The Fremont Bridge goes up to let a catamaran pass.
The Fremont Bridge is a historic bridge and claims to the busiest bascule lift bridge in the world, raising it maintenance needs. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda’s balancing package, released yesterday, would amend Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2022 budget proposal to invest more in street safety, homelessness services, affordable housing, food security, and bridge maintenance. The balancing package would also cut $11 million from the Seattle Police Department (SPD), investing instead in a slew of diversionary programs, crime prevention, and the new Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) replacing some SPD functions.

Most of the amendment backed by the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) coalition (of which The Urbanist is a member) made it through, including $2 million for sidewalks in Southeast Seattle, $1 million for home zone street calming projects, funding to redesign Lake Washington Boulevard, and a proviso pressuring the City to add safe bike and pedestrian facilities on the N 45th Street bridge over I-5. The package decreased Councilmember Tammy Morale’s originally proposed home zones funding figure from $3.75 million, which would decrease the number of neighborhood projects from 18 to 5. Councilmember Andrew Lewis’s proposal to increase the commercial parking tax Downtown helps fund Vision Zero safety improvements and bridge maintenance.

However, $100 million in bridge maintenance bonding — long a priority of transportation chair Alex Pedersen — also made it into the balancing package with the issue of where the estimated $7.6 million in annual debt servicing for the next 20 years will come from remaining mostly unanswered. The package rejects Pedersen’s earlier approach to back bridge bonds with Vehicle License Fee (VLF) revenue, which has traditionally been used for transit service or transit access. The commercial parking tax hike, once its in force, is expected to cover about $3 million in annual debt servicing costs, but $3.1 million in real estate excise tax (REET) was allocated to fill the remaining gap next year. This could become a pattern and drain future transportation budgets from potentially wiser investments.

Additionally, Pedersen’s bridge bonding package barrels ahead in allocating $6 million to design a Magnolia Bridge replacement without grappling with whether a costly 1:1 replacement makes sense or ranks as a high priority next to other transportation needs and climate action goals. The biggest investment at $61 million is seismic upgrades for the Fremont Bridge and Ballard Bridge. None of the bonding investments appear to be in Southeast Seattle. Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez, Andrew Lewis, and Dan Strauss signed on as co-sponsors to the bridge bond amendment.

Rather than stressing bridge maintenance, the Solidarity Budget coalition had urged the City to fund $100 million in additional transit, walking, rolling, and biking investments. The Solidarity Budget (which I assisted in crafting) also urged half a billion dollars in social housing investments to meet the scale of the homelessness and housing affordability crisis and investments. However, the City’s budget forecast update last week showing $20 million less revenue than projected did lead to less budget amendments making it into the balancing package due to lack of funds. An additional $70 million in social housing funding proposed by Councilmember Tammy Morales didn’t make it in.

The balancing package advances a priority for advocates seeking to reform design review by including a request for report from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) laying out the problem and proposing solutions. Pro-housing advocates also pressed for more funding for the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) to staff up for the Comprehensive Plan Update due in 2024 and won $545,000 for that purpose. Those advocates are hoping to reform the City’s zoning and land use to promote housing affordability and racial equity, and have the support of Budget Chair Mosqueda.

JumpStart fix

As with last year’s budget, this year’s has been bailed out and supplemented by the JumpStart payroll tax, which is expected to bring in $235 million next year. Mayor Durkan failed to follow the JumpStart spending guardrails laid out this summer in a unanimous Council vote.

As a result, Chair Mosqueda included an amendment resetting JumpStart spending levels to those parameters. Mosqueda’s office said the tweak is important because funding affordable housing with one-time federal money instead of recurring JumpStart money sets up a fiscal cliff that could see housing investment crash in future budgets. Moreover, the Mayor is setting a dangerous precedent by not following the Council spending plan, they argue. The Mayor opposed the JumpStart tax in 2020 and refused to affix her signature to it as she faced a veto-proof Council majority.

Policing debate continues

Quickly following release of the plan, the issue Mayor Durkan took issue with was decreased police spending.

