Murray proposes funding plan for additional police officers

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today proposed a funding plan to finance the hiring of 200 new police officers and investments in the City’s 911 call center as proposed in his 2016 State of the City address.

Murray will finance the expansion of the Seattle Police Department through reprioritizing existing resources, identifying efficiencies and by increasing selected fees and taxes on Seattle businesses.

“Public safety is the paramount duty of local government,” said Murray. “As one of the fastest growing cities in America, we face serious strains on our public safety resources that must be addressed. Today, I am proposing a specific funding plan for public safety investments that strikes a balance between new revenues and reprioritizing existing resources.”

The addition of 200 officers by the end of 2019 would grow Seattle Police Department to 1,464 officers, the highest in the history of the department. This level of expansion is in line with the recently completed police staffing study conducted by Berkshire Advisors.

“We must also ensure that we are using existing police resources most effectively, especially with regard to crime prevention,” said Murray. “We will enhance our community engagement and outreach, police visibility, and proactive relationship-building across the city.”

The cost of the new officers, improving the 911 call center and other information technology investments will cost $37 million per year. Murray is proposing to raise $14 million in new revenues and fund the other $23 million (nearly two-thirds of the necessary funding) from existing resources. Roughly half of the General Fund resources has already been approved by council for hiring additional police officers.

The proposed increases in taxes and fees on Seattle businesses are:

  • 2 percent increase over two years in the existing Business and Occupation (B&O) tax rates, which have not risen since 1991, generating $8.4 million per year. A retail business with $1 million in revenues would pay an additional $70 a year.
  • Restructuring and increasing the City’s Business License fee, with fees increasing in five steps depending on the size of the business, generating $5.8 million per year. The smallest businesses would see a license fee increase of $25 a year.

Seattle is already on track to hire 120 additional officers by 2017, a commitment made the mayor made in 2014.

Incoming calls to SPD’s 911 call center call have placed a growing strain on the current system. Call center volumes have increased by 13 percent since 2010. The call center will be adding staff and making technology investments to handle the growing number of calls for service.

Other technology investments at the department include technology infrastructure to support body worn cameras for officers and a new time tracking tool to help manage officer overtime.

Last week, Murray announced that he had identified existing funds to construct a new $160 million North Precinct and would not send a public safety levy to the voters in 2016 or 2017.

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Murray seeks improvements to Seattle Preschool Program

Today Mayor Ed Murray is asking the City Council to approve key adjustments to the Seattle Preschool Program in response to community feedback to allow more flexibility in the program’s policies without compromising classroom quality. The policy changes are designed to be more responsive to family needs, and to strengthen partnerships with high-quality preschool providers.

“The Seattle Preschool Program was developed as a demonstration program to learn how we can best provide high-quality preschool to Seattle children,” said Murray. “We are eager to continuously improve to better serve our kids and our program partners.”

The proposed policy changes would allow the City to honor families’ desire to minimize transitions in the early childhood years. The proposed change would allow the Seattle Preschool Program to “grandfather-in” children rising from toddler classrooms into preschool classrooms. Additionally, the mayor is proposing, where possible, to prioritize students’ matching to preschools located at the elementary school that they will later attend for kindergarten.

The Mayor has also proposed to accelerate the development of a curriculum waiver process. This allows more high-quality providers to be Seattle Preschool Program eligible by opening up to programs that have invested in training and support for an evidence-based curriculum that is not currently utilized in the Seattle Preschool Program.

This current school year, the Seattle Preschool Program served over 250 children across the City. Next year, the program will grow in both number of children served and classrooms offered. Applications are still being accepted for enrolling 3-year old or 4-years old into a classroom for the 2016-2017 school year. Please visit www.seattle.gov/education to apply or call (206) 386-1050.

Seattle also funds supports for classroom teachers by providing access to higher education programs and funding to attend those programs. Teachers are supported with curriculum training and ongoing in-class coaching.

“Our desire is to make this program the best it can be for Seattle’s children and families. We anticipate that over the next few years we will continue to learn more about how we can create a program that provides the best opportunities to our youngest learners,” said Monica Liang-Aguirre, Director of Early Learning for the City’s Department of Education and Early Learning.

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Mayor proposes ordinance to require all new residential multifamily developments contribute to affordable housing

MHA press conference

Mayor Ed Murray today unveiled his proposal to enact a residential Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA-R) program, which will require that new multifamily residential development in Seattle contribute to affordable housing, either with affordable homes in the building or payments to help construct them throughout the city.

