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.

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.”

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.”

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:

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.

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.

Statement on approval of firearms and ammunition tax

Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle City Council approved a new tax on firearms and ammunition sales to fund gun violence prevention efforts:

“The unanimous Council vote on this ordinance demonstrates the commitment of this City and this community to lead on the ongoing national epidemic of gun violence. While action at the federal level and in many other jurisdictions remains gridlocked, we are moving ahead to address an issue so damaging to the young people of Seattle, especially young people of color. Thanks, especially, to Councilmember Burgess for his advocacy for additional funding for gun violence research, prevention and education. Seattle’s youth deserve action and today’s Council vote is a meaningful step forward.”

Joint Mayor & Council statement on passage of all-gender restrooms legislation

Today Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmembers Jean Godden and Bruce Harrell issued the following statements after the Council unanimously passed legislation requiring all City-controlled and privately operated places of public accommodation to designate existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender facilities. The legislation also clarifies existing law allowing individuals to use the restroom of their chosen gender identity or expression. The legislation was a recommendation from the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force and the City of Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission.

“The action taken today by the City Council will make Seattle a more welcoming place for everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” said Mayor Murray. “No one should live in fear when they use basic accommodations most of us take for granted. That’s why we sent this legislation to the Seattle City Council. I applaud the Council for taking this important step to provide respect and safety for members of the transgender community.”

This legislation will provide for all-gender restroom facilities and amend the Seattle Municipal Code so that single-occupant restrooms will no longer be restricted to a specific sex or gender identity. Single-occupant restrooms in City facilities and all public accommodations (including restaurants, coffee shops, stores, etc.) must have signage that makes it clear that they are not gender exclusive and allow use by any person regardless of sex or gender identity, rather than just “men” or “women.” The Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) will be responsible for enforcing these changes.

Despite existing laws protecting a person’s right to use a restroom consistent with their gender identity, transgender and gender nonconforming people are frequently excluded from using facilities consistent with their gender identity, and use of gender-segregated restrooms can create unnecessary risk for transgender and gender nonconforming people.

“Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves the ability to meet their most basic needs. All-gender single occupancy bathrooms are practical and help ensure everyone has equal access to a quality life,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “This small step represents acceptance and freedom for many. I’m proud Seattleites are as dedicated as I am to pursuing equality and eliminating inequity wherever it exists.”

“Enacting this civil rights legislation that requires all single-stall restrooms as all-gender restrooms should not be understated,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “This is an inclusive and progressive measure that ensures all individuals have equal access to take care of their health needs. Let’s be defined by our compassion and inclusiveness.”

In July of this year, the Mayor and his LGBT Task Force released an action plan to support LGBTQ safety. The Task Force was convened in response to anti-LGBTQ hate crimes or incidents reported to Seattle police. The plan is organized into four areas: Public Safety, LGBTQ Youth, the Built Environment, and Public Understanding. One of the key Built Environment proposals was for the City to clarify that individuals have the right to use a restroom appropriate to their gender identity or expression.
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Mayor Murray announces hire of Mayoral Counsel

Mayor Ed Murray today announced the hiring of Ian Warner as Counsel to the Mayor. Warner will report directly to the Mayor, advising on a broad array of legal matters affecting city policy through a legal lens.

“Ian brings the right kind of experience and a passion for public service to my administration,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “He’s an active and engaged leader in Seattle’s legal community, and will bring his public safety expertise to the table. I am excited to have him join my team in this critical role.”

Before joining Mayor Murray’s administration, Warner was an associate with Dorsey & Whitney LLP. He represented clients in federal and state proceedings across a range of industries including technology, employment and construction. Additionally, Warner worked on the monitoring team that oversees the Seattle Police Department’s implementation of the federal consent decree, including the systematic review of use of force incidents and the use of emerging technology by the department.

“It will be a privilege to serve the community every day as the Mayor’s Counsel,” said Warner. “This opportunity is exciting at this critical moment in Seattle’s history, where the nation looks to us as a model for development and reform. As a Seattle resident, former member of the monitoring team and active member of the legal community, I am excited to contribute to the Mayor’s vision for our city.”

