The Seattle City Council last Monday voted on the Mandatory Housing Affordability for Chinatown/International District and unanimously passed the measure that allows upzoning in key areas. This push to rezone districts will mandate developers to create a certain percentage of new affordable housing units or more heights in exchange for a fee. Expect to see Chinatown/International District rising up to three stories in some areas. Developers with residential uses and commercial uses in zones in most zones will be required 7 percent affordable housing or a payment of $20.75 per square foot. The Historic Register District is exempt from the requirements.
In addition to upzoning, council members also passed a measure regulating the spaces between residential towers downtown. The bill requires more separation between new residential towers constructed and existing towers than the fire regulation standards currently call for. Council member Sally Bagshaw—whose committee took the issue as the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee was busy with upzoning—said during the meeting that new buildings "reduce light, air, privacy and sunshine coming to the existing buildings."
In response to privacy concerns that ACLU of Washington brought forward, council members approved a measure on surveillance technology transparency introduced by council member Lorena Gonzalez. The measure requires any department looking to acquire new surveillance technology to gain city council approval and submit a surveillance impact report. Gonzalez said the purpose of the bill was to create a transparent process for the city's use of surveillance technology, as well as create protocols to mitigate civil liberty concerns.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ed Murray revealed a changes to the Design Review program. Murray's proposal would make it faster and easier to create new housing around the city. In a released statement Murray said the changes, "will help reduce delays and cost overruns that are driving up housing prices and give communities an opportunity to weigh in on projects in their neighborhood." Since it's creation in 1994, the Design Review board has see 1,500 projects. This would be the first updates to the program since its inception.
Carl Haglund, a Seattle landlord, is suing the city for $25 million in damages, The Stranger reported. Haglund claims city officials defamed him in 2015 when council member Kshama Sawant held a press conference in front of an apartment building he owned and referred to it as a "prime example of the kind of slumlord-ism that so many tenants in this city are dealing with." When Sawant later introduced a bill to fight such conditions, she referred to it as "a Carl Haglund law."
Seattle will be electing its first female mayor in 91 years. Former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan as of Friday has 28.7 percent of the votes. Urban planner Cary Moon as of Friday held her second-place lead, with 17.4 percent of the votes, over attorney and educator Nikkita Oliver. Though Oliver gained some ground on Friday, there are only about 14,000 votes left to count in the city. More votes will be counted today. Results will be certified August 15.
Moon didn't declare victory on Friday, saying it would only create distrust, and instead encouraged her supporters to help Oliver's campaign, which has been chasing down ballots to make sure their votes are counted. Oliver said the campaign and party "will work until the final bell" to ensure every vote is counted.
When we organize, we thrive— Nikkita Oliver (@NikkitaOliver) August 2, 2017
It's not over.
We've come this far and we'll continue to make change, push the issues & hold folks accountable
Seattle's City Council Position 8 race will come down to Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant in the November 7 general election.
Voters are rejecting King County's Proposition 1, the measure that would add a 0.1 percent sales tax—a penny for every $10 purchase—to fund arts, culture, and science programs. But the measure made significant gains since primary night when it was failing by nearly 10 percent; now it's within 3.4 percentage points, with just 24,000 ballots left countywide. The proposition would've brought in an estimated $67.3 million a year to cultural access programs.
For further election run-downs and explanations, check out PubliCola for their updates.
Mayor Murray and the sexual assault allegations he faced continue to be in the spotlight. On Monday council member Khama Sawant urged Murray to resign. In an op-ed published by The Stranger, Sawant said it falls on city council to impeach Murray if he doesn't step dow himself.
“I think the first step is for the city council to show the political will to do what’s needed,” she told PubliCola. “I’m sure the mechanisms be found.”
Northwest Justice Project, Washington's civil legal aid provider might be in funding trouble, Governor Jay Inslee's office announced Wednesday. President Donald Trump has proposed defunding the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC). If approved, the Northwest Justice Project would stand to lose $6.5 million a year. Legal aid provided by these programs is largely used by low-income individuals who otherwise couldn't afford counsel. Washington's 2017-2019 operating budget signed this year makes room for an additional $5 million in legal aid funding.
Inslee appointed Cheryl Strange, Western State Hospital's CEO, as the head of Washington Department of Social and Health Services on Wednesday, reported The Seattle Times. Strange will replace Bill Moss beginning Sept 18. Strange is best known for her work to stop Western State from losing federal funding.
Seattle Versus Trump
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he supported a GOP Senate bill that would slash legal immigration by half within the next 10 years, replacing the current system of obtaining permanent residency with a skills-based point system for work visas. The new system would focus on qualifying for staying in the U.S. by merit—favoring English-speaking skills, high-paying job offers, and financial stability—and not family ties.
Gonzalez, whose Spanish-speaking immigrant parents worked on a farm, in response issued a statement and said "unskilled immigrant labor" helps keep the state's agricultural industry alive, and that such policies would be bad for business.
“The president needs to acknowledge that our economy needs immigrants of all skills and all education levels to succeed," she said Wednesday. "If the president wants to actually solve our immigration challenges, he’d do well to focus on fixing the broken system that prevents immigrant professionals already living here, including those who speak English and have attained international college degrees, from re-entering their professions. One-off bills drafted for political purposes is not the same thing as comprehensive immigration reform."
State officials also pushed back on the federal administration's possible cut to Cost-Sharing Reductions in the Affordable Care Act. Inslee, insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler, and attorney general Bob Ferguson on Wednesday released a joint statement to the Trump administration on the need for constructive health insurance markets.
"All lawmakers should be committed to working in a bipartisan manner to achieve needed improvements for our health care system. This should start with a commitment from President Trump that his administration will continue to pay the Affordable Care Act’s Cost-Sharing Reductions, in accordance with the law."
This statement comes after Ferguson and other state attorneys general were granted a motion allowing them to defend the requirement that the federal government continue making CSR payments.
Meanwhile, Trump's White House has seen the swift exit of its communication director, Anthony Scaramucci and leaked transcripts of his phone calls with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, The Washington Post reported.