The measure is the next step of implementing the Grand Bargain, an agreement between affordable housing advocates and private developers that will create an estimated 6,000 affordable homes in Seattle over the next ten years.

“As Seattle grows, we can ensure that people of all backgrounds can find affordable homes in walkable, livable neighborhoods,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Everyone who works in Seattle should be able to afford to live here. We will continue our community engagement process to find the right balance for businesses, residents, and advocates so that we are smart about how and where we grow.”

“The Mandatory Housing Affordability framework is an innovative, permanent solution which will provide our city with a continual source of new affordable housing,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson. “We owe this not just to our current residents, who are struggling with increasing housing costs, but to future residents who will benefit from the units we create today and tomorrow.”

“As rents climb, people face the prospect of displacement or even homelessness, and this component of the comprehensive housing affordability strategy is essential to keeping lower-income workers housed in Seattle,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, District 6, Northwest Seattle. “I look forward to collaborating with the community as we move toward implementation of this mandatory housing affordability program.”

Key features of the MHA-R framework are:

  • Requires inclusion of affordable housing or in-lieu payment to support affordable housing in zones that have been granted additional development capacity.
  • Applies any time one or more new dwelling units, live/work units, or congregate residence sleeping rooms are constructed or added to an existing building.
  • Rental housing created would serve households with incomes no greater than 60% of area median income (AMI) for a term of 50 years.
  • Ownership housing created would serve households with incomes no greater than 80% of AMI for a term of 50 years.
  • Funds received through the in-lieu payment option will be used to produce or preserve affordable housing, primarily for renter households with incomes equal to or less than 60% AMI.

The new multi-family developments will set aside five to eight percent of units as affordable for residents earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for 50 years. In 2016, 60 percent of AMI is $38,000 for an individual and $54,000 for a family of four.

“Seattle is my home and I am seeing many in my community being forced to leave.  Some are planning for it and some are barely holding on,” said Casey Gifford, neighborhood affordability advocate. “While our community has seen change, that change has come with less affordability.  The Mandatory Housing program will require affordability as we grow, and make some new options for those that may want to stay.”

Current market rates for a newer one-bedroom unit range from $1,399 to $1,887 in Seattle. The table below shows average monthly rent rates by neighborhood for buildings built since 2010:

Ballard $1,769
Capitol Hill/Eastlake $1,887
Green Lake / Wallingford $1,671
Queen Anne $1,694
Rainier Valley $1,399
West Seattle $1,615

In comparison, the affordable rate (30% of a household’s monthly income) for a one-bedroom unit for an individual earning 60 percent AMI is $1,017. Under the proposed MHA-R framework, rents for new affordable housing units would be set at this price.

“As a developer of market rate homes and a member of this community, I want to be a part of the solution that helps to build a more affordable and livable city,” said Maria Barrientos, principal at Barrientos Development LLC.  “I want to help create a city where hard working people can live, where my son that has recently graduated from college can afford to call home, and where the people that make up a diverse and thriving community don’t struggle to stay.  The Mandatory Housing Affordability program is a good step forward.”

The proposal released today sets up the program that requires any increase in development capacity or future changes in zoning to result in increased affordability. City planners and stakeholders will continue conversations and outreach with community members to determine what future changes may look like in their neighborhoods.

In exchange for creating more affordable housing, developers will be able to access additional development capacity in Urban Villages and Centers. Other cities in the region such as Issaquah, Kirkland, and Federal Way have already begun to use Mandatory Housing Affordability programs to address affordable housing needs.

The mayor’s proposal was developed by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee  (HALA) last year. At the core of that agreement was the creation of commercial and residential Mandatory Housing Affordability programs, requiring developers of new commercial or multi-family residential development to contribute to affordable homes. A Director’s summary of the measure can be found here. Full text of the ordinance can be found here.

 

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Mayor Murray proposes expansion of labor standards outreach, enforcement

As the number of wage and benefit complaints and investigations continues to grow, and the need for additional outreach to both workers and businesses becomes more apparent, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today proposed to double the funding for the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) by providing an additional $3.6 million in the 2017 budget.

“As the City moves forward in implementing the $15 minimum wage, enforcing our paid sick time, wage theft, and other labor standards, and educating employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities, we need additional staff and resources to achieve our goals,” said Murray. “Without additional staffing, the City cannot effectively investigate complaints and enforce the City’s labor laws. We must also expand our proactive education and outreach to both workers and businesses so that all parties understand their rights and responsibilities.”