“After last week’s election results delivered a clear rejection of the City Council’s plans to defund SPD, I was hopeful the Council would listen to voters and address our public safety needs with a real plan,” Mayor Durkan said in a statement. “Instead, it’s déjà vu all over again with Council proposing one of the largest cuts to public safety to date.”

Durkan referred to the election of her friend and ally Bruce Harrell (a former three-term Councilmember and Council President) as her successor. Likewise fund-the-police brewery owner Sara Nelson prevailed against high-profile police critic Nikkita Oliver, who ran on divestment. For his part, Harrell ran on increasing police funding, making police officers watch the nine-minute George Floyd murder video and pledge to not murder people, as well as increasing morale and promoting culture change at SPD with positive encouragement, such as high-fives.

“We need alternatives to armed police responses, and we have significantly ramped up these alternatives. My budget invests tens of millions in those alternatives like the successful community service officer program, HealthOne, the new triage team, and community-led gun violence prevention programs. But when someone calls 911 with a dangerous, potentially life-threatening emergency — we need enough police officers to respond,” Mayor Durkan said.

The Mayor’s statement conveniently ignored actual police data showing that a vast majority of officer time is not spend on violent crime and only about “1% of 911 calls are cases where a rapid response by an armed officer is highly likely to lead to an arrest as a result,” as former police employee Bryan Kirschner put it. Nor does the approach of throwing more money at SPD grapple with what do about a clearance rate and serious crime handled per officer rate that has been falling for decades, even as SPD’s budget ballooned over that same period.

With the election of tough-on-crime Republican Ann Davison as Seattle City Attorney, the Seattle City Council may find its efforts to decrease incarceration at odds with the official tasked with determining which misdemeanors to charge in the city. Davison has promised to ramp up prosecutions and lock up offenders. The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor in Washington State is 364 days so a lock-them-up approach can provide a temporary salve at best and more often traps people in a cycle of poverty.

Below are the amendments enumerated for a few choice departments:

Transportation Amendments

  • Request that OPCD report on options for Stone Avenue North, proposed by Juarez (p. 233)
  • Add $200,000 of Transportation Fund to SDOT for redesign of Lake Washington Boulevard, proposed by Morales (p. 234)
  • Add $25,000 of GF to SDOT for adaptive cycle programs, proposed by Strauss (SDOT-003-B-001, p. 236)
  • Proviso $2.5 million in SDOT for the Citywide Integrated Transportation Plan, proposed by González (p. 238)
  • Add $270,000 of Transportation Fund to SDOT for design of pedestrian and streetscape improvements to Ballard Avenue NW, proposed by Strauss (SDOT-005-B-001, p. 239)
  • Request that SDOT report on pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to MLK Jr Way S, sponsored by Morales (SDOT-010-A-001, p. 241)
  • Request that SDOT report on traffic safety analysis and incident reporting, proposed by Morales (SDOT-006-A-001, p. 242)
  • Add $655,000 of REET II Capital Fund to SDOT for the Market to MOHAI (MC-TR-C095) CIP Project, proposed by Lewis (SDOT-102-B-001, p. 243)
  • Add $1 million of REET II Capital Fund to SDOT’s Neighborhood Traffic Control Program (MC-TR-C019) for implementation of additional Home Zone projects, proposed by Morales. (p. 242)
  • Proviso $350,000 in SDOT for improvements to the NE 45th Street crossing of Interstate 5, proposed by Pedersen. (p. 249)
  • Add $2 million of REET I Capital Fund to SDOT’s Pedestrian Master Plan – New Sidewalks (MC-TR-C058) CIP project for sidewalk infrastructure in District 2 and impose a proviso, proposed by Morales (p. 250)
  • Create a new Battery Street Portal Improvements (MC-TRC116) CIP project and add $500,000 of REET II Capital Fund to
  • SDOT for the project, proposed by Lewis. (p. 254)
  • Pass CB 120202 – SDOT Car Share Fee and Code Revision Ordinance, proposed by Budget Committee. (p. 257)
  • Pass CB 120191 – SDOT Street Use Fee Ordinance, proposed by Budget Committee. (p. 259)
  • Pass CB XXXX to increase the Commercial Parking Tax to 14.5 percent; add $1.2 million to the Structures Major Maintenance (MC-TR-C112) CIP project; and add $1.2 million to the Vision Zero (MC-TR-C064) CIP project, proposed by Lewis (p. 261)
  • Amend and pass as amended CB 120198 to issue an additional approximate $100 million of LTGO bonds in 2022; add $3.1 million of REET I Capital Fund to SDOT for debt service; add $1.1 million of REET I Capital Fund and $100,000 of REET II Capital Fund to SDOT’s Structures Major Maintenance (MC-TR-C112) CIP project for design of bridge rehabilitation projects; and add a proviso, proposed by Pedersen. (p. 268)

SPD amendments

  • Request that SPD report on police staffing, overtime, finances, and performance metrics, proposed by Herbold (p. 297)
  • Request that SPD report on its data collection and management practices for Murdered and Missing Indigenous, Women and Girls (MMIWG) cases, proposed by Juarez (p. 299)
  • Proviso salary savings in SPD, proposed by González (p. 300)
  • Cut $4.53 million GF from SPD for sworn salary savings and efficiency savings and impose a proviso, proposed by Herbold (p. 301)
  • Cut $2.7 million GF from SPD for additional staffing plan separations, proposed by Budget Committee (p. 304)
  • Cut $1.3 million GF from SPD’s Community Service Officers program proposed expansion, proposed by Budget Committee (p. 306)
  • Cut $1.09 million GF from SPD for hiring incentives, proposed by Sawant (p. 308)
  • Cut $1.24 million GF from SPD for technology projects, proposed by Budget Committee. (p. 310)

Criminal Legal amendments

  • Request that the City Budget Office (CBO) report on the Community Service Officer (CSO) program, proposed by González (p. 271)
  • Add $879,000 GF and 26 positions to CSCC to address the CSCC’s existing dispatch operational needs, proposed by Herbold (p. 272)
  • Add $400,000 GF and 2.0 FTE Strategic Advisor 2 positions to the CSCC to develop an implementation plan and response protocols for contracted low-acuity 9-1-1 emergency response, proposed by Lewis (p. 274)
  • Add $110,000 GF to FAS and $250,000 GF to HSD for a Victim Compensation Fund and community-based organizational support, proposed by Lewis (p. 276)
  • Add $500,000 GF to HSD for restorative justice programs and impose a proviso, proposed by Morales (p. 279)
  • Add $750,000 GF to HSD for pre-filing diversion contracts with community-based organizations, proposed by Herbold (p. 281)
  • Add $50,000 GF to HSD to contract with an organization to survey national best practices on interrupting gun violence, proposed by González (p. 283)
  • Add $3.5 million GF to HSD to expand a pre-arrest diversion program and impose a proviso, proposed by Herbold (p. 285)
  • Proviso $1.8 million GF in LAW for pre-filing diversion ($1.1 million), pre-trial diversion ($250,000), and Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) ($393,000), proposed by González (p. 287)
  • Add $267,000 GF and 4.0 FTE to LAW to fully staff and expand pre-filing diversion and cut a 1.0 FTE Strategic Adviser 3 position, proposed by Herbold (p. 289)
  • Add $86,000 GF and 0.5 FTE Strategic Advisor 1 position to OIG for public disclosure work, proposed by Herbold (p. 291)
  • Add $661,000 GF to OIRA for the Legal Defense Network, proposed by González (p. 293)
  • Request that SMC report on all fees and fines imposed on a court-involved individual and analyze associated disproportionality, proposed by Herbold (p. 295)

Affordable housing amendments

  • Add $200,000 of fund balance in OH to fund the Home and Hope Program, proposed by Lewis (p. 94)
  • Request that OH and SDCI report on the Notice of Intent to Sell policy and program development, proposed by Mosqueda (p. 96)
  • Request OH to report on services funding for non-permanent supportive housing providers, proposed by Herbold (p. 98)
  • Add $200,000 GF to OH for the Home for Good Program, proposed by Herbold (p. 99)
  • Add $250,000 GF to OH for pre-development costs for an affordable housing project at North Seattle College, proposed by Juarez. (p. 101)
  • Request that funding decisions for OH’s Fall 2021 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) recognize 2022 affordable housing appropriations and request that OH recommend modifications to the Housing Funding Policies, proposed by Mosqueda (p. 103)
  • Request that OH encourage the distribution of rental assistance through food banks and helplines, proposed by Strauss (p. 105)
  • Pass CB 120200 – Creating a new Local Option Operations and Maintenance Fund for the Office of Housing, proposed by Budget
  • Committee (p. 106)
  • Add $145,000 GF to SDCI for consultant support for a rental market study and add 0.5 FTE Strategic Advisor 2 for Property Owner Tenant Assistance Group policy development and implementation, proposed by Strauss (p. 108)
  • Request that SDCI convene a small landlord and tenant stakeholder group, proposed by Lewis (p. 110)
  • Add $1.5 million GF and 1.5 FTE Code Compliance Analysts to SDCI to implement the economic displacement relocation assistance ordinance, proposed by Sawant (p. 111)
  • Add $400,000 GF to SDCI for tenant services contracts, proposed by Sawant. (p. 113)

Homelessness service amendments

  • Proviso $800,000 Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery (CLFR) funds in HSD to support COVID modifications and services at youth engagement centers, proposed by Lewis (p. 115)
  • Add $100,000 GF to HSD to maintain vehicle resident outreach and parking offense mitigation, proposed by Strauss (p. 117)
  • Add $900,000 GF ongoing and $500,000 GF in one-time funding to HSD to create and operate new safe parking lots, proposed by Sawant (p. 119)
  • Add $100,000 GF in one-time funding to HSD to expand homelessness day center services, proposed by Juarez (p. 121)
  • Add $600,000 GF to HSD for administrative costs at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, proposed by Lewis (p. 123)
  • Request a report from the King County Regional Housing Authority on how peer navigators have been incorporated into homelessness outreach, proposed by Mosqueda 125
  • Add $600,000 GF to HSD to expand and enhance tiny house village services, proposed by Lewis 126
  • Add $5 million GF to HSD to address facility needs to expand high-acuity shelter and behavioral health services, proposed by Lewis 128
  • Proviso $10.7 million GF in HSD for tiny home villages, proposed by Sawant 130
  • Add $380,000 GF in one-time funding to HSD for improvements and expansion of a tiny house village, proposed by Herbold 132
  • Add $5.6 million GF to HSD for a one-time increase to service provider contracts and for capacity building, proposed by Mosqueda 134
  • Add $600,000 GF to HSD for a comparable worth analysis of human services jobs, proposed by Herbold 136
  • Request that OH and SMC work with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and Seattle Housing Authority to report on prioritizing housing vouchers for individuals involved in the criminal legal system, proposed by Lewis 138
  • Proviso $100,000 GF in SPU for hygiene trailer service to Camp Second Chance, proposed by Herbold 140
  • Add $1 million GF to SPU for recreational vehicle wastewater and clean-up services, proposed by Sawant 141

Planning and permitting

  • Add $800,000 GF to DON to support planning for the Chinatown/International District, proposed by Morales 212
  • Add $545,000 GF and 1.0 FTE Strategic Advisor 1 to OPCD for the Comprehensive Plan update and impose a proviso, proposed by Strauss 214
  • Request that OPCD prepare a work program and budget for Regional Growth Centers Planning, proposed by Strauss 217
  • Add position authority to non-SDCI review locations to improve permit and inspection times at SDCI and request a report, proposed by Strauss 218
  • Request that SDCI report on Design Review program outcomes, process improvements, and equity, proposed by Strauss 220
  • Pass CB 120190 – SDCI Fee Ordinance, proposed by Budget Committee, 222.
Article Author
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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.