Comprehensive Plan Advances – Public Hearing on September 15

This summer, the Mayor’s Recommended Comprehensive Plan took center stage at City Council. Since May, a total of 15 briefings for 8 City Council committees were held. The Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee is leading the review and will hold a public hearing on Thursday, September 15, to hear your thoughts on their proposed amendments to the Mayor’s Recommended Comprehensive Plan. The public hearing will take place at Council Chambers, City Hall (600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd Floor) at 2:00 p.m. A sign-up sheet will be available at 1:30 p.m.

You may also share your written comments with the PLUZ Committee by sending to Councilmember Johnson,, by 2:00 p.m. on September 15.

After the public hearing, here’s what happens this fall:

  • Sept. 9 – The PLUZ Committee discusses possible amendments to the Mayor’s Recommended Plan
  • Sept. 15 – Public hearing on proposed amendments
  • Sept. 20 (tentative) – The PLUZ Committee votes on their recommended amendments and then shares with full Council
  • Council votes on the Mayor’s Recommended Plan with Council amendments
  • Our staff will publish the Mayor’s Recommended Plan as amended by Council

Visit to stay updated on the Plan’s progress.

My Thoughts on the North Precinct

On Monday, the Council took action on a resolution regarding the North Precinct, a proposed new facility that would serve most of the residents of District 4. Though much as been made of previous Council discussions on the project, I’ve heard from many constituents that they want to build the new precinct, but that the cost is too high.

During Monday’s discussion, I wanted to avoid “green-lighting” a hard number for the Precinct but did want to gather additional information to make a sound decision. The resolution that was adopted accomplished these goals. Although the real funding decisions ultimately will be made during the budgeting process, I worked to assure that this was expressly spelled out in the resolution. As such, our work on the North Precinct will continue from September through November as we find ways to keep costs down.

Staff at Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) and Seattle Police Department (SPD) have indicated that the design of the precinct is in response to several needs, chief among them being that this facility contains crucial training spaces that SPD needs to remain compliant with the federal consent decree on police use of force and bias free policing. On the other hand, we’ve had lots of public feedback regarding the North Precinct, receiving hundreds upon hundreds of phone calls and emails over the last month and a half, and I’d like to recognize the organizing efforts of the many community based organizations for showing up consistently, making their voices heard, and demanding that we provide additional scrutiny and a new evaluative lens to $160M worth of policing infrastructure.

After hearing multiple points of view, I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless of where you may stand on policing issues, a new precinct at $160M or even $149M is far too large a sum for one building.

As we’ve engaged in conversations and briefings with SPD and FAS as to how and why this project has gone from $88M to more than $160M then through value engineering revised down to $149M, I’ve been frustrated by the difficulty of getting the project costs down. This is why I added language to Section 1 that calls for an additional third-party cost estimation, with that third-party to be selected in consultation with Council. This separate estimation, combined with the use of the City’s Racial Equity Toolkit, will provide Council with crucial information to make a much more well-informed decision for what type of funding will need to be appropriated during the Budget season.

Additionally, as I mentioned this Monday morning during Council Briefing – as a new council member, I’ve been taken aback by the significant cost overruns in several City capital projects:

  • Spending for the Seawall Project is scheduled for an additional $40M in 2016 and $31M in 2017 – $71M over a project originally estimated and advertised to voters at $300M in 2012.
  • Spending for the New Customers Information System by Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities is scheduled for an additional $43M in spending over the approved project budget of $66M in the 2015 Adopted Budget.
  • And, according to a Seattle Times column published in October of last year, the 2003 Fire Levy was $109M over an estimated $197M budget.

In response, Councilmember Herbold and I issued a press release calling for the creation of a new City Capital Projects Oversight Committee. This committee would share characteristics with capital oversight best practices, such as creating a series of systematic check-ins as projects progress, both through planning and construction. Using Sound Transit as an example, I appreciate that as they develop their projects, staff seeks Board authorization at eight points throughout the process, including for preliminary engineering, final design, and baseline budget, which includes total project costs and construction.  The goal of this proposed oversight committee would be to establish a baseline of transparency to help ensure City capital projects – such as the Seawall and North Precinct – remain on time and within budget.