Murray is proposing to fund the expansion of the Office of Labor Standards within existing resources from the General Fund. The mayor is not suggesting that the Council adopt new taxes or fees to expand OLS activities.

Through March of 2016, OLS has found 26 violations and completed 187 investigations that provided a total of more than $240,000 in employee remedies.

Caseloads in the Office of Labor Standards have grown significantly. Currently, OLS has approximately 150 open investigations involving 106 employers. The number of open investigations has grown by 33 percent since the beginning of the year.

As caseloads have increased, the length of time between when a complaint is filed and investigations are completed have also grown. The time to complete investigations has grown from an average of 116 days in August 2015 to 188 days in March 2016.

To manage growing workloads, the mayor is proposing to grow OLS from 9 employees to 22.

The Office will also manage a larger outreach budget, with $1.5 million dedicated to education and support of employees, and $800,000 for outreach to local employers.

The City of Seattle is estimated to have over 500,000 employees and 60,000 businesses. The City’s enforcement of labor laws is largely complaint driven, and without knowledge of their rights under the new regulations, employees will not be in a position to identify violations.

At the same time, employers cannot come into compliance if they do not understand what is required of them, and the practical implications of sometimes complex City ordinances.

The mayor is also proposing that the Office of Labor Standards be established as a fully independent office, separate from the Office for Civil Rights in which it is currently housed.

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Mayor Murray introduces first phase of ‘Shared Vision for Lake City’

Mayor Ed Murray has unveiled the first proposal of the Shared Vision for Lake City. The measure calls for expanded pedestrian access, rezones within the Lake City hub urban village and along Lake City Way, and more flexible uses of commercial space.

“By working directly with community groups and advocates, we are creating a stronger and more walkable Lake City business district,” said Murray. “This proposal builds on Lake City’s main street character, by expanding the neighborhood center through better walking connections and more commercial opportunities. As Seattle grows, it is important that we work together to create a compelling vision for the future that reflects the needs of our neighborhoods.”

It has been estimated that Seattle will add 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs in the next 20 years. As housing development has grown in Seattle’s Urban Villages and Urban Centers, investments in neighborhood amenities have not always kept pace.

“This innovative initiative reflects Lake City’s ongoing commitment to economic vitality and commercial vibrancy,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez, who represents the Lake City community. “Lake City will become more modern and pedestrian-friendly, enhancing our unique sense of community and livability.”

In February of this year, Mayor Murray announced that Lake City would be the first neighborhood to work with the new Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) on an integrated approach involving all City departments and expanded community input.  Today’s announcement marks the first implementation of the Shared Vision for Lake City that will help create more pedestrian oriented-neighborhood as property develops.

These rezones, which do not include height increases, would:

  • Change Commercial 1 zoning to Neighborhood Commercial 3 zoning within the hub urban village and along Lake City Way between NE 97th Street and NE 143rd
  • Change multifamily residential zoning to neighborhood commercial zoning along NE 125th
  • Expand the existing pedestrian designation approximately three blocks to the west and one block to the north, requiring active street-level uses.
  • Allow more flexibility for ground floor uses outside of the business core.
  • Create new development standards that will control building bulk on large lots.

These proposals are the result of a collaborative process between City departments and Lake City Future First, which is comprised of several community groups, service providers, business and property owners. Input about the desired character of Lake City was received from numerous community groups and at a variety of community meetings over the past three years.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with the City to address the issues of all the people who live and work in Lake City,” said Chris Leverson, Executive Director of Lake City Future First. “We hope that the proposed Lake City development standards will help create a more pedestrian-oriented neighborhood over time.”

Upcoming priorities to be addressed in the Shared Vision for Lake City will include community input for creating a more vibrant business district, providing new workforce housing, additional senior services, a new pre-school, installing new sidewalks with natural drainage systems, and increased programming for young people through Seattle Parks and Recreation. Additionally, City staff will coordinate with Lake City Future First and the broader community to prioritize sidewalk locations that provide safe routes to school.

More information about the proposed zoning changes is available here.  For further questions, please contact Katie Sheehy, planner at the Office of Planning and Community Development: Katie.sheehy@seattle.gov or (206) 684-5345.

