Monday, November 12, 2018

Top Urbanist Action: Support MASS Green Sheets, Racial Equity Analysis of Urban Village Strategy

Housing For All protesters at City Hall; (Housing For All)

The Seattle City Council is frantically putting a final budget together with a big day of hearings on Wednesday November 14th. The Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) coalition (of which we are a member) is urging action to preserve important transportation priorities.

We reported that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s budget went all in on adaptive signals–which in practice have put cars first at the expense of people walking, biking, and in transit. It appears adaptive signals will be rolled out in the University District and Denny Way despite concerns about safety and about prioritizing people walking and transit. That’s why MASS’ first ask is a proviso ensuring adaptive signals do not kick pedestrians to the curb like they have on Mercer Street.

Another green sheet that appears to need assistance to get in the budget is Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s green sheet funding a racial equity toolkit to look at whether the city’s urban village strategy squares with its racial equity principles, given that it appears to be siphoning growth away from some of the wealthiest areas of town, including wide swathes of North Seattle, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Madison Park. We have repeatedly advised expanding the number of urban villages or doing away with detached single-family zoning that is putting much of the city off limits to low- and even middle-income folks. It’s also making it harder for low-income folks to afford to stay in Seattle near high quality transit. This suburbanization of poverty isn’t just inequitable, it’s bad for climate too since it forces people to drive more.

Late in the process, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (who is budget chair) added a proviso raiding the Safe Routes to School fund for the general fund in a balancing maneuver. Apparently the Safe Routes part of the budget looked fat because school zone and red light cameras have brought in more tickets and revenue than expected–hardly a sign our streets are already safe enough. The Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) rainy-day fund was also raided to the tune of $1.5 million in another “washing” maneuver as budget wonks call it. MASS advises against using Safe Routes and STBD money as a piggy bank for other causes. Use it as voters were promised.

Sunday Video: The History of Redlining in Seattle


KCTS9 has a very short video on the history of redlining in Seattle and the long-lasting impacts of the practise.

What We’re Reading: New Fast Ferry, Poaching Riders, and Parking E-Scooters


Stepping away: Councilmember Rob Johnson has chosen not to seek reelection in 2019 ($).

Blueburbs: The suburbs helped deliver a progressive victory for the United States House of Representatives to Democrats.

New fast ferry: Kitsap Transit will launch a new passenger-only fast ferry from Kingston to Seattle ($) after Thanksgiving.

Safer streets: More pedestrian safety improvements are on the way for Capitol Hill.

More Thurston transit: Thurston County voters have chosen to pass a tax increase to expand Intercity Transit service.

Missing Middle Commercial: Strong Towns says that there is a missing middle for commercial spaces, too.

Rejecting safe streets: Bainbridge Island voters rejected a safe streets tax package.

Redlining Cleveland: Brazen redlining is underway in Cleveland.

Poaching riders: Uber and Lyft are carrying more riders in Seattle than light rail.

MAX extension approved: Portland has approved a new light rail extension project.

Now cars, too: Lime will bring mini-electric cars to Seattle but not e-scooters.

An inconvenient problem: The carbon fee initiative fell short of the votes necessary to be enacted.

The ed levy: Seattle voters passed a sweeping education levy tax package to be administered by the city.

Parking e-scooters: Santa Monica is trialing e-scooter parking corrals.

Winning transportation: Transportation measures faired pretty well across America on election night.

Solidly blue governance: Democrats in Washington state will expand their majorities greatly in the state legislature.

Gangsta Phone Etiquette, Deep Breaths & Kindness Rising


It’s the urban fashion du jour for how to hold a phone, and it confounds me.

You hold your phone, which is not on speakerphone, like a fragile radioactive pebble of a walkie-talkie, and you constantly switch from holding the phone to your ear to listen, and more often holding it flat directly in front of your mouth to spew into. I see this only in inner-city urban areas, or amongst young people pretending to be from urban inner-city areas. None of these fine folks were alive early enough to know how to operate a CB radio, but that’s exactly how they use their smartphones. I’m perfectly willing to understand others’ idiosyncrasies, but it seems to me about as useful as the inner-city side grip method of firing a gun, which does nothing except make aiming extraordinarily difficult, and became popular only because it was used by fictional gangster characters in 1990s-era movies and TV shows.

Car Tabs Was Not a GOP Cudgel: Democrats Dominated in Sound Transit Taxing District

Light rail car at Angel Lake Station. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)

Ultimately, Washington State Democrats did not pass a bill lowering car tab valuations last session despite Republicans and drive-time conservative radio hosts driving a lot of uproar about it. Some predicted this would spell doom for suburban Democrats. That didn’t happen in the midterms. Instead, Democrats were on the offensive gaining seating and losing exactly none in the Sound Transit Taxing District.

In fact, State Sen. Maralyn Chase lost her seat to fellow Democrat Jesse Salomon in LD32 likely in part due to her vote to take a big bite–perhaps as large as $2.1 billion–out of Sound Transit’s budget via the senate’s car tab bill.

The justification for Democrats pushing a car tab bill in the first place was to defend suburban Democrats from angry constituents and calm future backlash. Democratic leadership said as much in defending why they brought up the bill despite Democratic control of both chambers. This was about winning the next transit measure, Democratic State Sen. Strom Peterson wrote in our questionnaire.

