Sunday, 24 March, 2019

Consistency

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​Just a quick note of thanks today, as only he could say it~

“Listen. Listen,” he said to me.
“Please,” I answered.
“You got to stop!! You just about the biggest player I’ve EVER seen hustlin’ on the street! You a boss player leadin’ the future, man.”
I couldn’t help laughing at—with—his ebullient rush-roar of enthusiasm. “Naw dude, you know I’m just trying to be like you!”
“Hold up. Hold up.” Shaking his head. “No. You… BRINGIN’ that beautiful energy like I ain’t never seen. I don’t even know you but Iknow, I could tell you’s a good kind hearted man with a good soul. Don’t never change that, lil’ bro. No matter what they say, don’t never change that. Unless it’s about the money!! I’m just playin’. Really though. You got to keep it just like you been keepin’ it cause this is special. Ah wanna extend a happy New Year and best wishes to you and all of your family. What’s your name?”
“Nathan. And yours?”
“CJ.”
The firm handshake. The manshake, first to solar plexus afterwards, a thing we somehow knew, giving different voice to the same unstoppable seed. Love. 

He called it out again, and I heeded his call with the gladness and serious weight I would have ascribed the same command were it to come from the Gods of our ancestors, the artists we trust, the philosophers and sages of old, and I felt all their voices in his, now, a gravelly-throated grinning stranger not much different from myself:

​”Don’t change!”

Homeless Bill of Rights Fizzles Out This Session but Advocates Continue to Lay Groundwork

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Tents in Pioneer Square. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

As the affordability crisis in the Puget Sound region pushes more of our neighbors on the street, law makers and advocates continue to search for humane and cost effective ways to end unsheltered homelessness. House Bill 1591, the ‘Homelessness Bill of Rights’ works towards this goal, through protecting the basic constitutional rights of individuals with no alternative besides sleeping in public.

The text of the bill is straightforward — cities within Washington should stop criminalizing homelessness, allowing them to redirect funds spent on enforcement and incarceration towards investments in evidence-based practices for ending homelessness, such as supportive housing. This approach is based on multiple studies showing that the criminalization of homelessness is counterproductive, as well precedents from around the country and the world. Although so called ‘quality of life’ laws aimed at clearing our streets and plazas of public displays of poverty have recently grown in popularity, they are frequently challenged in court and often struck down as unconstitutional. HB 1591 thus builds upon current judicial decisions and helps protect Washington municipalities from potential lawsuits.

Despite these benefits, the bill has faced pushback. Reiterating the civil rights of those experiencing homelessness requires us to confront deeply seated social stigmas, and ask hard questions about what has forced hundreds of thousands of individuals to live in third world conditions in a region with one of the nation’s premier economic engines. This stirs fears in some that protecting those forced to live in public view could lead to safety and health concerns in these spaces. HB 1591 did not pass out of committee before the cutoff for legislation this session, and the coalition which authored the legislation is now examining how to incorporate thoughtful community outreach and best practices into the next draft.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mia Gregerson (SeaTac-D), has seen the impact of the region’s affordability crisis for longer than most. As a native of SeaTac, she saw the impact of rising rents and stagnant wages in her largely working class district before more affluent neighborhoods to the north began to feel the pressures of displacement. When King County declared a homelessness state of emergency in 2015 she was already familiar with the human toll.  To address the crisis, Rep. Gregerson reached out to a diverse set of affordable housing and homelessness experts to ask what policies they felt would be most effective. Sara Rankin, a law professor and director of the Homelessness Rights Advocacy Project at Seattle University advocated for a “Homelessness Bill of Rights.”

New Library Levy Proposes Small Steps Forward for Access

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Last week, Seattle got a look at the proposed update to the Seattle Public Library’s capital and operations levy, replacing the one expiring this year. While the new levy proposal expands access, it should go even further.

The proposal is mostly a necessary continuation of vital programs offered by the Seattle Public Library: the expiring levy, approved in 2012 at $123 million over seven years, would need to increase to $167 million just to provide the same amount of services for 2020-2026. The mayor’s proposal would add an additional $45.9 million to fund a small set of additional operating and capital projects, or less than $7 million per year. That extra funding is getting devoted to a few different areas of focus.

Added Operating Hours

Currently several Seattle Public Library branches are closed on Fridays, one last vestige of an earlier period of austerity at the library. The levy would reopen the New Holly, Green Lake, Delridge, and Wallingford branches on Fridays.

