Seattle’s composting program ahead of schedule

Seattle resident Janet Gwilym and her children demonstrate the proper way to compost, recycle or throw away household waste.

The city’s new food waste composting program, launched in January, is way ahead of schedule and is on track by year’s end to recycle about 19,000 additional tons of organic material — the equivalent of 380 rail cars — that otherwise would go to a landfill, Mayor Ed Murray announced today.

Because of the program’s success to date, and to make sure everyone in the city knows the new recycling rules, the mayor said he is suspending the fines that were to have taken effect July 1, and ordering a continued focus on customer education.

“This is great news for Earth Day — great news for any day of the year,” said Murray. “Seattle is only weeks into our nation-leading program, and it looks like we are well on our way to achieving 38,000 additional tons of compost per year, our goal for year three of the program.”

The success of the city’s composting effort means there is an excellent chance that Seattle will achieve its long-term goal of recycling 60 percent of all its waste. In 2013, Seattle diverted 56 percent of its waste away from the landfill by recycling and composting more than 407,000 tons.

A mid-March survey by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) found that 71 percent of Seattleites are aware of the new composting law, but Murray is directing Seattle Public Utilities to conduct additional outreach and education so that all families and businesses understand how to recycle food waste.

In addition to multi-pronged customer outreach earlier this year, Seattle Public Utilities will launch a robust food waste campaign in June, continuing through the end of the year, that will include:

  • Multiple residential customer mailings with educational materials.
  • Targeted outreach and assistance to ethnic communities and businesses.
  • Outreach partnerships with community groups.
  • Customer notices and flyers on garbage cans and dumpsters.
  • Field assistance to businesses, apartments and condos.
  • Paid advertising on TV, Radio, Print and Transit.
  • Online networking and promotion.

“Our family has composted for years. It’s easy, it saves us money because we can have a smaller garbage can, and we feel good about reducing our environmental impact,” said Seattle resident Janet Gwilym. “We can all do this one small thing in the kitchen that results in sending fewer garbage trains to the landfill.”

Seattle’s composting ordinance allows for $1 fines for single household families and $50 fines for multi-family dwellings and businesses who fail to sort food waste from garbage going to the landfill.

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Duwamish River Opportunities Fund seeks proposals

The City of Seattle is seeking applications for community-based projects that enhance the quality of life in Seattle neighborhoods along the Duwamish River. Successful applicants will engage in projects to improve access to the river, support job creation and economic development, increase access to healthy food and other challenges faced by communities along the Duwamish.

“The Duwamish is our city’s river and we are committed to its future,” said Seattle Mayor Murray. “The larger clean-up effort is aimed at mitigating the effects of decades of legacy pollutants. These smaller-scale projects will help restore our community’s access to and enjoyment of the river as an important natural resource.”

This year, the City will fund $250,000 in projects. Prospective applicants are encouraged to attend a community event about the fund on Wed., April 8 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, at Coliman Restaurant, 6932 Carleton Avenue S, in Georgetown. Applications will be accepted through May 15.

Successful projects will:

  • Be developed through a process of community engagement and participation.
  • Have a clear statement of the way the project addresses community priorities, the anticipated results, and the metrics used to measure success.
  • Build linkages among communities and involve a diversity of people and organizations; have engaged project partners.
  • Address an issue important to the success of the Duwamish River communities.
  • Be connected to the long range future of the Duwamish River communities.
  • Have a clear budget and demonstrated capacity to manage funds effectively.

For more information on the opportunity fund, including past awards, visit or email

Seattle’s sixth parklet opens in Uptown; More parklets and ‘streateries’ sidewalk cafes coming

Today, the City of Seattle announced the launch of the next phase of the Parklet Program at the opening of Seattle’s sixth parklet in the Uptown neighborhood. These small public spaces along city streets will be coming to more neighborhoods, and the city will begin partnering with restaurants to launch a new type of sidewalk cafe called “streateries” in Seattle.

Mayor Murray joined members of the Uptown Alliance, KEXP, SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) and neighborhood residents to celebrate the opening of a new public space next to SIFF Cinema. A former parking spot, the Uptown parklet features colorful seating and fencing, a mini library and bike parking. Hosted by the Uptown Alliance, the parklet was funded by private donations and will be maintained by the community.

