Morning Fizz

Protesters Against Youth Jail Demonstrate Outside Mayor's House

Jailing kids, rising rents, and biking with electricity.

By Josh Feit December 21, 2016

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 1. Here’s an important follow-up to Monday’s item about the Seattle Arts Commission’s letter to Mayor Ed Murray urging the city to work collaboratively with non-compliant underground arts venues rather the hit them with fines or closure over fire code violations.

As I reported, the main point of the letter was that skyrocketing rents force DIY arts groups into a false choice between affordability and safety; the letter went on to explain that an “adversarial enforcement” approach would simply push venues into more precarious and even more marginalized situations.

So, here’s the deal: Warehouse space rents in Seattle have gone from .55 per square foot five years ago to .73 per square foot right now. That’s a 32 percent increase—with rents in just the last year alone leaping nearly 20 percent up from .61 per square feet.

“A steep increase,” says Carolyn Davis, research manager with CBRE real estate.

2. Protestors against the new King County youth jail gathered outside Mayor Ed Murray’s Capitol Hill home late yesterday afternoon chanting slogans such as “invest in education, not kids’ incarceration.” (Protesters also confronted Murray, along with King County Executive Dow Constantine, about the youth jail when the two spoke as part of the “Hate Free Washington” press conference on Monday organized by newly-elected U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal, D-WA, 7.)

In 2012, King County voters approved the $210 million facility (billed as a “Children and Family Services Center Capital Levy,” ) which will replace the current nearly 25-year-old youth detention center at the same spot in the Central District on East Alder.  

After initial protests in 2014 against the jail, and after city council and county council votes in 2015 and 2016 respectively, supporting the jail, King County Executive Dow Constantine did agree to add more social services and scale back the detention component of the project, capping it at 112 beds. The current jail has 200 beds. (The planned building would still have capacity for 150 beds.)  The current facility houses about 60 youths on average and there are only 27 currently housed there.

Activists against the youth detention center point out that the decline in youth incarceration contradicts the need for so many beds and say a more enlightened criminal justice policy focused on social services is already reversing youth detention numbers even further.

In a November 15th, 2015 legal memo from a group called End the Prison Industrial Complex urging the city not to grant a land use permit for the county facility (which is the specific demand of the protesters, and thus the focus on Murray), lefty attorney Knoll Lowney wrote: “King County could not even justify building a new 60-bed facility because it is clear that youth detention will sharply decrease in upcoming years. Every level of government has committed to reducing the number of youths being incarcerated, virtually guaranteeing that the population will further decrease.”   

Lowney, whose letter details the negative impacts of youth detention,  goes on to cite a September, 2015 unanimous council resolution to end youth detention and fund an action plan to meet that goal.

I have a call in to the mayor.

3. The city council only provided enough funding ($300,000) in the new budget for Seattle’s dying bike share system, formerly owned and run by Pronto, to run through March. SDOT plans to roll out a new bike share system (owned by the city this time, but contracted out to winning bidder Bewegen) in the summer. SDOT believes keeping Pronto running through March staved off a major lapse in service, which will give the new system a chance to succeed

They also believe that Bewegen’s system has a better chance than Pronto’s: Bewegen uses electric-assist bikes. (Begwegen will split the profits on the new system with the city; the city is paying Bewegen $4.7 million up front for Bewegen’s new system and Bewegen is putting in about $1.1 million. The city will also share the sponsorship dollars—they’re hoping for millions—but will get a bigger share of those.)

My Seattle Met colleague Matt Halverson asked some experts if they thought E-assist bikes would make the difference.

Here’s what they said.

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