“I’ve already gotten to know Ian over the past several years through his work on the court-appointed team that monitors the Seattle Police Department as part of the DOJ settlement, and I admire his professionalism and insights,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “This is an excellent choice by the Mayor, and I look forward to continuing our collaborative approach to addressing the City’s legal issues.”

Warner currently serves as the President of the Loren Miller Bar Association, which is a chapter of the oldest and largest organization of African American attorneys in the United States. He also serves on the Federal Judicial Merit Selection committee, which is charged with selecting candidates for federal judgeships in Seattle. While attending the University of Washington School Of Law, he served as President of the Black Law Students Association.

In addition to being Counsel to the Mayor, Warner will work collaboratively with the City Attorney’s Office (CAO) and will be given the title of Assistant City Attorney through a memorandum of understanding with CAO. Warner will start on August 12 and will earn a salary of $140,000 per year.

Duwamish River Opportunity Fund awards $250,000 to 13 neighborhood projects

Today Mayor Murray announced $250,000 from the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund will be awarded to 13 community projects supporting neighborhoods along the Duwamish River. This program provides funds for new and existing small-scale programs focused on challenges faced by Duwamish River neighborhoods during the Superfund clean-up.

“The Duwamish River Opportunity Fund is part of our commitment to support vibrant communities along the river during the ongoing cleanup,” said Mayor Murray. “These neighborhoods continue to struggle with some significant environmental challenges. The City wants to be a strong partner to promote healthy families, clean air, clear water and a thriving community.”

The projects will be implemented beginning in 2015 and continue into 2016.

The 2015 Duwamish River Opportunity Fund Awards
• $5,000 to Bike Works to provide bikes, promote and support bike safety, and provide youth job skills training in South Park.
• $12,000 to South Park Retail Merchants Association to support businesses in South Park through community improvements, networking, and connecting businesses to resources.
• $10,000 to Duwamish Rowing Club to add a rowing shell to its fleet and to increase participation, especially among young people.
• $30,000 to ECOSS (Environmental Coalition of South Seattle) to engage multicultural communities in their own languages to share information on safety concerns around gathering seafood from the Duwamish River and on opportunities for safer fish consumption.
• $20,000 to Georgetown Community Farm to expand and improve the new garden, purchase supplies, offer healthy food preparation classes, and provide low-cost organic produce.
• $10,000 to Georgetown Community Council to work with property owners and the community to apply anti-graffiti paint to targeted structures and identify places where local artists can create murals.
• $30,000 to Urban Systems Design to create a young adult job training program to develop skills for construction, landscaping, or operations and maintenance careers to steward green drainage infrastructure in the Duwamish Valley.
• $30,000 to Just Health Action to add Spanish-speaking fishers to the existing Vietnamese Fisher community-based participatory study that addresses alternatives to fishing in the Duwamish River.
• $20,000 to Smarter Cleanup Partnership to build an interactive map and community engagement platform to assist community members in finding ways to improve environmental health in the Duwamish Valley.
• $33,000 to Seattle Good Business Network to develop a job training program in apparel production to build financial self-sufficiency for low-income immigrants and refugees in the Duwamish Valley.
• $25,000 to Seattle Parks Foundation to fund a program manager to expand the Duwamish Valley Green Spaces program and identify funding for specific projects.
• $10,000 to Solid Ground to continue the education, restoration, and maintenance of the portion of Hamm Creek that runs by Marra Farm in South Park.
• $15,000 to South Park Information & Resource Center (SPIARC) to support and encourage healthy activities and habits through community athletic tournaments that are fun and build community cohesion.

A review team representing neighborhoods along the Duwamish River, in addition to public health and environmental advocates, evaluated 18 proposals seeking more than $782,000 from the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund.

About the Opportunity Fund
The City of Seattle is working to make the Superfund cleanup of the Duwamish River result in the optimum outcome for the river and its adjacent neighborhoods. In addition to its commitment to the clean-up efforts, the City recognizes that the communities along the Duwamish have many needs. To address some of these, the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund was created to enhance existing programs and support new ones. The Mayor and City Council allocated $250,000 in the 2014 budget, which funded nine projects, and an additional $250,000 in the 2015 budget, which is funding these 13 projects. Other entities have committed additional funds to these projects including King County and the Seattle Parks Foundation. Seattle Department of Neighborhoods manages the fund.