On Tuesday, the report and recommendations of the South Park Public Safety Taskforce were presented in the Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans Committee chaired by Councilmember González. The task force was created during the Council’s budget process.
The report makes recommendations for both short-term and long-term approaches, in three priority areas: 1) Building a Strong and Resilient Community, 2) Physical Safety, and Investing in Children & Youth. Some of the recommendations involve budget issues; the City Council’s 2018 Budget process will begin later this month; the Mayor will announce a proposed budget on September 25th.
Recommendations are listed below with a brief description, and a note on steps the City is taking so far.
- Fund a Public Safety Coordinator
This recommendation notes that a City position helped to carry out work related to the 2006 South Park Action Agenda. This recommendation is for a bilingual member of the community to take on this work, which would include working with the Seattle Police Department on ongoing and emerging public safety issues, and other issues, such as coordinating trainings. The report notes a recent police training addressing sex trafficking had over 80 parents in attendance, and was conducted in Spanish.The geographic isolation of the South Park community from the Southwest Precinct location in Delridge creates special public safety challenges. A Public Safety Coordinator can act as an advocate for the community with SPD and the Southwest Precinct to increase the ability to deploy police resources to do more effective proactive and responsive policing. In addition, I have heard from South Park residents that they don’t just need another person with whom they can log a complaint about a community problem, but they need someone who will identify strategies to help avoid problems as well as partner with the community as another set of eyes and ears to identify problems when they do arise.Funding for such a position may be addressed during the Council’s forthcoming budget process; the Executive response notes the Office of Planning and Development and Office of Sustainability and Environment are leading a team to develop long-term solutions for the Duwamish Valley, including South Park, with a report due before the end of the year.
- Improve Pedestrian Safety
South Park has a higher percentage of families than the City overall, and children walk to school and the library; pathways, especially Cloverdale, are increasingly dangerous. The report recommends installing crosswalks at Dallas & 14th/16th, and 12th & Cloverdale, and signage to alert drivers about pedestrians at 10th & Cloverdale, and 8th & Cloverdale.The crosswalk at 12th and Cloverdale was selected for funding in 2018 through the Your Voice, Your Choice program. SDOT will review current signage on Cloverdale at 8th and 10th, and update signs that are missing or do not meet current guidelines, and collect data at Dallas & 14th/16th to see where this location prioritizes in their pedestrian master plan.
- Improve Traffic Safety/Enforcement
Large industrial vehicles frequently utilize South Park streets. After the new South Park Bridge was opened, a parking lane was removed on 14th Avenue South that brought vehicles closer to the buildings in the business district. The task force wants the City to research potential traffic calming options, particularly for vehicles turning from the bridge onto Cloverdale, and to reduce speeding on Cloverdale from 14th to the 8th Street entrance to Highway 99, with a speed tracker and enforcement.SDOT is reviewing truck turning at Cloverdale, and will collect speed data on Cloverdale to evaluate vehicle speeds and identify next steps.
- Light Dark Alleys and Crime Spots
The task force notes numerous alleyways that are not lighted, and notes that dark alleyways can contribute to increased crime, drug use, fights, a general lack of safety and garbage dumping. Similar issues were identified with the skate park, which has high walls, and the 8th Avenue walking trail, nicknamed the “scary trail” by residents. The task force recommends lighting the 8th Avenue Walking Trail, lighting the two alleys that run between Cloverdale and Donovan from 8th to 14th, and installing lighting near the onramp to Highway 99 and the skate park.SDOT will work with City Light to review options for retrofitting existing lighting along the 8th Avenue walkway; will work with WSDOT and City Light to review lighting by the onramp; the presentation notes that requests for alley lighting begin with SPD, and expresses SDOT’s intent to work with City Light to review feasibility and plan for implementation.Some of this work could involve examining City policies regarding lighting and alleyways.
- Provide More Frequent Garbage Pickup
The taskforce members feel South Park is a “dumping ground,” due to drug houses, blighted properties and unsanctioned homeless encampments, and people from outside the neighborhood coming in to engage in illegal dumping. They recommend working with the community on strategies to clean “hot spots” at least twice a week, including South 96th Street at 4th Avenue South and 8th Avenue South, and to work with the community to figure out enforcement mechanisms to ensure that local businesses are also cleaning up.Seattle Public Utilities says the use of the Find It Fix It app is the best way to report dumping on public property, and work with community and neighborhoods re: storm drains. They indicate they have a pilot program in South Park to increase proactive checks and cleaning of known dumping hot spots.
- Fund Opportunities for Children and Youth in the CommunityThe report notes that many youth live in poverty in South Park, and nearly 60% of families don’t speak English as their primary language. Task force members expressed the feeling that young people may turn to gangs and criminal activity as a way to feel connected; they need more options. The report recommends redirecting the priorities of staffing at the community center to meet the needs of young people, making the community center more accessible; having a police liaison work with youth to provide crime safety and prevention training, and full compensation for youth to work in the community.The Executive response notes community center programming grants, and a new parks property purchased next to the bridge; the design process will start in 2018, and notes the City Council sets rental rates for community center facility use.The report also notes additional community needs identified by the taskforce, including funding for translation and improving the business district.
Here’s a link to the presentation from the committee meeting, which includes steps City departments are currently taking.
