It was a breezy couple of meetings today, but there are lots of notes on things to come.
This afternoon, the Council approved a third six-month extension on a moratorium on redevelopment of mobile-home parks in Seattle. The original moratorium was rushed into place nearly two years ago when it looked like the Halcyon mobile home park in north Seattle — one of only two remaining in the city — was on the market and there were fears that it would be redeveloped, displacing the current residents. Since then, however, Halcyon has been sold to a company that has stated its intention to continue operating it as a mobile-home park, eliminating the immediate crisis.
Nevertheless, the Council has continued to pursue a legislative solution that would preserve the two mobile-home parks as affordable housing. A public document request revealed that both the Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) and the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) have been working on legislation, but the Mayor’s Office has decided that it is no longer interested in a legislative approach and has indicated that it will not be transmitting proposed legislation to the Council. Council members Juarez (who represents North Seattle) and Strauss (whose committee oversees land use policies and legislation) have since picked up the ball. Strauss has said that he expects that this will be the last extension to the moratorium, and that he and Juarez will be bringing forward legislation in the first quarter of 2021.
It’s unclear what that legislation might look like, however. The most obvious idea that has been floated is to create a new type of “mobile home park” zone in the city’s zoning code that would prevent other uses. However, rezoning just two lots in the city is almost certainly a “spot zone,” which courts have repeatedly found to be illegal (including in the recent fight over the Showbox). Before the Mayor’s Office halted work on it, the city drafted (but never published) a SEPA Determination of Non-Significance for land use actions that would define a new “Mobile Home Park” zone type and rezone the two existing parks. Neither Council member Strauss nor Juarez have responded to inquiries as to the content of the legislation they intend to introduce.
This morning, Council President Gonzalez announced that following on the Mayor’s extension of the executive branch’s telework policy through July 5, she will also be extending the legislative branch’s telework policy to that date. Gonzalez said that in case the Governor chooses to let his executive order expire that precludes the Council from holding in-person meetings, she has been working with the legislative branch’s HR Director and the City Clerk to make changes to Council Chambers as well as offices and meeting rooms, to allow employees to more safely return to City Hall.
This morning, the Office of Intergovernmental Relations gave a quick update on the city’s legislative agenda document that the department is preparing. You can read the current draft here. The Council may approve it as soon as next Monday.
This afternoon, Council member Sawant circulated a letter addressed to SPD Interim Chief Adrian Diaz for her colleagues’ signatures. The letter requests that SPD prioritize a public-documents request submitted by the family members of Herbert Hightower Jr. in 2004. The family has received the same frustrating response to-date that those of us in the press, as well as individuals Seattle residents, have received from the department: long delays and constantly slipping target dates. However, Council member Herbold, who chairs the Council’s public-safety committee, said today that she has spoken with Diaz and he informed her that under state law SPD is not allowed to prioritize specific requests.
Herbold also pointed out that the City Auditor issued a report on SPD’s public document request handling in 2015, and as of the Auditor’s 2019 status report several recommendations from that report are still pending.
Council member Herbold announced this morning that her next Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting will be on December 8. Tentatively on the agenda for the meeting:
- an initial discussion on a bill granting subpoena power to the OIG and OPA;
- a briefing from the CoLEAD program;
- an initial discussion on Herbold’s proposal to provide legal defense for people committing certain misdemeanors when related to poverty or mental health/substance abuse issues. Herbold clarified that they will not be discussing a specific bill, but rather the principles behind the proposal.
Council member Strauss announced this morning that his next Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee meeting will be on December 9. On the agenda:
- a public hearing on a contract rezone application;
- Discussion of a proposed update to the construction code;
- An extension to the interim floodplain ordinance;
- Discussion of a tree protection ordinance.
Council member Morales noted this morning that today is the last day to apply for a grant of up to $10,000 for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
This morning Council member Andrew Lewis announced a project that he has been working on with the Third door Coalition for a while: a bill to implement reforms to make it easier and less expensive to build and operate permanent supportive housing in Seattle. Lewis’s bill, which he plans to introduce on next Monday’s Introduction and Referral Calendar, would:
- relax certain land use controls to make PSH easier to build;
- give a formal definition to permanent supportive housing;
- provide a permanent exception from design review for PSH;
- exempt PSH from bike-storage space requirements;
- grant authority for the Director of SDCI to maximize the number of units in a PSH development;
- allow PSH to be sited in Commercial-2 zones as well as multifamily residential zones;
- retain and codify the requirements for community outreach and community relations planning requirements.
Lewis estimated that these changes would reduce the per-unit cost by about $47,000 per unit, from $331,000 to $284,000.
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