Mayor Murray, Councilmember O’Brien introduce legislation to build new affordable housing

Today Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Mike O’Brien introduced legislation that will create 6,000 units of affordable housing throughout Seattle. The proposal comes from the Mayor and City Council’s 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee, and has been hailed as a “Grand Bargain” between affordable housing advocates and real estate developers.

“Seattle is experiencing unprecedented growth, and our challenge is to build fairly and affordably. We want sustainable, socially inclusive and economically diverse neighborhoods that are walkable, close to transit and job centers. To build these equitable communities, we must ensure that our teachers, nurses, hotel and restaurant workers who work in the city can also afford to live here,” said Mayor Murray. “With this legislation, Seattle – for the first time ever – will require that all new development in the city will pay for affordable housing. This is a bold, progressive proposal where growth itself will support affordable and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods. I am eager to work with the Council as we engage the public on this proposal as it moves through the legislative process.”

“I continually hear from people in our city struggling to keep up with rising rents. The Grand Bargain represents 6,000 desperately needed, new affordable units that we cannot build fast enough—especially not for those in need today,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Chair of the Select Committee on Housing Affordability. “I will be working with my colleagues on the City Council to act as swiftly as possible on the legislation behind the Grand Bargain.”

There are two major components to the “Grand Bargain.” The first establishes an Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program (AHIMP) – commonly referred to as a commercial linkage fee – that will directly fund the construction of new affordable housing by requiring developers to pay a fee on every square foot of new commercial development. The linkage fee will range from $5 to $17 per square foot, based on the size and location of the commercial development.CLF Image for FB

The second part of the “Grand Bargain” calls for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) for new multifamily developments, requiring five to eight percent of units be affordable for residents earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for 50 years. In 2015, 60 percent of AMI is $37,680 for an individual and $53,760 for a family of four. As an alternative to on-site units, developers can pay a fee to construct new affordable housing offsite.MIH Image for FB

“The Grand Bargain is evidence that people across sectors – public, nonprofit and for-profit – all want this city to be a place of opportunity for people of all income levels and all walks of life,” said Susan Boyd, Director of Real Estate Development for Bellwether Housing. “Development can be both a tool for economic growth and a tool for accomplishing equity and justice.”

In exchange, the City will look to increase development capacity in various ways throughout the city. New developments in downtown and South Lake Union will be allowed an extra 1,000 square feet per floor. Outside of the downtown core, new buildings will be allowed approximately one additional story in height. These changes will be subject to program design and the existing legislative rezoning process. The full chart of proposed changes can be viewed here.

“The legislation being announced today is an important part of a much larger strategy to address housing affordability in Seattle,” said Touchstone President A-P Hurd. “This approach is much more predictable for the City and developers. Downtown and SLU development have contributed fees toward the production of affordable housing in Seattle for years through the City’s Incentive Zoning Program, but this represents both an increased commitment from developers, and an increase in the City’s overall capacity to build more housing, which is a critical part of any successful housing strategy in a growing city.”

The “Grand Bargain” will be phased in over a number of years. When fully implemented, it will create at least 6,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.

Current market rates for a newer one-bedroom unit range from $1,399 to $1,887. 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 $1,008. Under the proposed “Grand Bargain” framework, rents for new affordable housing units would be set at this price or lower.

“Seattle is where I work, but I can’t afford to raise my family here,” said Brittany Johnson, a homecare worker. “This plan would allow me to have a home in Seattle for what I’m already paying in Renton – giving me back the hours I lose on the bus to have with my toddler. That would be a dream come true.”

Over 45,000 households spend more than half their incomes on housing in Seattle.

In July, the HALA advisory committee delivered to the mayor 65 recommendations after 10 months of work. The consensus-driven proposal was crafted by affordable housing advocates, community voices, developers and housing experts appointed by the mayor and Seattle City Council in September of 2014.

The legislation will be taken up by the City Council’s Select Committee on Housing Affordability. A schedule for the consideration of the legislation can be found here.

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Mayor, Councilmember Rasmussen Announce Support of SR 520 West Side Design

Today Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Tom Rasmussen introduced a resolution outlining the City of Seattle’s priorities and principles as the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) moves forward to finish design and begin construction on the West Side of the SR 520 bridge replacement project. The resolution incorporates years of feedback and engagement from the local community and stakeholders, and represents a unified policy position from the City on the major design elements of the project.

