Last month in my blog post, I wrote a “Part 1” article describing my disappointment in a recent Displacement Risk Analysis being done as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Citywide Rezones that are part of implementing a Mandatory Housing Affordability Program.
As promised, I am following up with you to share my additional thoughts on the displacement risk analysis that was completed. Unfortunately, in addition to the concerns I have already raised about the study’s reliance on relied heavily on Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) eligible households as a poor proxy of the number and types of households at risk of displacement, I am also concerned with the incomplete displacement risk analysis completed in the Housing and Socioeconomic chapter. My main concerns are:
(1) the initial conclusion that increasing development capacity and encouraging market rate development in high displacement risk areas is an anti-displacement strategy in and of itself; and
(2) that this analysis fails to consider the racial and ethnic dimensions of displacement. Using low income households as a proxy for race impedes a more nuanced discussion of the risk of displacement from a race and culture lens.
(3) While the number of households receiving HUD assistance was quantified and accounted for in the analysis, the number of households living in units subsidized through other programs, such as projects developed with funding from the Office of Housing, are not accounted for and likely skewed the analysis of the changes in the number of low-income households in areas with more housing production.
(4) The analysis did not include the last 5 years of record growth in our city. The high-risk displacement areas may be at a point where just a very small increment of increased growth displaces larger numbers of people than is typical in a less active construction climate.
(5) The analysis did not measure increased speculative activity in high growth areas, i.e. rapid turnover and increases of sales and resales of existing older affordable apartments and how that activity might accelerate as a result of granting increased zoning capacity.
For these reasons, I believe that the conclusion and the methodology used in the analysis requires further consideration.
As part of the DEIS, last August I sponsored, and the Council passed, Resolution 31733, to request an analysis of both physical and economic displacement and to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations. Check out my August 2016 blog post on the topic. This resolution put the Council on record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.” It also made very clear the kind of analysis that the Council expected as part of the of the Displacement Risk Analysis being done for the DEIS.
I will be making recommendations for additional analysis that includes looking at: (1) how different races or ethnic groups might be impacted differently by the three alternatives proposed in the DEIS; (2) whether the action alternatives either introduce a new trend or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace a vulnerable population to the extent that the socioeconomic character of the neighborhood would change; and (3) is there a pattern or potential for different racial or ethnic groups to be displaced at different rates and/or do they resist displacement with different degrees of success.
You may have heard that this week the comment period on the DEIS was extended from Sunday, July 23 to Monday, August 7. I have requested a further extension of the public comment period until Monday, August 28. This is in part because I have received numerous requests from District 1 (Westwood Highland Park, Admiral, Morgan Junction, South Park, and West Seattle Junction) constituents because they are concerned that their public comment was not included in the DEIS and also to give OPCD and consultants the time needed for them to adequately complete the additional analysis I am requesting here.
Office of Planning and Community Development
Attn: MHA EIS
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019
You may have heard that the Executive has proposed a Seattle Public Utility rate increase. Annual rate increases are adopted in the SPU Strategic Business plan. Hearing that the Executive is proposing to make amendments to the SPU Strategic Business Plan doesn’t catch people’s attention, but when you tell them that utility rates are proposed to increase, that grabs their interest.
In August 2014 the Council endorsed the first Strategic Business Plan (SPB) with adoption of Resolution 31534 in August 2014, and Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) set a six-year rate path with a 4.6% average increase per year across all four lines of business (water, waste water, drainage, and solid waste). This was a reduction from the average rate increase of almost 7% each year over the previous decade, from 2004-2014.
This plan was the first of its kind for SPU and has served as a guiding document for the Utility and its customers in order to create predictability and transparency. The plan is a six-year outlook and is updated every three years to reflect the current financial climate, changes in regulations, new City initiatives and community input. The Council is now beginning its first update to the plan.
On August 15, 2016 the Council adopted resolution 31694 that re-established the Customer Review Panel (CRP) to provide input on the 2018-2023 SBP. The CRP, with five appointments from the Mayor and four from the Council, has a working knowledge of SPU services, financial policies, major projects, and rates and is tasked with reviewing an early version of the SBP and providing policy direction and alternative actions to SPU, the Executive, and Council.