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Mayor Murray announces funding plan for North Police Precinct

Mayor Ed Murray today announced the funding strategy for the new Seattle Police Department North Precinct, slated to break ground in 2017 and open for business in 2019. The mayor will propose no new taxes to pay for the project.

“Because of our vibrant local economy and vigorous real estate sales, we can construct our new North Precinct within existing and projected resources,” said Murray. “While we do have other public safety infrastructure projects on the horizon, there is no need to send a public safety levy to the ballot in near future.”

Seattle continues to collect large receipts in the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) from the sales of residential and commercial properties, which can only be used to pay for City capital projects, including transportation infrastructure, Parks buildings and public safety facilities.

Due to projected ongoing strength of REET receipts, the mayor will not propose a public safety levy in 2016 or 2017.

To date, $21 million has been appropriated toward the $160 million precinct project, which will be located at Aurora Avenue North and North 130th Street. The mayor is proposing to fund the remaining $139 million through a combination of REET receipts, 30-year bonds financed by future REET receipts, and the one-time sale of other City assets.

The new North Precinct will accommodate future growth in the Seattle Police Department and replaces the existing North Precinct facility at 10049 College Way North, which is seriously over-crowded. Expansion at the current site is not possible and the existing building constructed in 1984 to house 154 staff, is now home to more than 250 personnel. Planning work began on this project in 2013.

In 2015, Seattle collected a record $73 million through REET on commercial and residential real estate transactions. The City projects that REET collections will continue to remain strong: $56 million in 2016, $56 million in 2017, $60 million in 2018 and $64 million in 2019. A portion of these revenues will be directed towards the construction of the new North Precinct facility.

“Public safety and community policing are high priorities for Seattle residents,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez. “A new police station will house more officers in a better location, which will help ensure police are available to residents when they call. Safe communities are healthy communities.  The proposed financing approach for this facility means we can make a significant investment in our community without asking voters for a new tax increase.”

“With the current North Precinct overcrowded and sitting on a swamp, a new precinct building cannot come soon enough,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the Council’s finance committee. “The Council has long pushed to move this project forward as quickly as possible, and I’m pleased that Mayor Murray has developed a solid funding plan to advance construction.”

As part of the City’s effort to respond to homelessness, the City continues to partner with Mary’s Place to provide additional temporary shelter for homeless families within the old PI Bank building at 130th and Stone Way, which currently stands on the site of the new precinct.

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Mayor Murray releases groundbreaking Seattle Equity & Environment Agenda

Mayor at press conference

Today Mayor Ed Murray released the Seattle Equity & Environment Action Agenda, a blueprint for advancing racial justice in Seattle’s environmental work. Operating on the premise that those most affected by environmental inequities must be at the table to create the solutions, the Mayor convened the Community Partners Steering Committee (CPSC) to lead this work exactly one year ago.

“Seattle’s environmental progress and benefits must be shared by all residents no matter their race, immigration status, or income level,” said Mayor Murray. “Addressing environmental injustice challenges in a bold manner is the only way Seattle will continue to lead in sustainability. I call on the leaders in government, environmental community, and philanthropy to see this as a framework for all of us to work together. I am deeply appreciative of the work and dedication of the community members for their work to create this Agenda.”

The Equity & Environment Initiative was launched by Mayor Murray on Earth Day in 2015 in order to deepen Seattle’s commitment to race and social justice in environmental work. Recognizing this work requires multiple strategies, the Mayor charged the CPSC to create an action agenda that calls out opportunities for the City to address racial inequities, but also creates opportunities for priority communities to be leaders in Seattle’s environmental movement.

The CPSC engaged a wide range of communities over the past year including communities of color, youth, low-income, immigrant, refugee, small businesses, faith-based, limited English proficiency, and mainstream environmental communities. The Agenda was developed and informed by community conversations involving over 800 community members

The Seattle Equity & Environment Agenda is organized around four key community priority areas:

  • Healthy environments for all
  • Jobs, local economies and & youth pathways
  • Equity in City environmental programs
  • Environmental narrative & community leadership

“The four goal areas in the Agenda are long-standing priorities for communities of color in Seattle,” said Jill Mangaliman, Co-Chair of the Community Partners Steering Committee and Executive Director of Got Green. “We are excited about the City’s recognition of these goals and the commitment to creating opportunities for people of color to be leading on environmental solutions.”