Nonetheless, after midterms, the only Sound Transit Taxing District seats that Republicans will be representing are in LD25 and LD31, deep red areas of Pierce County. Many Republicans ran on a $30 car tab slate, taking their cues from Tim Eyman. It didn’t work (which is lucky since this could have blown a $8 billion hole in Sound Transit’s budget). The Sound Transit 3 ballot measure didn’t win Pierce County in the first place so this is not entirely a change of opinion on the matter. That leaves about 22 other Sound Transit taxpaying legislative districts from Everett to Orting where Democrats swept. This is simply a dominant performance far from a rebuke for car tabs.

As Mayor’s Budget Adds Police, SPD Data Shows 911 Calls Massively Tilted Toward Traffic


This month, the Seattle Police Department released a new tool for Seattle residents to get an idea of how many “calls for service” the department responds to. The Call for Service Dashboard displays a call type for any time period, neighborhood, or precinct.

Calls for Service Dashboard on (City of Seattle)

The dashboard is a good way to visualize what areas of the city place demands on the Seattle Police Department (SPD), as opposed to where crimes are occurring—SPD has the Crime Dashboard for that.

What stands out like a sore thumb in the Calls for Service dashboard is the high amount of traffic-related calls: in nearly every neighborhood they occupy the most space in the breakdown of calls by call group. It calls for us to imagine a city where one of the primary duties of the police department is not to respond to traffic collisions and cite traffic infractions.

Carbon Fee Goes Down, but Democrats Make Midterm Gains

Forest fire smoke descended on the taxpayer-funded Mariners stadium this August. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Let’s start with the bad news. Initiative 1631 did not pass and Washington state will not have a fee on carbon pollution to invest a billion dollars per year in clean energy. Other progressive-minded ballot initiatives had a solid night though. I-940 (a police accountability measure) passed easily with 59% in returns thus far. I-1639, a gun safety measure, also passed decisively, carrying more than 60% of the vote on election night. All three of these ballot measures were endorsed by The Urbanist.

In other positive news, Kim Schrier won, meaning Democrats picked up the 8th Congressional District seat vacated by retiring Representative Dave Reichert. Dino Rossi loses yet again. No other Washington state congressional districts changed hands. Senator Maria Cantwell easily coasted to reelection as well, surpassing 58%.

What the Carbon Fee Defeat Means

I-1631 carried only 43.7% of the election night vote, strongly suggesting remaining votes to be counted aren’t enough to close the gap. I had hoped the carbon fee’s more political savvy approach (where revenues were invested in popular clean energy initiatives rather than used to reduce other taxes like I-732 tried to do in 2016) would pay dividends. It looks like I-1631 will do better than I-732 but not by nearly enough to score a win.

The carbon fee only carried in three counties: King, Jefferson, and San Juan. In King County the measure managed to run a 57.3% to 42.7% margin, but that wasn’t enough to carry the whole state with huge margins in the other direction for other counties. Notably, I-1631 carried only 36% in Pierce County and 39% in Snohomish County, the next two most populous counties after King County, which has about a 30% of the state’s population. 34% in Spokane County was also a dismal result.

Top Urbanist Action: Vote Out the Bums

Seattle skyline from Uptown roof.

Well it’s Election Day and polls close at 8pm. Find your nearest ballot box here or drop it in the mail box in time to get postmarked today. No postage necessary this year. There’s no rule against procrastination. Get that ballot in.

Here how The Urbanist Election Board landed in our endorsements:

  • Yes on I-1631 – Carbon Pollution Fee that invests in clean energy
  • Yes on 1-1639 – Gun Safety
  • Yes on 1-940 – Police Accountability
  • Adam Smith for 9th Congressional District – “Rep. Smith spoke in depth about a federal approach to preventing sprawl and making sure our communities are connected through robust transportation. He supports a higher capital gains tax on all real estate, nationwide inclusionary zoning, and phasing out the home mortgage interest deduction.”
  • No endorsement in LD21 – ” Even with his car tab chicanery, urbanists probably will end up holding their noses and voting for Strom Peterson in Legislative District 21A. But we’re not telling you to be excited about it.”
  • Melanie Morgan for LD29A – “[Morgan’s] personal experience and perspective is that of someone who values affordable housing, public transit, and equity in education.”
  • Victoria Mena for LD31A – “Victoria Mena absolutely nailed our questionnaire. She opposes cuts to Sound Transit 3 budget and supports “massively” increasing the funding for the state Housing Trust Fund, I-1631 (and further climate action), and safe bicycling infrastructure.”
  • Rebecca Saldaña for LD37 – “The Urbanist is excited to endorse Rebecca Saldaña in her race for State Senate in the 37th district. Saldaña has been a champion for issues we care about, such as affordable housing and transportation. Prior to her first election, she led Puget Sound Sage and pushed Seattle to pursue land value capture via a linkage fee. Over time and through negotiation, that effort morphed into inclusionary zoning and the Seattle for Everyone coalition. Without Puget Sound Sage’s political organizing, none of that would’ve happened and she deserves an immense amount of credit.”
  • Nicole Macri for LD43A – “In the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis in communities across Washington with people struggling to pay their rents or mortgages, Macri was at the forefront of legislative efforts that yielded the most resources to address these problems in over ten years. As prime sponsor of a bill that included the biggest increase in funding for homeless and housing assistance providing $27 million in new resources annually, Macri intends to further her efforts in the 2019 session.”
  • Vote Yes on Shoreline Proposition 1 to Fund Sidewalks
  • Vote Yes on Intercity Transit Proposition 1 in Thurston County
  • Vote Yes on Lewis County’s Twin Transit Expansion