“The 520 bridge is a critical transportation corridor and economic lifeline for the region. The final design must improve the flow of the roadway and the livability of the communities that surround it,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “This resolution represents an important next step as we work with our state partners to complete the project so that it is seismically safe and works for all modes – cars, transit, bicycles and pedestrians. For the first time, we will have a unified City position on the design of the project.”

“After more than a decade working on SR 520 issues, I am eager for this project to be completed.  The design includes features that create more usable and integrated spaces for the community, provide safe connections for bikes and pedestrians and keep cars and transit moving,” said Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen. “This resolution affirms the commitment of the Council to work with the Mayor to ensure a successful outcome.”

In July 2015, the Washington State Legislature approved funding for remainder of the 520 project, which has been named the “Rest of the West” by WSDOT. The City’s resolution concurs with the 2015 Final Design Concept Report, which calls for a box girder style bridge including a bike and pedestrian path over Portage Bay, redesigned highway lids with a new land bridge, and multimodal connectivity improvements. The City is also asking WSDOT to consider an additional bike and pedestrian bridge across the Montlake Cut, transit priority enhancements, intelligent transportation system improvements (ITS), improved pedestrian safety at the Montlake interchange, and neighborhood traffic enhancements.

“We are pleased by the progress so far and look forward to continuing to work with the City and WSDOT to ensure the highest quality final design,” said Lionel Job, of the community group Montlake Neigborhood Greenways.

WSDOT and the City previously agreed to the following design framework through the Seattle Community Design Process in 2013:

  • A new Portage Bay Bridge between I-5 and Montlake, designed to better fit surroundings and resist earthquake
  • Highway lids at Montlake Boulevard and 10th Avenue East/Delmar Drive East to help reconnect neighborhoods and provide transit facilities.
  • New HOV lanes from I-5 to Montlake Boulevard that will complete the SR 520 HOV system from I-5 to Redmond.
  • The south half of a new west approach bridge built to modern seismic standards for carrying eastbound traffic from Montlake to the new floating bridge.
  • Mobility improvements such as bicycle, pedestrian and transit connections, and networks to and from SR 520 to existing and planned city networks, including options for users of all ages and abilities and safer undercrossing.
  • An extension to I-5 of a regional bicycle and pedestrian path from Seattle to the Eastside, with connections to local trails and transit stops.

Council will host a Public Hearing to hear community feedback on the resolution. The hearing will be held at University Christian Church located at 4731 15th Ave. NE on Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m.  Full Council is expected to vote on the resolution in late September.

To read the full resolution, click:

For more information, visit:

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Mayor, City Attorney statement on latest development around smoking lounge enforcement

On Thursday evening, representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Economic Development, the Office for Civil Rights, and the City Attorney’s Office met with business owners from all eleven hookah lounges operating in Seattle to discuss how to bring their businesses into compliance with the law.

The Mayor has instructed the Office of Economic Development to work with each ownership group to provide technical assistance concerning compliance with city, county and state law. In addition, Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights has begun utilizing the City’s Racial Equity Toolkit to analyze potential hookah lounge regulations and the public health and safety impact of those businesses on their employees, patrons and neighborhoods in which they operate.

While these discussions with business owners, community stakeholders and public health experts are occurring, business licenses will not be revoked for public health violations. However, periodic inspections may occur to ensure compliance with current law and the City will continue to monitor the businesses for public safety concerns.

“I have heard frequently, since my first days in office, from many voices and perspectives in our diverse East African community, as well as the Asian Pacific Islander community, who have expressed to me their concerns about smoking lounges. These lounges, as they currently operate, are not in compliance with state and local law. It’s clear that something must be done,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “At the same time, I have also heard clearly the impacts enforcement efforts may have on the owners of these businesses. To address their concerns, the city is committed to continue working with smoking lounge owners willing to work with us to help them transition to a legal business model and be good neighbors in our communities. We will ensure that we are fair and that smoking lounges must be in full compliance with state, county and city laws. It’s important we move forward on a path that benefits public health, public safety, supports strong neighborhoods and ensures that all businesses follow the law.”

