Notes from today’s Council meetings

The Council has several oars in the water at the moment. Here’s what’s up.

This afternoon, the Council unanimously passed Bea’s Law, which fills a gap in the city’s paid family leave program when an infant dies shortly after birth.

Council member Pacheco announced this morning that his Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting Wednesday morning will take up:

  • design guidelines for Capitol Hill and Ballard;
  • an expansion to the Seattle Pacific University Major Institution Master Plan that would incorporate some neighboring industrial sites;
  • a temporary expansion to SPD’s North Precinct site;
  • an ordinance clarifying the definition of a “vessel.”

Council member Baghsaw noted that her next Finance and Neighborhoods Committee meeting on June 12 will mainly focus on the confirmation of Bobby Humes as Director of the Human Resources Department.

Council member Herbold updated her colleagues on the state of the effort to save the Showbox music venue from redevelopment:

  • tomorrow evening there is a public hearing on legislation extending the temporary expansion of the Pike Place Market Historical District boundaries to include the Showbox, while a study is completed.
  • This morning, several community groups, including Historic Seattle, Friends of the Market, and the Pike Place Market Foundation sent a joint letter to the Council asking them to pass the extension. The letter spins several paragraphs of flowery, feel-good language while managing not to say anything of substance. Nevertheless it’s notable for its inclusion of some groups that opposed the original boundary extension.

  • Herbold said that the Department of Neighborhoods expeccts their consultant to deliver their report, with recommendations, by the end of June. If it recommends permanent expansion of the historical district, a SEPA review will need to be completed as the next step.
  • Separately, on Wednesday there is a hearing on whether to give landmark protections to the current building containing the Showbox. The landmarks board has in the past declined to extend the building landmark status — twice.
  • Finally, Herbold noted that while there have been ongoing negotiations with the owner on a “stand still” agreement related to the ongoing litigation, those negotiations have broken down and are currently at a standstill.

Council member O’Brien reminded his colleagues that there is a public hearing on June 11 related to the pending legislation to loosen restrictions on backyard cottages and tighten rules on “McMansions. ” That legislation will be back in committee on June 18th, when he hopes to vote on any potential amendments and then vote the legislation out of committee.

Much of this morning’s Council Briefing was dedicated to a briefing from the city’s Small Business Advisory Council. After a short overview, Council President Harrell prodded them into a frank conversation about the city’s reputation as s difficult place to run a small business. Members of the advisory board made several points:

  • Seattle is recognized nationwide as a difficult place for small businesses.
  • ┬áBy comparison, Redmond is much friendlier, especially judged by their permitting and other processes, which one advisory board member described as streamlined, much easier, and low-cost. She also noted that Redmond city staff reach out to her on issues, rather than her having to learn to navigate the city bureaucracy, and that trach pickup in Redmond costs half of what Seattle charges.
  • The city’s budget for supporting small business is very small, in the eyes of the advisoory board members.
  • There was much concern that the Office of Labor Standards, which is tasked with both educating business owners and enforcing labor laws, is not able to maintain the neutral status expected of it. One board member admitted that it is intimidating to call OLS and say “I don’t know if I’m in compliance.”
  • There was discussion of the need for follow-up, now that the MHA legislation has passed, to identify more commercial spaces for small businesses.
  • Board members said that they believed more small businesses would be supportive of increased density in Seattl if it was easier to get a lease and if landlords offered the same incentives to small business owners that they offer to larger companies with multiple storefronts. They complained that commercial landlords are willing to wait on leasing out larger commercial spaces (instead of subdividing them for smaller businesses) until the perfect tenant comes along.

Council member Mosqueda tried to argue back against the perception that Seattle is not friendly to small businesses, citing the Forbes article from last October that ranked Seattle as the “best city for business and careers.” (the article lists several Seattle-area big businesses, but says nothing about small businesses) She did admit that there need to be policy changes to streamline permitting and other processes, and she said she is interested in delaying fees for the first three years for new companies.

Council President Harrell noted that it’s not clear who in city government “owns” responsibility for having an advocate/navigator for small business owners, but he wants to resolve that in time for this fall’s budget negotiations.


One comment

  1. Nice recap on the small business advisory group report. Sounds like there are a lot of frustrating challenges and hurdles. Thanks.

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