September through May the CRP met twice a month for three hours at a time to discuss the SBP and provide direction on issues ranging from the Utilities’ facility master plan, to sanitary sewer capacity and repairs. Additionally, the Utility held several public meetings to gain customer input on the proposal, I wrote about those meetings here. The starting proposal from the Executive to the CRP was a 6.8% average annual increase. As a result of the CRP’s good work with SPU the current Executive proposal is an average of 5.5% a year over the 2014 plan’s 4.6% average annual increase. This is good work, but there’s more to be done.
This proposed increase is, to me, an important enough public policy decision that I wanted to make sure that all ratepayers were aware of the proposal in order to give the public the opportunity to impact the Council’s final decision on how much rates should increase over the 2014 plan’s 4.6% average annual increase. In April I requested that SPU include a notification of the proposed rate increase in customers’ bills. That did not happen, so as an alternative, I asked them to send the postcard which you hopefully received in the last two weeks.
I have already committed time in at three of my future committee meetings (July 11, 25, and August 8) to discuss the Executive’s proposed SBP. My committee has previously discussed the business plan twice, you can watch the March meeting here and the April meeting here. You can find SPU’s SBP plan and additional documents in the links below:
- Customer Review Panel – Comment Letter
- Financial Forecast
- Action Plans and Savings Deferrals Summary
- Customer Outreach Report
- Strategic Plan Update
The postcard mailer showed the Executive’s proposal of a 5.5% average annual increase. As I’ve written about previously, there are a few major contributing factors to this proposed increase of 5.5% from the original plan’s 4.6%.
- In 2015, shortly after the first SBP was passed, the Port of Seattle exercised their right to stop being a customer of SPU and created their own utility. Consequently they stopped paying SPU $4 million annually for their services.
- A federally mandated consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency has required the acceleration of a combined sewer overflow pipeline in Ballard, called theShip Canal Water Quality project. Total cost estimates for the project is $423 million.
- The Move Seattle Levy, passed by voters in 2015, creates an opportunity to access the Utility’s infrastructure while the roads are being repaved. SPU refers to them as opportunity costs and estimates $116 million in transportation opportunity costs that the Utility proposes that we spend now, in order to save more money later.
- Many Capital Improvement Projects that we heard about in committee last week which among various projects, include the North and South Operations Facilities, which combined cost and estimated $95 million.
As I have noted previously, the proposed rate increases for 2019 and 2020, when both the Ship Canal Water Quality project and the transportation opportunity costs would hit the rate payers, are excessively high and I would like to spread these costs over the six years so that rate payers are not receiving large increases in any one year. I will also, over the course of my next three committee meetings, vet the proposed list of projects and spending to hopefully trim the fat and bring the overall annual average rate increase down from the proposed 5.5%. To provide some perspective, to achieve a just a single percent reduction from 5.5% average annual increase to 4.5% average annual increase we will need to cut an estimated $457 million in operations and capital spending.
I have heard from many constituents since the post card was mailed out. The update to SPU’s SBP is a major undertaking that I take very seriously. I am listening to those concerns, many of which I share. I would also ask that you review the documents at the links about and send me suggestions you have for potential reduced spending so that I can share them with SPU and the Executive to incorporate them in to the SBP.
The Council has received some late-breaking concerns that contain some inaccurate information about the proposed income tax on high-income residents; here’s a link to a document that addresses issues regarding business income.
Save the Date: The Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee will discuss Fair Chance Housing Legislation on Thursday, July 13, 2017, at 5 p.m. at City Hall in Bertha Knight Landes Room. I hope you will join the conversation.
On July 21, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00p.m. – 7:00p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.
These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (email@example.com).
Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.
|Friday, August 18, 2017||Senior Center of West Seattle||4217 SW Oregon St|
|Friday, September 22, 2017||South Park Community Center||8319 8th Avenue S|
|Friday, October 27, 2017||Southwest Neighborhood Service Center||2801 SW Thistle St|
|Friday, December 15, 2017||South Park Community Center||8319 8th Avenue S|