“I support fair and consistent enforcement of our state’s no smoking laws,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “Hookah lounges cannot continue to operate illegally as smoking establishments. Converting these businesses to a steam stones vaporization model is our best path forward now to bring them into compliance with state and local law. Like every other business, they must also comply with all city laws, including tax and building codes.” The City Attorney’s Office is preparing legislation to license and regulate steam stone hookah lounges that addresses public health and safety concerns, and Holmes “looks forward to receiving input from the Racial Equity Toolkit process to inform the final details of this proposal.” Holmes also supports creating an exemption in the Board of Health Code’s ban on electronic smoking devices to allow vaporizing in adults-only businesses that do not serve alcohol and are locally licensed and regulated. “The common thread is to accommodate vaporizing by adults—which is less dangerous to bystanders than second hand smoke—for both hookah and marijuana lounges, and also in outdoor locations like city parks. I oppose indoor smoking of any substance, including marijuana, hookahs, cigarettes, or cigars.”

Washington state law, enacted by the voters in 2004, prohibits smoking anywhere that is either a public place, a place of employment, or both. The King County Board of Health Code also prohibits the use of “electronic smoking devices” in these same locations. Public Health is the primary agency charged with enforcing no smoking laws locally and treats any indoor location open to the public as a public place, even if the business calls itself a “private club” or charges a cover or “membership fee.” Under the state law and the Board of Health Code, volunteers are employees for purposes of no smoking laws, and the definition of “owner” is an open question.

As a result, Public Health has issued citations and fines to ten of the hookah lounges currently operating in Seattle that it believes are “public places” and in violation of state and local indoor smoking laws. Smoking lounges that are not hookah lounges are also a part of investigations to violations to state and local laws.

These laws, however, do not prohibit “steam stone” hookahs. “Steam stone” hookahs, are a form of vaporizing rather than smoking under state law.  A hookah bar using steam stones would not be subject to the private club restrictions and could operate as public places with employees.

The City is also developing a regulatory business license that is being considered by the Mayor and the City Attorney.  A regulatory license would be able to address public health and safety concerns including operating hours, age restrictions, and security requirements, among others. The regulatory license and its components will be discussed with community members and stakeholders as part of the Racial Equity Toolkit.

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Mayor’s Statement on Federal Consent Decree Status Hearing

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after Judge James Robart held a status hearing to discuss how to develop comprehensive and internally consistent mechanisms related to the Seattle Police Department’s accountability systems:

“Judge Robart today laid out a framework for the City and the Department of Justice – the formal parties to the Federal Consent Decree – for us to move forward with police accountability and disciplinary reform. I’m pleased that the judge acknowledged the progress the City and the DOJ have made to date to fulfill the requirements of the consent decree.

“The judge made very clear today that accountability and discipline reform is a work in progress. He further stressed that criticism from some outside stakeholders suggesting that the Federal Court and the parties of the Consent Decree are not going far enough are premature.

“To successfully move forward on meaningful reform, the City and Seattle Police Department must meet the requirements as agreed upon in the settlement agreement. Ultimately, this means following the direction of the Court and the framework described by the judge during today’s hearing.

“The City has just recently submitted its’ further recommendations for accountability and disciplinary reforms to the Department of Justice and the Federal Monitor. We appreciate the collaborative relationship we’ve maintained with the monitoring team and the DOJ. We are eager to continue working with them within the framework laid out by the judge to move forward on reforms.

“The next step, as directed by Judge Robart, is to have the City and DOJ (jointly or separately) submit a formal statement regarding our proposed approach to reviewing the Police Department’s current accountability systems by September 30th. The City (including myself, Chief O’Toole, the City Attorney and the Council) will be working to meet this deadline so we can continue to hit the milestones and benchmarks as required by the Court.”

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Seattle Preschool Program sending out acceptance letters today

Parents who applied for the first round of openings for the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) are being notified today whether their children have been accepted to enroll for fall classes. Families will be receiving notification via e-mail and telephone.

Two hundred forty-six applications were submitted for 86 open spots. Of the 228 preschool seats opening this fall, 142 had been filled by the time the classrooms were selected to be part of SPP through pre-enrollment.

“The number of applications we received verifies what the voters told us in November when they adopted the SPP proposal – there is great demand for high quality preschool programs,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Families are eager to have their children start elementary school ready to succeed. I welcome these families into the program and know that their children will have a richly rewarding school year.”

The Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) conducted a selection process adopted in the SPP Action Plan and the Implementation Plan which gives preference to four-year-olds and to children from families that live in the Seattle Public School Elementary Assignment Areas where the preschools are located.

A second round of the selection process also begins today and will run through September 7. Applications are being taken for a Vietnamese-English dual language program at the Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool in Mount Baker, two classrooms located at Old and New Van Asselt Schools approved by the Seattle School District Board on Wednesday, and any spots that open up because parents who applied in the first round declined their chosen spots.