Every library would get some hours boost–albeit small in some cases. (City of Seattle)

In addition, several branches have abbreviated hours compared to larger ones: South Park, International District, and High Point would see additional morning hours (some days those branches open at 1pm) and evening hours (some days they close at 6pm).

MASS Coalition Urges Transit Priority Along All of Third Avenue

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On Thursday morning, the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition–which includes The Urbanist as a member–issued a statement urging the City of Seattle to extend Third Avenue bus lanes through Belltown. Currently, the bus lanes stop at Stewart Street. The call comes on the eve of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel converting to rail-only operations to make way for the Washington State Convention Center Addition and light rail expansions to the Eastside, Northgate, and eventually Lynnwood, Federal Way, and beyond.

This operational change means more buses will move to highly congested Downtown surface streets during the Period of Maximum Constraint, or otherwise known as the Seattle Squeeze. MASS warned that this could spell trouble:

On Saturday, buses will permanently move out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) leading to 830 new bus trips on already crowded surface streets in Downtown Seattle. The city has made important improvements with the new 5th/6th Avenue bus lanes and implementation of all door boarding on 3rd Avenue. But given the need to further prioritize transit, today the MASS Coalition is calling on the City to extend bus priority on 3rd Avenue from Stewart Street to Denny Way. It works well south of Stewart, and should be extended the length of downtown.

Here is why: 3rd Avenue is the busiest bus corridor in the country. Even before coming additions from the DSTT, bus routes carrying more than 100,000 riders use 3rd Avenue every weekday between Stewart and Denny. Yet this section of 3rd Avenue still prioritizes single-occupant vehicles and parking–even though it carries only 7,300 cars a day. Slowing down the 100,000 commuters that use 3rd Avenue is needlessly costing their time and squandering King County Metro service hours.

This improvement may be the most impactful of the 20 specific bus priority projects that the MASS Coalition outlined in its plan for the Seattle Squeeze. By adopting this proposal, the City can demonstrate that it is prepared to continually improve city streets for transit over the five years of the Seattle Squeeze.

Several coalition members explained why they support this effort.

“For people working downtown who can’t afford downtown housing or parking, how about treating them like we really value their contribution to our city?” said Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union. “Bus riders deserve a fast ride into downtown.”

Mayor Durkan Signs into Law Mandatory Housing Affordability Rezoning 27 Urban Villages

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Mayor Jenny Durkan displays the signed bill to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at Capitol Hill Housing. Photo by author.

The bills’ signage marks the end of a long fight by housing advocates to get affordability requirements enshrined in Seattle law.

Before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed legislation authorizing “citywide” implementation of Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) into law yesterday March 20th, 2019. MHA changes zoning laws in Seattle’s 27 City-designated urban villages to allow for larger developments with more housing. It also requires that new development include rent-restricted affordable homes (ranging from 5% to 11% of units depending of the intensity of the upzone) or contribute to a City fund for affordable housing. The Seattle City Council passed the legislation unanimously on Monday.

The bill will take effect in thirty days.

Instead of Seattle City Hall, the signing ceremony was held at 12th Avenue Arts, an arts center and nonprofit housing development built by Capitol Hill Housing that offers 88 apartments affordable to working families.

One of the original residents of 12th Avenue Arts, a Russian immigrant whose fashion designer wife immigrated to the US from Korea, spoke of the importance of affordable housing for preserving Capitol Hill’s culture of creativity and diversity. “Here we have a lot of musicians, artists, and… writers,” he said. “All these people would not be living here without this building. The very reason why this area is interesting is because it attracts these people… without us, we would not have Capitol Hill.”

The importance of increasing both housing capacity and contributions to affordability in order to retain diversity in Seattle was also referenced by Mayor Durkan, who said:

We make sure we do what we need to do create a city that is welcoming, increases diversity, pays attention to racial diversity, focuses and is centered on community, and [MHA] is a big step forward for doing that. If we want to be an equitable city, that city of the future and opportunity, we have to make sure that all people are not just welcome here, but can live here.

Open House Kicks Off Station Area Planning for 130th and 145th Street Light Rail

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Councilmember Debora Juarez asks everyone to be on the same team during this process, in response to an attendee’s attempt to monopolize the introductions with a specific concern. (Photo by Laura Loe)

Light rail is coming to North Seattle and in transit-years, 2024 is just around the corner!