“Neighbors love parklets because they contribute to a vibrant, active street scene,” said Murray. “We look forward to seeing more of these community gathering spots throughout the city.”

During Seattle’s 18-month Pilot Parklet Program managed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) the public response to parklets, as well as the department’s evaluation of these spaces, indicates overwhelming support for the program. As of today, the program will transition out of its pilot phase and into a permanent, ongoing initiative. The City will be accepting new applications for parklets through March 20.

Murray also announced a new Streateries pilot program that will be managed by SDOT. Streateries are like parklets except the sponsoring restaurant or bar can operate the space as a sidewalk café, providing space exclusively for their customers during their open hours of business. When the bar or restaurant is closed, the space will function as a parklet, open to everyone.

“Many restaurants want to open a sidewalk café, but just don’t have enough sidewalk to do it,” said Murray. “This new concept will support neighborhood businesses and add another interesting element to our street scene.”

SDOT will approve applications for up to 15 streateries under the pilot program. The sponsoring businesses will construct and maintain the area, and provide table service during their open hours. Applications for streateries are also due on March 20.

“Our Parklet Program has enhanced public space in Seattle by successfully partnering with the private sector,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “Through our pilot Streateries Program, we will explore another potential partnership tool for supporting neighborhoods and their business districts.”

More information about the Parklet Program and the Streateries Pilot Program, including a new handbook with detailed information about the application process, is available at

The public is encouraged to share their comments on the program by emailing or writing to:  Seattle Department of Transportation, Attn: Public Space Management Program, PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA 98124-4996.


Mayor Murray nominates Jesús Aguirre to lead parks department

Mayor Murray today nominated Jesús Aguirre to lead Seattle Parks and Recreation as superintendent.

Aguirre has a diverse set of experiences from working as an educator, parks director and – most recently – as State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia. He was selected after a national search.

“This is a pivotal moment for Seattle’s parks,” Murray said. “Seattle is a thriving city growing at a tremendous pace, and we must ensure that the services provided by Parks and Recreation support the increasing and evolving needs and interests of all our residents. Jesús’s leadership will be vital to activating our parks system, improving infrastructure, and securing the future of our parks for generations,” Murray said.

Aguirre turned around an ailing parks system in D.C. by reforming operations, leveraging outside resources and responding to a changing populous and growing urban setting. During his tenure there, Aguirre was able to solve a number of budget challenges, improve operations, revamp parks programs, implement a robust capital improvement program, develop a long-term master plan and receive national accreditation for the agency.

“I am confident that Jesús Aguirre is the leader who can manage our magnificent Department of Parks and Recreation and its talented staff during this exciting time in our City,” said Councilmember Jean Godden, Chair of the Council’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity Committee.

“I am honored to be joining the City of Seattle to help lead a parks system that is already the envy of most of the nation. I look forward to working closely with our communities to develop programming and build and maintain facilities that support these needs and interests of all residents,” Aguirre said.

Murray also praised acting superintendent Christopher Williams for his service in a time of budget cuts and financial uncertainty caused by the great recession. Williams, who is moving to the title of deputy superintendent, has worked at the department since 1992.

“Christopher has been a tremendous asset to our parks, his employees and the city,” Murray said. “I know he will continue his good work in the years ahead as he takes time to work through his ongoing health issues.”

Aguirre will be transitioning into the role over the coming months. He will assume responsibilities on a full-time basis on June 1st pending council confirmation.

Seattle Parks and Recreation manages more than 6,300 acres of public land and 26 community centers – along with trails, pools and boulevards. The department has a $147 million budget in 2015, and about 930 full-time employees.

Celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day of service

Following the annual Garfield High School Martin Luther King, Jr. rally, Mayor Murray, Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas, and Mayor’s office staffers participated in the National Day of Service. The Mayor’s office joined the Nature Consortium, students from the University of Washington, and current Miss Seattle Taryn Smith to plant native trees and spread mulch to help restore the West Duwamish greenbelt.

You can find ways to participate in today’s National Day of Service and beyond by visiting

More photos from today’s event: