Notes from this morning’s Council Briefing

The Council members came back from their three-day weekend ready to dig in, so there’s lots going on.

Council President Bruce Harrell explained the taxi legislation that will come before his Education, Equity and Governance Committee this week. First, it changes the insurance requirements for participants in the industry to a “B” level — apparently this has bounced up and down over the years. Second, during the provisional period for the taxi license regime the City of Seattle issued 40 Wheelchair Accessible Taxi licenses (WATs).  King County issued another five, which allowed a WAT to drop off someone in Seattle but not to pick up someone within the city. So the legislation issues WAT licenses to those additional five taxis already licensed by King County to increase the overall pool. Harrell begged off other questions about taxi licensing, suggesting that the situation is very messy and he doesn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole, but that there will be a special committee on current issues with taxis.

Council member Johnson’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee  meets this Friday, and will discuss the MHA-residential ordinance, proposed zoning changes in Lake City, and the “growth strategy” elements of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.  Also, he noted that on July 14 there will be a public hearing on zoning changes for Lake City and Bitter Lake, and he will be hosting a discussion on equitable development.

Council member Herbold said that on July 22, her Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee will hopefully be voting on the pending legislation to give tenants protection from discrimination on the basis of income source. She said that there are three issues they are still sorting out: the “first in time” provision, limitations on “preferred employers” programs, and whether short-term rent assistance should be included.

Herbold also noted that she is working with SPD and the City Auditor to address hate and bias crime incidents. There is concern that hate and bias crimes are increasing, but it might be more proactive reporting of those crimes than before.

Herbold mentioned that the federal HUD department last week announced changes to its Distressed Asset Stabilization Program. The City Council sent them a letter in February on the topic.

Also, Herbold brought up the ongoing controversy over the Myers Way Parcels of property in the Delridge area. The city recently issued its preliminary report on disposition of the properties. They have a complicated history: some of the property was purchased as part of the land for the Joint Training Facility but the city was required to buy more land than it needed. It now wants to keep a strip of the land for expansion of the JTF, but has also committed $1 million of sales proceeds to repay an inter-departmental loan that was used to buy the property originally. It also committed to use $5 million of the proceeds to pay for the emergency funding the Council allocated for the Mayor’s State of Emergency on homelessness last November. But many residents of the area would like to see the city retain the property and develop it as open space. Council member Burgess pointed out that proposals to retain the property would also need to include alternative funding for the financial commitments already made. Council member Bagshaw noted that this is only example of city-owned property that residents across Seattle would like to preserve as open space, and she would prefer to see the Council look at every option before releasing property. Council member Juarez related that part of the property has cement kiln dust (CKD) contamination which needs to be cleaned up as part of any sale or development of the property.  The preliminary recommendation is to sell 13 of the 30 acres in the collection; it will proceed through Burgess’ Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee, including a community outreach process (in addition to the one done as part of preparing the preliminary report).

Council member Bagshaw reported that Barb Poppe’s long-awaited report with recommendations on how the city should address the homeless crisis will be presented in her Human Services and Public Health Committee on August 10th. She also noted that at her next committee meeting on July 13th, they will hear a presentation on cleanup efforts in downtown Seattle and addressing the needs of people who are on the street.

Council member Gonzalez circulated two letters for her colleagues to sign. The first, directed to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Naturalization Service, raises concern with a proposed hike in the application fees for becoming a US citizen, which would be a significant barrier for low-income permanent residents. The second letter is to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, regarding their proposed changes to pay day lending rules. The letter notes that their proposed changes are in conflict with Washington’s recent progress on curbing abusive and predatory pay day loan practices.

Council member Juarez announced that on August 13th, from 1-5pm, there will be a “Live in D5!” event at Hubbard Homestead Park in Northgate.  She also let everyone know that her birthday is July 22 — and she’s very excited to turn 40. 🙂