The report ends by noting that South Park Action Agenda in 2006 resulted in some positive outcomes, but more work remains to be done. As Director Kathy Nyland said at the August 30 community meeting, “we need less agenda and more action.”
I have requested that the Executive provide a timeline for each of the following next steps:
- Implementation of the funded crosswalk at 12th and Cloverdale
- SDOT review of current signage on Cloverdale
- Collision data collection at Dallas & 14th/16th and 12th & Cloverdale
- SDOT review of truck turning radius at Cloverdale
- SDOT speed data collection on Cloverdale
- SDOT & City Light to review options for retrofitting existing lighting along the 8th Avenue walkway
- Seattle City Light and WSDOT and City Light review of lighting by the onramp
- Consider how requests for alley lighting might be supported by private business support
Maybe you’ve been following my blog posts about Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) Strategic Business Plan? If so, then you know we are nearing the final passage of the resolution. If not, you can read my previous updates here, here, here, and here. Below is also a brief history of the process.
In 2014 the Council endorsed the first Strategic Business Plan (SPB) for the utility. In the ten years prior to its passage the average rate increase was almost 7% every year. The 2014 six-year rate path set an average annual increase of 4.6% across all four lines of business (water, wastewater, drainage, and solid waste).
In June, the Executive presented a revised SBP that had an average annual rate increase of 5.5%. This represented a proposed increase of 0.9% over the 4.6% established in the 2014 SBP. Prior to this, the Customer Review Panel (CRP) met with SPU twice a month, for three hours at a time, from last September through May to provide input on the 2018-2023 SBP. The Executive started with a proposal of a 6.8% average annual rate increase, but thanks to the CRP’s work they were able to reduce it to 5.5%.
A big reason for the proposed increases is that Seattle is under a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington State Department of Ecology. This means we are legally required to spend on new projects that will reduce the quantity of wastewater that enters city waterways. But another big driver of increased rates was written about in a recent Seattle Times article. The Seattle Move Levy is necessitating $152 million in “must-do” utility work that voters didn’t know about when the Move Levy was on the ballot.
Over the last few months I have heard from many people who are concerned about the increase in rates and how utility rate hikes contribute to making Seattle less affordable. I’m concerned as well. To reduce the average annual rate path as well as smooth the rate spikes we see in 2019 and 2020, I have worked with staff to introduce amendments to the SBP. I have also moved forward several amendments that don’t affect the rate directly, but will hopefully have a positive impact on rates in the future.
Over the course of four committee meetings and several discussions with SPU and Council staff, affordability was my primary concern. A nearly full percent increase over the previous average annual rate increase seemed far too high to me. In keeping with the suggestion from the CRP I submitted an amendment to implement not only full cost recovery for water connections, but to have growth pay for growth through new system development charges.
Further, in consultation with Councilmember Bagshaw and the utility, we crafted an amendment to direct SPU to prepare an affordability and accountability plan which will be focused on managing future rate increases. This plan will explore and evaluate policies in the following areas: 1. pricing and rate structures 2. customer assistance programs including low-income programs 3. process efficiencies and capital project cost savings 4. investment prioritization 5. comparative utility rate taxes and how raising utility rate taxes reduces affordability when utility tax rates are used to fund non-utility projects.
The CRP will continue to meet on an ongoing basis to help partner with SPU and the Council in these efforts.
Due to the combination of amendments the average annual rate increase under the final proposal is 5.2% with an expected additional 0.1% reduction in efficiencies that is pending an efficiency and productivity study expected next year. The reductions achieved in the final resolution amount to over $45 million in reduced spending by the utility over six years.
I want to thank those of you who wrote in to share your concerns, experiences, frustrations and suggestions as we worked toward a more workable plan for the utility.
The resolution adopting the final 2018 – 2023 SBP will be voted on at the September 25th Full Council meeting.
LGBTQ elders are more likely than their peers to live in poverty. They also have less family support. Because of this isolation, LGBTQ seniors may be forced back into the closest when living in traditional retirement communities. Across every Census division in the U.S. Seattle has the least developed services for LGBTQ older adults and their families. Unlike most large cities, we are running behind on developing housing for LGBTQ seniors. Thanks to the work of the Capitol Hill Housing, and groups like Generations With Pride, Allyship, and Gay City that’s about to change.
The good news is that this week Capitol Hill Housing announced plans for an affordable senior housing to support LGBTQ seniors. The project will be a mixed-use building in what is now the parking lot at the Helen V apartments (1321 E Union) on Capitol Hill. This will be Seattle’s first affordable, LGBTQ elder affirming housing. There will be a meeting at Gay City, on September 21st from 5:30-7:30pm to learn more about the proposed project.
In April of 2016 the Council passed legislation that put the 2017 Housing Levy on the November 2016 ballot. One of my many priorities in that 2016 legislation was included increased housing options for LGBTQ seniors. The legislation passed by the Council required that the Office of Housing consider prioritizing specific subpopulations who are underserved or have limited access to culturally appropriate housing, such as LGBTQ seniors. Then in last year’s budget deliberations, with leadership from Councilmember Gonzalez and co-sponsorship from me, the City Council passed a 2017-2018 budget action supporting a housing needs study for low-income Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) seniors.