Applications from parents who applied in the first round but were not selected will also be included in the second round.

Applications are available online at Applications are due by the end of the day September 7 and parents will be notified of the results of the second round by September 14.

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Mayor’s statement on seawall project costs

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle Department of Transportation announced an increased budget for the seawall replacement project:

“The seawall is a critical public safety project that will help protect downtown during an earthquake. We must move ahead to complete this project.

“This is the largest and most complicated public works project the City of Seattle has undertaken in recent history. From the outset there have been numerous challenges associated with the project. In November 2013, the City agreed to a contract that placed significant cost risks on the City. That was unfortunate, but knowing that, the City has an obligation to watch our costs diligently and be transparent when early estimates are proven wrong.

“Now that the City has clear understanding about what is driving these higher than anticipated project costs, today we are reporting to the public and proposing a new budget to the Council. We want to be transparent and up front about our best estimate, based on what we have learned over the last 18 months, of what it will cost to complete the work already underway.

“Today I am initiating an outside review of the budget and operation of the seawall project so that we can get an expert opinion to validate our new cost estimates and advise the City on how to proceed. We must do better moving forward.

“Additionally, we will defer the start of the next phase of the project– replacing the seawall from Pike Street to Virginia Street. We are doing this to both ensure proper completion of the current phase and to give us time to look for potential savings in the final phase. That means completion of the entire project will be delayed by a year.

“We will be able to manage the higher costs without raising new taxes. We will use Real Estate Excise Tax receipts and bond against the commercial parking tax, both of which are currently unallocated sources of funds.

“This will mean spending on major components of the new waterfront park will be delayed.”

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Seattle School Board votes to join City’s Preschool Program

Tonight the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors approved its administration’s proposal to contract with the City to manage three Seattle Preschool Program classrooms: one in Bailey Gatzert in the Central District, one in the Original Van Asselt School and one in New Van Asselt in south Seattle.

“Thanks to the School Board for approving this agreement. I am pleased that the City and the District will be partners in this first year of Seattle Preschool,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “These classrooms will serve children from communities across the city as we build toward universal pre-K for all Seattle kids. The District and the City aim to narrow the educational opportunity gap that continues to impact Seattle’s children of color.”

As a Seattle Preschool provider, the School District will receive funding for preschool teachers and other benefits, including professional development, coaching and curriculum training. Contracts are renewed each year and the District will have the option to expand the program in public schools, if it chooses. The City is also contracting with several community-based organizations to deliver the program. A total of 15 classrooms are slated to open in September and early October.

The City and the District had previously approved a Partnership Agreement that lays out the terms of their collaboration. The Service Agreement, approved at tonight’s meeting, makes the District a provider of the City’s preschool program.

To identify children for the classrooms, the City will conduct targeted outreach and manage the selection process. Details of how to apply for the program are available on the City’s website:

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City collects $3.48 million on Sisley properties

Today the City of Seattle received payment of the judgments, interest and penalties in excess of $3.48 million related to code violations on rental properties owned by Hugh and Martha Sisley in the Roosevelt neighborhood.

“Today marks a new beginning for the Roosevelt neighborhood. For years, if not decades, neighbors have had to endure this blight,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We will reinvest dollars from this payment, the largest ever collected related to the Sisley properties, back into Roosevelt to create the vibrant community this neighborhood deserves.”

Over the years, the city has cited numerous Sisley properties near Roosevelt High School for repeated violations, while the owner failed to make required improvements. The neighborhood continued to suffer from these neglected properties and redevelopment in the neighborhood stalled.

With this payment from the Roosevelt Development Group (RDG), the City liens on the properties will be removed. RDG controls development rights for many of these properties and has publicly expressed interest in developing more housing in the neighborhood. RDG is planning for development on nearly 5 acres of properties within 5 minutes’ walk of the incoming Sound Transit light rail station.

“We have heard for years about the need for a park and open spaces in this area, as well as more affordable housing for individuals and families,” said Murray. “We believe the pieces and partners are all in place to make these possibilities a reality.”

The Department of Neighborhoods will facilitate a community process involving the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, area residents and business owners. The goal is a shared vision for the built environment, more housing and open space in the neighborhood.

The Seattle Office of Housing is actively working with RDG on tools that incentivize the development of both affordable and market-rate housing. The Department of Planning and Development has also begun discussions with Sound Transit for additional affordable housing development on the light rail station site.

