimize the number of levies we ask voters to approve year after year as these levies add to the cost of housing. These costs can add another burden to already struggling middle-class families and individuals like myself. We, Seattleites, are a generous community but we want results. I do not like the common practice of coming year after year to voters, asking for approval of another levy when city leaders have not been good stewards of public funds- it erodes public confidence in our ability to address the problem. It is important that those fees, and levies, be used to effectively address problems caused by the growth and support our low-income neighbors, and not become another revenue source for the city.

Current state law does not allow us to implement rent control, but I am willing to study the issue further if state law changes. In general, I have reservations regarding rent controls as they can easily benefit those who don’t need the help and they ignore the need to create more housing. Specific, targeted, and limited rent controls might be feasible. In the short run, we can lessen impacts of people being forced out of their homes. Given the housing crunch and the difficulty in finding a place to live, notice requirements for rent increases and termination of tendencies should be expanded. People need not only living space but breathing room in having to deal with the pressures of growth.

Michael MadduxMichael Maddux’s Answer: Focusing on the questions posed – I do believe that the city can and should demand local control over housing, including repealing or amending RCW 35.21.830. I believe this would give the people of our city more leverage in housing affordability discussions. Whether I would support actual price controls on rent would depend on a lot of factors, including what efforts were in place to build new units where appropriate, how would the city ensure that landlords have the means to invest in building and unit improvements, and what the equitable application would look like. There are other measures that could be implemented more immediately that I support without hesitation, including regulations to make all leases automatically transition to month-to-month (requiring justification for evictions), ensure that people who are economically evicted receive relocation assistance, and requiring greater notice for no-fault evictions. The Community Housing Caucus has proposed additional measures, many of which I am supportive of.

I have been researching other funding sources, and one idea that was sent my way is exploring a capital gains tax on certain property transfers to ensure that not only developers and residents are paying into taxes for infrastructure (property taxes, REET taxes, and proposals for Linkage Fees and Impact Fees on developers), but speculators who are selling properties for massive profits – properties that are very valuable thanks to investment by the city in transit infrastructure, parks, and other amenities – are also participating in funding our city’s infrastructure needs.

On utilities – Santa Fe has a program for water that sets tiered rates based on usage, and has seen significant decrease in total water usage, even as the population has grown. I would be interested in looking at options like these to not only balance out the cost, but also encourage more conservation of our natural resources.

Which candidate do you think best answered the question?

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District 4 Wonkathon: Neighborhood Planning

For the next 5 days we will be running Wallingford’s Seattle City Council District 4 Candidate Wonkathon! As promised, Wallyhood put out 5 Wallingford-specific questions to all District 4 candidates and asked each of them to answer the questions in 200 words or less, although some candidates couldn’t contain themselves. At the end of each post you get to vote on which candidate best spoke for your point of view. We’ll begin with the wonkiest question of all…

Question 1: Wallingford’s Neighborhood Plan dates back to 1998. Unfortunately, this has meant that we have not had plans at the ready when levies are devised, so we get short changed. Further, the development plans we do have are no longer well enforced by DPD, with developers having connections downtown that allow them to get zoning exceptions.

Going beyond plans, priorities are being set downtown with haphazard outreach to impacted neighborhoods. For instance, the Wallingford Community Council was consulted on the detailed design of a bike lane at Latona and 50th, but was never asked about priorities and plans for the $930 million Move Seattle levy. Many neighborhood groups want to see a return to having neighborhood planners that coordinate government outreach and set priorities collaboratively with neighborhoods.

Do you agree all neighborhoods should have current neighborhood plans, and are you willing to say you will not run for reelection unless Wallingford gets an updated neighborhood plan first? Beyond that issue, how do you plan to productively reconnect government priorities to neighborhood priorities?

Jean GoddenJean Godden’s Answer: I support neighborhood planning. For those plans to be meaningful, they must incorporate the goals and values of the neighborhood and be kept up to date. Any plan dating back to 1998 needs to be updated or completely redone.

Neighborhood plans must be developed in a spirit of true collaboration between City Hall and the neighbors. No more top-down planning, where the City controls everything and neighborhood citizens are little more than observers. I want to prepare, educate, and train the neighbors so that they are empowered to secure the necessary funds for their neighborhoods. Seattle is a fast growing city, and it’s important that we get the planning right, so that we preserve the neighborhood character and other features that people find attractive.

The City is now in the process of updating the Comprehensive Plan. I will work to assure that neighborhood planning is included as a necessary implementation tool.

Abel PachecoAbel Pacheco’s Answer: Seattle used to be a leader in providing support for neighborhood planning and citizen involvement. However, in the past several years those efforts of been frustrating. Being a member of the Wallingford Community Council board, I’m aware of these problems. In Wallingford, neighbors put in thousands of hours developing the South Wallingford Amendment to the neighborhood plan. Once finished, City Hall refused to conduct evaluations necessary for steps toward adoption. The City Council must push for the revitalization of the Department of Neighborhoods, and undergo a broad and inclusive effort at neighborhood planning with follow-up by city departments.