Transparency should be the name of the game as we develop our capital facilities. As a Seattle City Councilmember, I expect the public to hold me accountable for delivering our capital projects on time and within budget, but we need the tools necessary for proper oversight. If City facilities are projected to run over-budget, the Council should have plenty of lead time to develop alternatives or contingencies.

When it comes to the North Precinct, I am looking forward to reviewing the findings of our third party consultant and of the Racial Equity Toolkit. I think these are all necessary and important steps for this project that must be incorporated into any final budgetary decisions. I appreciate the work of my colleagues (particularly Councilmember González) and community activists in shaping the discussion over the past few weeks and months – and hope to continue dialogue with all those wanting to speak out about this project.

Affordable Housing for Every Neighborhood

Today is a very big day for the Planning, Land Use & Zoning committee, as we will vote to send our Mandatory Housing Affordability – Residential (MHAR) framework to Full Council for consideration on Monday, August 15, 2016. As our city continues to grow I believe this framework will help make our city more affordable to people of all walks of life. I anticipate today’s conversation to focus on proposed amendments to the program, three of which I will be bringing to the Committee discussion. These three amendments reflect and respond to some of what I’ve heard out in the community, as I knocked on doors during campaign season, as I have attended neighborhood council meetings throughout my district and across the city, and as I have received comments from folks who took the time to mail, phone, or visit City Hall.

My first amendment proposes more reporting and accountability; I believe we need more review at earlier stages so we can have the flexibility to make changes down the road if things need to be fixed or updated. My second amendment adds specific criteria considering that housing built with payments will be located near market rate housing to ensure we benefit from affordable housing in all our neighborhoods. And my third amendment increases the terms of affordability specifically for units built on site from 50 to 75 years.

Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien, my fellow colleagues on the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee, will also be bringing amendments to the table today. These amendments specifically addresses how MHAR can help deal with the challenges of displacement, a multifaceted issue which will require a coordinated solutions across many departments and initiatives.

These amendments also call out home ownership opportunities, which have always been important wealth building tools for Seattle families. I appreciate these proposed changes as they help address issues of displacement and home ownership and keep these at the forefront of our discussions around MHAR and represent important lenses through which we need to view this program.

Amendment discussion aside, I think today’s committee vote is an incredibly important step toward implementing a mandatory affordable housing program. I also believe it’s important that all developers will be a part of the solution by contributing to affordable housing (either in units or in lieu fees), and that, when added to the commercial framework adopted last year, vastly expands the scope of where the program will apply.

Should the legislation pass through committee today, it will be a huge milestone as we work toward our City’s goal to build and/or preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years. Resulting from years of negotiation and compromise, MHAR is one of the most ambitious efforts Seattle has ever undertaken to address our growing need for affordable housing and will have a very real impact on current residents and future generations of Seattleites.

Reflections On the Tragic Events of Last Week

After providing an initial statement to Seattle Weekly, and receiving many emails and phone calls regarding my thoughts on last week’s events, I felt compelled to provide a full, updated statement on last week’s events in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas.

Like many others in our community and around the country I have had difficulty sleeping over the past week as I contemplate our country’s continued cycle of violence.

As a parent of young children, I continually think about how to keep them safe—from crossing the street, to keeping their small hands off stovetops, and even providing a safe home in which to live. But I have never had to think about the threat of police violence towards my children, nor the pain in having to tell them what to do to avoid it.

As parents and community members we must actively engage in conversations about anti-racist work with our children, our neighbors, our friends, and our families. I send my thoughts to the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as to communities of color in Seattle and beyond.

My heart also goes out to the families of the five police officers that were killed last Thursday in Dallas, and I hope for a quick recovery to the seven other officers who were injured. I would like to commend the Dallas Police Department for their efforts in prioritizing the safety of the public and protestors present that evening. To members of the Seattle Police Department, I can’t begin to comprehend what coming to work must feel like after the violence in Dallas – but I do wish for the safety for those that serve our great city.