“Community leadership in developing the goals and strategies in this Agenda created a successful and truly inclusive process,” said Dionne Foster, Co-Chair of the Community Partners Steering Committee and policy analyst at Puget Sound Sage. “While setting this Agenda is a huge accomplishment, the real work starts now.”

“I want to thank the hundreds of community members who were part of shaping this agenda and congratulate them for their work,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “This partnership between city government and community advocates will be critical moving forward as we implement the agenda and work to advance environmental equity in our city.”

“I am proud to work with Mayor Murray on advancing racial justice in environmental efforts in Seattle,” said Becky Kelley, President of Washington Environmental Council. “Fostering diversity and ensuring equitable outcomes continues to be a challenge for the environmental movement, but it is an area where both WEC and Seattle are committed to doing more and doing better. By embracing this Agenda, Seattle is modeling an innovative and inclusive approach for other cities and environmental organizations throughout the US.”

“This work is tremendously important for the future environmental and economic health of Seattle,” said Aaron Robertson, Senior Officer, Community Programs, of Seattle Foundation. “We see this Agenda as a collective call to action that provides a roadmap for community, government and philanthropy to align our efforts to ensure environmental justice and make sure that those most-affected have the resources to lead on creating solutions.”

Mayor Murray also announced the following near-term actions as part of Seattle’s overall Equity & Environment Initiative:

  1. A resolution to City Council adopting the four goal areas of the Agenda as priorities for all departments and core beliefs of Seattle’s approach to sustainability and the environment.
  2. Creation of a new Duwamish Valley program, to be coordinated by the Office of Sustainability & Environment and the Office of Community Planning & Development to specifically improve environmental, health and socio-economic conditions in partnership with the community and other government agencies.
  3. Extending opportunities to purchase low-cost fresh fruit and vegetable bags to all families enrolled in the Seattle Preschool Program who are below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
  4. Adding an environmental cohort to the Youth Employment Initiative so that young people are given the opportunity to work for environmental employers through the program.
  5. Establishing an Environmental Justice Steering Committee, in partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to build on DON leadership programs and support communities of color owning and shaping environmental issues.

In addition to City funding, six local funders provided critical support of the Initiative over the past year, including the Bullitt Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Russell Family Foundation, Loom Foundation and Social Venture Partners. Their funding was matched by Partners for Places – a project of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.
More information on the Equity & Environment initiative can be found at www.seattle.gov/equityenviro.

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Murray issues statement on guidance to Seattle residents to run water

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement on the Seattle Public Utilities guidance to run your water for two minutes before drinking or cooking if the water has not been run for more than six hours:

“Over the last 24 hours, Seattle has been watching the unfolding story of water testing results in Tacoma.

“The water systems in Seattle and Tacoma are not connected. Our water comes from protected mountain watersheds in the Cascade Mountains.

“The Seattle water supply is routinely tested for a range of issues. Our test results indicate that Seattle water surpasses all state and federal standards. For decades, we have had in place a comprehensive strategy designed to help keep lead out of the water supply.

“Seattle takes any potential lead exposure very seriously. Out of an abundance of caution, we will be doing additional water quality testing across our system.

“Today Seattle also echoed the Washington State Department of Health regular guidance to let your water run prior to using it for drinking or cooking, again, merely as a precaution.

“We will continue to update Seattle residents on the Seattle Public Utilities website.”

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City of Seattle announces new partnerships to activate public parks

Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Parks and Recreation today announced this year’s Urban Parks Partnership Initiative’s community partners. The program provides opportunities to build community around our urban parks, improving the health of community members and bringing youth and families together. Each of this year’s partner organizations will be awarded a one-time grant of $46,000 to increase the vibrancy and enjoyment of select downtown parks.

“Activating our urban parks with performances, festivals, classes, and more helps to engage users in enjoying public spaces,” said Mayor Murray. “This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to build community around our urban parks, promote the health of community members, connect individuals to the outdoors and bring more joy into downtown life.”

Park locations include Cascade Playground, Freeway Park, Hing Hay Park, Danny Woo Community Garden, Kobe Terrace, Bell Street Park, Tilikum Place, and Belltown Cottage Park and P-patch. Awardees include:

  1. Cascade Playground Activation Committee, which is comprised of Cascade neighborhood residents, small and large businesses, non-profit groups, local churches, and the Downtown Seattle Association.
  1. Jim Ellis Freeway Park Association, which is comprised of neighborhood residents, property owners and stakeholders, including the First Hill Improvement Association, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Horizon House, Exeter House, Town Hall, the Washington State Convention Center, and others.
  1. InterIm Community Development Association, which is comprised of International Community Health Services, Wing Luke Museum, Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, and the International District Business Improvement Area.
  1. Friends of Belltown Parks, which is comprised of neighborhood residents, local businesses, Belltown United, Belltown Business Association, Belltown Community Council and Downtown Seattle Association/ Metropolitan Improvement District.