The lack of notice to Wallingford regarding the Move Seattle Levy is a representation of the broader problem. So often projects which will have a direct impact on neighborhoods are only disclosed once it is too late to have effective input. As result, neighbors often find their only option is expensive and extensive litigation. When developers and city departments have brought issues to the Wallingford Community Council early, the neighborhood has negotiated important improvements in projects, and everyone avoided expensive litigation. Some Wallingford examples include negotiations with SPU over the rebuild of the transfer station, and input to the CVS pharmacy going in on 45th.

The city’s current process for providing public notice is too limited and too late. I think we need to take a long look at existing notice requirements. One option would be to allow community groups such as committee councils to register with the city to receive notice when projects are proposed which will affect their community. Since notice is required in any event, cost should be minimal, and goodwill and cooperation more likely.

Regarding not running for reelection unless Wallingford gets an updated plan first, my answer is no. It is not my character to quit if I run into obstacles or delays. District 4 needs someone that will hang on and fight, and Wallingford needs a resident from the neighborhood willing to take on the challenge.

Michael MadduxMichael Maddux’s Answer: I do agree that all neighborhoods should have current neighborhood plans, and would be willing to explore including land-use overlays as part of such plans in instances where it made sense. With districts as our new system, I am hopeful that there will be greater connection between city government and neighborhoods. As a council member, I would work to ensure successful implementation, and expansion as appropriate, of Council Member Licata’s Participatory Budgeting proposal. For future major investments in local infrastructure, I would advocate for using community advisory committees comprised of representatives from stakeholder groups and neighborhoods to be part of the design and prioritization of local investment packages.

Rob JohnsonRob Johnson’s Answer: Seattle is a city of neighborhoods and our neighborhood plans are one of the most unique and important elements of our city’s processes. I’m an urban planner so I spend a lot of time thinking about where people live and how they get around. As we continue to grow as a city we need to work closely across departments be it DPD, SDOT, Housing, Human Services, Neighborhoods, to better prioritize community investments. And growth can be a scary thing, but when done right can bring incredible new community members and community assets to our neighborhoods. But that only works when the public sector outreach coordinates well with community interest and is followed by public and private investment to achieve a common goal. I’ve got a great track record of working across governments to get things done; I helped run the 2008 light rail plan under construction now and 2014’s successful Seattle bus measure, which will result in the biggest increase in bus service in Seattle history. I also plan to open a district office to be able to more quickly and easily work with individuals in the district to help cut red tape and get the most out of government.

Tony ProvineTony Provine’s Answer: Neighborhood plans are routinely ignored and violated. Most are 16 years old and badly outdated. Despite urging from several neighborhood leaders, little has being done to update these plans. We need resources to update neighborhood plans and the city must ensure developers adhere to them. The 38 plans developed in 1998-99 were the result of a neighborhood driven, bottom-up community engagement process that emerged from years of frustration with indifferent city planning practices and policies.

As President of Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, I worked along with the Wedgwood Community Council to proactively plan for change. We sponsored a grassroots neighborhood planning effort that produced Zoning recommendations and Supplemental Design Guidelines for the 35th Avenue NE Business District. I am proud that, even though our neighborhoods were not designated urban villages, I was able to help obtain funding within the 2015 budget from City Council for DPD staff to conduct a Legislative Rezone based on our recommendations.

I support active community participation in neighborhood planning and I will work to obtain the support and resources needed. Updating Wallingford’s neighborhood plan so that residents there can enhance their neighborhood’s safety, character and livability will be one of my top priorities for this District.

Which candidate do you think best answered the question?

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We had a GREAT turnout for the Move Seattle levy “fix-it” tour on Sunday! About 50 participants showed up as we toured paths from Wallingford to the U-District, mostly people from Wallingford. Seattle City Council Transportation Committee representatives Jean Godden, Mike O’Brien, and Tom Rasmussen all attended, and news stations were there as well. For a wonky tour of neighborhood greenways and an I-5 bridge crossing that’s a great turnout!

Rasmussen Godden O'Brien

Thanks to Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren for taking photos of the walk

While we were on the walk all three council members spoke in favor of improving Wallingford’s connection to the U-District, along with several community members. Tom Rasmussen, chair of the Seattle City Council transportation committee, said he would have SDOT draw up a response to our request. More on that as plans come into view!

A visual approximation of how Mayor Murray’s office took part in the walking tour

Once again, nobody from the mayor’s office or SDOT leadership attended the walk, continuing their streak of not visiting Wallingford once for Move Seattle levy planning or feedback. My sense is that the mayor is having SDOT operate through an exclusively top-down process and simply doesn’t want any dialogue with little people at the neighborhood level. We might pull them off message.