As we think about the violence that has happened this past week, we must resist the urge to place blame and divide communities, whether they be police officers or those in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Instead, we must ask ourselves the very personal question of what we can personally do each day to make Seattle a more inclusive and safe place.

It’s important to reiterate today, and every day, that #BlackLivesMatter. It’s also just as important, if not more so, that we come together to reflect and take concrete, actionable steps to ensure that each community, especially Black and Brown communities, feel safe and not in fear of losing their lives whenever they interact with police.

Our City’s next hearing on the Department of Justice’s consent decree on the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and accountability efforts will be held on August 15th. I will be interested to hear what actions council can take to increase police accountability in our city. During upcoming discussions with my fellow Councilmembers, I will be emphasizing increased officer training in use-of-force and de-escalation, increasing local neighborhood representation on our police force, full use of body cameras on every officer, and the permanence of the Community Police Commission.

It is imperative that we expedite this process to assure our residents that recent violent incidents like those that have happened in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas, as well as in Seattle, are not repeated – and that we can renew our efforts to bring trust and safety to all. We must continue to engage in far-reaching, daring conversations with our families, our communities, and our city and take action for a more just world.


Today, media outlets across our region are focusing on homelessness (explore #SeaHomeless). I wanted to highlight the significance of that coordination and add a bit about what our office is doing to help make homelessness rare, brief, and one time.

Recently, I attended a walking tour in the Central District; what began as a discussion with neighbors on the topic of gun violence, zoning changes, and business improvement areas turned into an unanticipated window into the lives of residents in our city experiencing homelessness. As the group walked past an encampment in the Central District, an encampment representative came out, alarmed that we had intentions of asking them to leave. Respecting this response, the walking tour group continued, but I stayed behind and ended up sitting for an hour with encampment residents talking about policies and solutions to ending homelessness.

During my visit, I met a couple who was 9 months and 1 day pregnant – not usually the image most people conjure when they think of homeless individuals. This couple embodied something I’ve seen keenly since stepping into my new role as a Councilmember: that the issue of homelessness so very quickly becomes humanized – every single person has a unique and important story to tell.  This isn’t new of course: Real Change, SKCCH, Facing Homelessness, and dozens of other great organizations have been doing this work for a long time.

Personifying the 4,505 unsheltered people and families found in our 2016 One Night Count (and realizing that is a 19% increase from the previous year) should compel all of us to act. Recognizing that more than 35,000 students in Washington were homeless at some point last year – and nearly 3,000 of those students were from the Seattle School District – demands response. Everyone has the right to basic human decency in our city; whether or not they live in a sanctioned or unsanctioned encampment, people absolutely need to have access to clean water, a place to go to the bathroom, trash pickup, and shelter from the elements (ideally, a roof over their heads). Our homeless students need a place to live so they can be focused on school, not shelter. When faced with these statistics and personal stories one can’t help but feel motivated to take action to create change.

Just a few weeks ago, I joined Michael Ramos of the Church Council of Greater Seattle to convene a group of leaders from the faith organizations in my district (4) to talk about homelessness. Over the course of our conversation, we celebrated the wonderful efforts already happening to serve our community (such as the Elizabeth Gregory Home, Roots, and Teen Feed – just to name a few), and discussed the resources needed to increase efforts. Together, this group set a goal of finding 100 new beds or safe places to sleep in Northeast Seattle before winter of 2016 and have already started mobilizing city and non-profit resources to meet this goal.  We believe we’re already 20% of the way toward that goal in only two weeks.

It’s not nearly enough, but we hope that by demonstrating small successes we can help build a larger public response.  I’m urging all of us to take the state of emergency to heart.  If you can help us in this effort to find additional shelter beds, safe car camping locations, or 24/7 shelter options, please email Geri Morris from my office so we can connect you with city resources and support.

Seattle can be a place where all families can thrive.  We must continue our efforts to increase and preserve affordable housing in our communities.  We must continue to diversify our shelter options to meet the needs of families, couples, people with pets, and more.  We must continue our focus on outcomes, not processes.  Seattle can be a place where all people can live with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

I hope you’ll join us in this effort.