Caffeinated News

1. File this item under Pedestrian Chronicles:

The Downtown Seattle Association released its annual report yesterday. The report looks at stats the DSA says measure the economic health of downtown. They report on everything from average rent ($1,906 vs. $1,405 for Seattle at large), employment (243,000 downtown employees representing 49 percent of all jobs in Seattle), and (!) parking (nearly 80,000 off-street parking spots). And, I'd add, only 74 percent occupancy in the downtown core with more than 6,000 of those off-street parking spots going unused according to a 2014 SDOT report.

The stats, charts, and graphs are well worth poring over—what's with the 10.1 percent retail vacancy rate in the downtown core? (I would have liked to have seen stats, though, on the race and income of who lives downtown vs. who works downtown; the 144,000 service sector jobs made up 59 percent of the total downtown job market. What's the average pay of those jobs?)

An encouraging stat, along with the numbers on increasing transit use (a 5 percent uptick over the last six years) and the fact that "Seattle is now one of only six cities in the U.S. where fewer than half the commuters drive to work alone"—was this: Ped traffic is up 21 percent year over year.



And file this one under "Did You Know That?"

Did you know that more people went to Sounders games (743,485) than Seahawks games (545,577) in 2013–14?

2. The DSA report also notes that downtown, with 10 percent of the city's population (65,000 of nearly 639,000), has double the residential density of the rest of the city.

Downtown is 81 percent renter occupied. Yet only one candidate is running in District Seven. Homeowner Sally Bagshaw. 

This leads me to repeat a question I asked last week about the city council races where 35 candidates are running. Where are the urbanists? The new Districts systems was supposed to bring neighborhood POVs to the fore. But while nine people are running from neighborhoods such as West Seattle and six people are running in North Seattle, and nearly every incumbent has a challenger, no one is running against downtown incumbent Sally Bagshaw.

Where are all those 25-to-54-year-old, single renters with a bachelors degree or higher who make up the majority of downtown? Ever since Kshama Sawant bought a house last summer, there are no longer any renters on the city council.

Bagshaw's Seventh District, downtown, is 81 percent renter occupied, according to the DSA report.

3. Gearing up to begin putting the Democratic house stamp on the proposed senate transportation package (which passed the committee last week), state representative Jessyn Farrell (D-46, North Seattle), the vice chair of the house transportation committee, is already reframing the debate.

And not just in a way that challenges Republicans. The Democratic establishment, which is all about Sound Transit Three, might want to take notice of Farrell's dissident POV too.

First, though, Farrell—who has her eyes on the pending senate floor vote to see if the Republicans have enough votes to pass the package on their own (which would diminish Democratic leverage in final negotiations), says the current proposal takes "massive steps backward on the environment" by preventing low-carbon fuel standards and raiding the toxics cleanup account, for example.

"My constituents need to actually get something, not just the authority to tax themselves."
—State Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46, North Seattle)
And to that end she throws the GOP's reform mantra right back at them. (The Republicans say they won't approve a gas tax without reforms to undo union wage standards on transportation projects). "If you want to get really serious about reforms," she says, "how about designing a transportation infrastructure to have minimum environmental impact?" Citing a recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling that may allow gas taxes to be used for multimodal transportation infrastructure rather than just roads, she says she's against a "cookie cutter, top down" package that doesn't take into account changing commute habits (less driving) but instead "overplans [roads construction] that can't scale."

"We need to meet the needs of people who are getting to work with different modes," she says.

As for getting in the liberal establishment's face, Farrell—a rabid mass transit advocate (she was the former executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition)—nonetheless dropped this bomb.

"I'm not willing to settle for only Sound Transit authority for anything," she told me, making it clear that increasing the senate's underwhelming offer (26 percent less taxing authority than ST asked for) isn't her number-one priority in a funding package that only sets 5 percent aside for multimodal options.

"My constituents need to actually get something, not just the authority to tax themselves."