The City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) hosted an open house on March 13th at Ingraham High School in North Seattle. For two hours, the room was buzzing with discussion as residents imagined what they want the future to look like for the neighborhood.

The event was also attended by Councilmember Debora Juarez, Sound Transit, King County Metro, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Office of Housing, and Seattle Department of Transportation representatives. Community members had opportunities to provide feedback about transit connections, sidewalks, future development and express concerns about parks and equity. There were more than one hundred people in attendance.

The term “station area” typically refers to the area around a station that is accessible within a ten-minute walk. On flat terrain, this roughly correlates to a half-mile walk. OPCD will also study a larger area to understand how the new stations can be accessible by bus, bike, people on wheels, and, of course, cars. (Credit: City of Seattle)

CD4 Candidate Cathy Tuttle Pledges to Weigh Climate Impact in Every Council Decision

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For the last year and a half, Seattle City Council candidate Cathy Tuttle has been traveling the world and consulting on topics related to urban planning. Major projects included a stint in Hawaii, where Tuttle spent two weeks on each of the four major islands studying the problem of pedestrian fatalities, particularly among elderly Hawaiians.

Hawaii has one of the highest fatality rates for elderly pedestrians in the US. During her time as a consultant, Tuttle brought together four different mayors and city councils, encouraging them to share data in order to better understand the factors contributing to the high rate of pedestrian deaths. Her work helped result in the adoption of a Vision Zero plan by the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Maui. 

If Tuttle’s work on Maui sounds like the apex of many urban planners’ aspirations, just wait. She also recently spent a revelatory two months in Spain studying how infrastructure design can result the creation of healthier and more sustainable cities.

Tuttle, who holds a PhD in urban design and planning and over the past decades has been at the helm of various grassroots environmental non-profits, is one of Seattle’s best examples of a grand dame for sustainable urbanism.

Thus it is difficult to imagine that an encounter with a new city could be revelatory for Tuttle; however, Pontevedre, a city of about 85,000 inhabitants on Spain’s northwest coast, proved to be the case. What was initially planned as a short visit fanned out into weeks–and ever since leaving Pontevedre, Tuttle has been eager to return.

“Pontevedra has the largest pedestrian area I have ever been to,” said Tuttle, “It is dense, lively and beautifully maintained. And because it has existed for twenty years, they have been able to perfect all the small details, like where to place the benches, what kind of lighting to have, where to locate green space.”

Seattle Explores Transportation Impact Fees

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Comparison of impact fees of peer cities and fee type for single-family residential units. (City of Seattle / Fehr and Peers)

Impact fees have been on the radar in Seattle for many years now. The city is the largest jurisdiction in the state to forego collection of transportation impact fees on new development, despite authority to do so. To right this wrong, the Seattle City Council issued a Statement of Legislative Intent in November 2018 to begin the process of looking at the issue anew. In doing so, Council Central Staff took over the reins from the executive branch, which let the issue languish for several years after completing a white paper.

How Transportation Impact Fees Could Be Imposed

Last March, the Seattle City Council was briefed on transportation impact fee options. Kendra Breiland of Fehr and Peers laid out the framework and possible policy choices before the city council. “First and foremost, the program should be structured to fund projects that align with Seattle’s values,” she said. “A piece of that is really funding innovative projects. So, thinking about projects that really address Seattle’s values, thinking about Greenway projects, thinking about off-board fare payment.”

Breiland pointed to many of the transportation projects to be funded through the Move Seattle levy as good candidates for impact fees funding. Broadly speaking, she said that impact fees could directly facility a host of progressive transportation improvement priorities in the city, including:

  • Sidewalk expansions and gaps in the pedestrian network within right-of-ways. That means that impact fees could be focused on efforts to improve pedestrian access to transit facilities, advance many Safe Routes to School projects, and provide equity to areas that have long-missed out on sidewalks in the north and south ends of the city.
  • New bicycle infrastructure which could realize many aspects of the Bicycle Master Plan, such as the Basic Bike Network, Neighborhood Greenways, and general bike facility capacity improvements.
  • Transit improvements in the right-of-way, such as transit signal priority, off-board fare payment, bus lanes, bus stops, and other transit improvements within streets. Operational and added equipment to fleets, however, would not be eligible for impact fee funding.
  • Strategic freight improvements throughout the city.
  • Lastly, rails-to-trails corridors like the Burke-Gilman Trail  which are considered a right-of-way under state law and therefore are possible transportation facilities eligible for strictly pedestrian and bicycle investments.