We were blessed to have the presence of Brian Dougherty from SDOT on the walking tour. Brian seems to be the only guy in city government that everybody loves, but is a lower level transportation planner and not higher up in city government (unfortunately). Brian indicated that SDOT would favor beginning the process to build a bike and pedestrian bridge at 47th, although some neighborhood participants favored the more pedestrian-centric option of improving the NE 45th street bridge.

The good news is that we already have more traction and attention from Seattle City Council than we ever got from Scott Kubly at SDOT or the mayor’s office. It remains to be seen if city council’s attention translates into action, but at least there’s a dialogue and that’s a huge step forward.

One point that was made clear by multiple people at the walk that know more than me about the process is that there is only one reason Northgate is getting a bike and pedestrian connection to light rail and we aren’t: Northgate activists demanded it at the right time. I’m an engineer and I like to think of city government as rationally looking at safety data and traffic patterns and building networks according to cost / benefit analysis. On that basis, it’s really clear this very dangerous, congested, and obvious connection needs to be built. Unfortunately, city government priorities are really about greasing the squeaky wheel. Thanks to Wallingford for squeaking today!

 

Hamilton Wants to be Pesticide Free

Wallyhood Peter Carter SignaturesA few weeks back, when I posted about pesticide use at Wallingford Park, I heard from several families at Hamilton International Middle School. As noted before on this blog, Seattle Public Schools routinely utilizes pesticides at public schools, because it is more cost-effective than hand-weeding. There are so many concerns about the use of pesticides around children and pregnant women that I don’t even know where to begin my rant about this short-sighted behavior, so I will point you to the fact sheets available at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP).

Seattle Public Schools has an official Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy that includes using pesticides, “only as a last resort for solving pest problems.” However, people on the frontlines of this issue, such as Megan Dunn at the NACP, have discovered that SPS’s IPM policy is neither funded nor staffed. Ms. Dunn has appealed to SPS Superintendent Larry Nyland, who “was receptive” to funding and implementing the policy, but thus far no steps have been taken in that direction.

Enter the student Green Team at Hamilton International Middle School. This group of students wants to make Hamilton a “no spray zone” and are working to raise community awareness about this issue. To support their cause, neighbors can:

  • Sign their petition. It takes about one minute. I counted.
  • Come out to Wallingford Playfield at 3 pm on Sunday to support the students in their signature collecting efforts. They will be there dressed as bees and butterflies, and you (or your children) are welcome to don a pair of wings and meet them out there. They hope to raise awareness within the local neighbor and parent communities that Seattle Public Schools uses pesticides, as many people don’t know this. They will have paper copies of their petition available to sign as well.

Fingers crossed that the school district finds its students hard to ignore and actually starts implementing its own policy. It’s a good policy, and ought to be a model for the country instead of a document collecting dust while the district continues to spray.

Pick up some junk and get plied with pizza and beer and neighborly gossip. If the weather holds then it’s not so bad for a Saturday out and about:

Wallingford Spring Clean 9 AM to 12 PM: We will meet up at the Wallingford Center at 9 and come back at noon for pizza! Tools provided (but feel free to bring your own favorite implement if you have one) Bring a team, or join a team! A great way to earn those community service hours!! There will be PRIZES!!! Thanks to the following organizations for their support: Wallingford Center, Wallingford Boys and Girls Club, Wallingford Chamber of Commerce

N Northlake Way from 12 to 4 PM: Come remove trash, weeds, and debris while walking along N. Northlake Way in Wallingford and Fremont. Meet at Waterway 22 (at the intersection of Stone Way N. and N. Northlake Way) at noon on May 16th. All event equipment and materials will be provided. All ages are welcome. There will be a post-event celebration at Fremont Brewery.

Orchard Pest Prevention on the Burke-Gilman Trail from 12PM to 3PMJoin City Fruit for a work party on the Burke-Gilman Trail. We need volunteer to help us place protective bags over the young apples along the Burke Gilman Trail. These bags will keep out pests that like to eat the growing fruit. The more apples we can protect, the more fruit we can harvest and share with the community! Meet at 555 NE Pacific Street, intersection of NE Pacific and lower NE 40th. Sign up here.

U-District Street FairThe 46th Annual U-District Street Fair is also this weekend. The Ave will be chock full of vendors and buskers on Saturday from 10 to 7 and Sunday from 10 to 6, between 50th and 40th on University Avenue. It’s always a good time. More info is here.

Sunday at 11 AM is the walking tour of Wallingford with Seattle City Council. It’s been mentioned. After the walk, go to the U-District street fair!

Family Day at Meridian Orchard 10 AM to 1 PM on Sunday. Don’t care about transportation or city government or street fairs? Join us for Family Day at Meridian Orchard! City Fruit needs volunteers to help us place protective bags over the young apples in our orchard – a fun activity for the whole family. These bags will keep out pests that like to eat the growing fruit. The more apples we can protect, the more fruit we can harvest and share with the community. Sign up here.

Tuesday: Teacher strike!

Volunteer work party for the Good Shepherd Center grounds at 6 PM on Wednesday: We could use some extra hands to help maintain the gardens at the Good Shepherd Center. Many hands make light work and will help us tackle things we don’t have time for otherwise. It will also give volunteers a chance to do a little gardening and get to know the garden better, including the plant collection, history, and future plans.

Seattle City Council Transportation Committee representatives Tom Rasmussen and Jean Godden will be taking part in the Move Seattle levy walking tour happening this Sunday at 11 AM in Wallingford and the U-District. Mike O’Brien is also on the Transportation Committee and is a maybe (it’s his wife’s birthday), plus candidates running against Jean Godden for Seattle City Council District 4 will be attending.

Wallyhood hopes you will come on the walk! Just come to the Mosaic Coffee house on 44th between 1st and 2nd Ave NE by 11 AM Sunday. Here is a printable map of the walk. Our goal is simple: the Move Seattle levy should have a line item added for connecting Wallingford pedestrians and cyclists to UW and the U-District light rail station by the time it opens in 2021.

If we were demanding parity with Northgate then we’d ask for a 25 million dollar 2000 foot long bridge that would go straight from the train station to 44th in Wallingford, flying over all the U-District streets and I-5 along the way. Instead, all we’re asking for here is for SDOT to do something that will make a real difference, maybe something like this:

Slide6

Upgrading the bridge would form the backbone of an East / West greenway network like this.

Is there space? Yes, there is! I went off my meds so I could be “on my game” for this walk, so it won’t surprise you to learn that I went to the trouble of getting road diagrams and fitting everything in. Here are the diagrams showing how changes can be made to NE 45th Street. First, the NE 45th street bridge itself. The numbers written on the roadways are widths in feet, current and proposed:

Slide7

Then approaching the bridge from Wallingford:

Slide8

And finally leaving the bridge into the U-District, including to UW and U-District light rail:

Slide9

Where can the money come from? Currently the 930 million dollar Move Seattle levy is 2/3rds road maintenance, with the remaining 1/3rd split between transportation alternatives, including money for transit. That money is all there is for non-motorized transportation development for the next decade, whereas transit has multiple levies already dedicated to it. The result is that Seattle only spends about 35 million per year on infrastructure for walking or biking, whereas Seattle spends about 360 million tax dollars per year on buses and trains. Transit is a hungry beast- you need to build infrastructure, pay for vehicles, pay to fuel them up, pay for people to drive them around, pay to maintain them. People that walk and bike only ask for a safe place to do so. Spending billions on trains and then failing to spend a few million here and there so people can walk or bike to the train is just plain stupid.

I’ve gotten involved in organizing the walk along with Seattle Greenways, so I have that feeling you get when throwing a party and wondering if anyone will show up. That’s especially the case given how SDOT has been ignoring our humble neighborhood, not visiting even once while designing this levy or collecting feedback, and then making zero changes to the levy based on the feedback we did provide.

So here’s the pitch- please come and show the candidates that they should care about Wallingford! Help address climate change at the local level! Help build out a transportation network in Seattle that is an alternative to sitting in traffic! Support good government and help set priorities for the upcoming election! Save college kids from getting run over by cars! Or maybe you just want to tell me to shut up already about the Move Seattle levy. Regardless, 11 AM Sunday is your chance!

Mike Ruby writes:

Metro has released their final proposal for revisions to Wallingford bus service. If you studied and commented on their proposal in March (214 Wallingford residents did) you will note that they adopted their “make changes” option as originally described. Route specific maps are located here.

The proposal essentially switches the 16 and 26 routings south of N 40th, with the 16 going to Fremont and downtown via Dexter and the 26 using Aurora. This means the 31 and 32 are switched to Wallingford at N 40th to replace the 26 in south Wallingford.

The 26 is switched to the 16 routing north of N 65th (with a small change at North Seattle Community College to avoid the congestion on Northgate Way), while the 16 turns east at N 65th to run along N 65th all the way to the NOAA installation at Magnuson Park. The 16 will turn around in mid-downtown and the 26 will turn around before it reaches the King Street Station. There is no increase in frequency of service for the 26/26X but service on the 16 is significantly increased.

The changes would come in to effect in March, 2016. If you want to comment on the changes go to:

http://metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/link-connections/proposal.html

Comments are due by May 31. Metro will have a booth at the U District Street Fair and will make a presentation to the Fremont Community Council on May 18 (7 pm, 619 N 36th St). They will have a public meeting at the University Christian Church (6 pm, 4731 15th NE) on May 27.

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