The four partner organizations will bring park staffing, classes, activities, events, games, temporary art, concerts, furnishings and other amenities to the specific park or parks for which they have taken on a partner role. Seattle Parks and Recreation will continue to maintain the selected parks on a daily basis, handle all permitting, and continue some programming such as Dancing ‘til Dusk, Free Family Fun Days, Center City Cinema and concierge services. The partnership agreements will be in place until the end of the year, with the possibility for renewal in 2017.

Activities and events already in the works include the Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development (WILD) program led by the INTERIM CDA, expansion of the Winterlights festival in Freeway Park, expansion of the Belltown Beats on Bell Street, and new programs such as the Reading Room in the Park, to be held at Cascade Playground.

“Whether it’s food, fitness or fun you’re after, the Parks Partnership has something for everyone,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “No matter if I’m enjoying a bite from my favorite food truck in Westlake or live music at Occidental, our parks are truly the best way to celebrate summer in Seattle.”

“We have three big priorities in everything we do: promote healthy habits, connect people to each other and nurture a love for the environment. I see the Urban Parks Partnership as a vibrant way to make an impact in all three of those areas just by getting residents outdoors and engaging with each other through art, celebration and gathering,” said Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

In January 2016, Seattle Parks and Recreation conducted a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process advertising this partnership opportunity. Communities were asked to work collaboratively on proposals for their neighborhood parks.

The Urban Park Partnership Initiative is made possible by funding from the Seattle Park District. Approved by voters in 2014, the Seattle Park District provides more than $47 million a year in long-term funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation, including maintenance of parklands and facilities, operation of community centers and recreation programs, and development of new neighborhood parks on previously-acquired sites.

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Mayor Murray, Councilmember Sawant unveil tenant protection bill

Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Kshama Sawant unveiled a proposal today strengthening protections for vulnerable renters living in unsafe or substandard housing. The measure prohibits landlords from raising rents on homes that are in violation of existing maintenance and safety codes, and allows Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to take action against landlords for retaliating against tenants that report unsafe living conditions or fail to provide proper notice of rent increases.

“The practice of raising rents on substandard homes is unacceptable and we must take steps to protect vulnerable renters from displacement and unsafe living conditions,” said Mayor Murray. “This is a race and social justice issue that disproportionality impacts communities of color. We’ve seen landlords let homes fall into disrepair or raise rents to displace and redevelop the property. If Seattle is to become more equitable, we must ensure that rental housing is safe and remains affordable for residents.”

The tenant protection bill is a recommendation from the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Studies have shown that more than half of Seattle’s occupied housing units are rentals. After reports surfaced last fall of landlords pushing out low-income and immigrant tenants, Councilmember Sawant and then Councilmember Nick Licata called for the City to step in and ban such practices.

“Tenants at 6511 Rainier Ave. S. organized their building into the Tenant’s Union of Washington to stop the abuse of their landlord,” Councilmember Sawant said. “They called demonstrations to expose the deplorable conditions, and this legislation shows that tenants can win their rights when they organize and fight back.”

Highlights of the bill include:

  1. Prohibit landlords from increasing the rents charged for units that do not meet basic maintenance standards.
  1. Enhance protections for tenants who experience retaliation or other prohibited landlord-led actions.
  1. Transfer primary City responsibility for enforcing against prohibited acts by landlords and tenants from the Seattle Police Department to the
  1. Allow SDCI to enforce a City requirement that a must provide at least 60 days’ notice before applying a rent increase of 10 percent or more.

“I’m happy to see Mayor Murray and Councilmember Sawant introducing legislation to better protect tenants,” said Sahra Farah, Executive Director of Somali Community Services of Seattle. “Too often, members of the immigrant and refugee community are taken advantage of because they do not know their rights and are forced out of their homes. This proposal will give tenants protection from rent hikes and retaliation from their landlords when they report unsafe living conditions in their homes.”

The Council is expected to consider the proposal this spring.

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