The Mayor’s Office has transmitted an ordinance to the City Council to use condemnation authority, if necessary, to acquire a site on NE 65th Street for Seattle Parks for use as public open space.

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Mayor to move forward on acquisition of N.E. 130th Street beach

Mayor Ed Murray today announced that the City plans to purchase portions of two properties that make up the former N.E. 130th Street beach from the current owners and restore waterfront access for the public.

“For decades, generations of Seattle residents enjoyed lakefront access from the N.E. 130th Street beach,” said Mayor Murray. “I have directed the Parks Department to begin the process of restoring that access by acquiring the properties using all tools at our disposal.”

The two properties lie at the end of N.E. 130th Street and Rivera Place, near the Burke-Gilman Trail in the Cedar Park neighborhood in the Lake City area. Earlier this year, the private property owners restricted the public from accessing the waterfront.

“This parcel bordering Lake Washington has been used by the public to gain access to the water for over 80 years. It was very unfortunate to have access denied,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “It’s great news that the City is now taking affirmative steps to restore this property to the public and to neighbors who know how much it matters to save this beach.”

“Privatizing public property based upon an 82 year-old records error is a disservice to the neighborhood,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “I commend the Mayor for joining the Council in reclaiming what has long served as the only public access to Lake Washington between Matthews Beach and the northern city limits.”

“I visited the 130th Street beach with neighbors and community members and stand firmly behind them in their desire to have the beach end returned to its original use—a neighborhood park,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “Many congratulations to the community who worked hard to ensure this space is open and welcoming to the community.”

“When public access to Lake Washington was taken away, community activists pushed the City to recover it,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “Generations in Lake City will be able to swim in the neighborhood due to their organizing efforts.”

Under the Mayor’s direction, Seattle Parks and Recreation will send a purchase and sale agreement to the current owners. The owners will then have 30 days to agree with the terms, counter-offer, or decline. In the event a negotiated purchase of the portions of the properties cannot be reached, the Mayor will transmit an ordinance to City Council authorizing the use of eminent domain to acquire the parcels for public use and benefit.

“The 130th Street beach has provided recreational access to Lake Washington for residents since 1932,” said Dave Pope of the Friends of 130th Street Beach community group. “As Seattle continues to grow, more parks are needed, not fewer. I applaud Mayor Murray and City Council for taking the first steps in restoring beach access for those who do not have the luxury of owning waterfront property.”

“Shoreline access is precious everywhere in Seattle,” said Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation. “We constantly strive to increase park and recreation opportunities for our residents and restoring this property to public use provides critical access for the community.”

In June, the City Council sent Mayor Murray a letter urging him to condemn the properties. The letter was signed by all members of the Council.

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City to sell parcel to affordable housing developer

This week the Seattle City Council approved Mayor Ed Murray’s legislation to sell a smaller City-owned parcel to allow the construction of affordable housing by a private developer. The proceeds of the sale will be used to build even more affordable housing elsewhere in Seattle.

The City of Seattle owns a 7,200 square foot parcel at 6th and Yesler. Stream Real Estate intends to build a 140-unit apartment building on the property and adjacent parcels. For the next 50 years, all units in the new building must be affordable to households earning less than 80 percent of area median income.

The sale price for the City-owned parcel is approximately $1.4 million – fair market value. That revenue will be used by the City’s Office of Housing to support additional affordable housing development for our community’s most vulnerable residents.

“This sale encourages the production of more affordable apartments at this site and brings new revenue for future affordable housing throughout Seattle that will serve our lowest-income households,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Thanks to the Council for quickly seizing this unique opportunity.”

“The City moves one step closer in its goal to produce 20,000 affordable units in the next ten years,” said Councilmember John Okamoto. “With the buyer building on-site affordable units and the City using the sale proceeds to develop additional affordable units, the City gains affordable housing on both sides of this deal.” 

“The Mayor tasked the housing affordability committee with finding innovative ways to increase housing options in our City,” said Faith Pettis, co-chair of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee. “This proposal’s strategic use of City resources, nimble response to new opportunities, and commitment to effective partnerships is a great example of what we can do.”

“This is a win-win-win,” said Steve Walker, Director of the Office of Housing. “This property is too small to be efficiently developed on its own. By working with Stream Real Estate, we will enable affordable housing to be built on site and the City will receive additional resources to add to the existing 12,000 units of income- and rent-restricted housing already funded by the Office of Housing.”

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