Take a Trip to Neighbour’s Alley

Check out this video of about Neighbour’s Alley and a winter celebration hosted by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict last December with Framework Cultural Placemaking. Videography by Harley Pan Videography.

Last December, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict hosted a winter celebration to activate Neighbour’s Alley. The alley runs between Pike and Pine just east of Broadway in Capitol Hill and has been the focal point of a revitalization effort. The EcoDistrict, in partnership with local businesses and other stakeholders, convened community gatherings in 2018 to determine a vision for the alley. Stay tuned for a report to be released this fall. This work, funded by the Seattle Office of Economic Development‘s Only in Seattle Initiative, the Bullitt Foundation, and Enterprise Community Partners, is part of a larger effort by the EcoDistrict to guide and inform comprehensive public realm planning for the neighborhood.

An Urban Livability MasterClass in Copenhagen


The Urban Livability MasterClass delegation. Photo courtesy of COurban Design Collective.

This August, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict staff are leading a delegation to study world-renowned public spaces and public life in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden with the goal of bringing home strategies to Capitol Hill. Known as the public realm, open public spaces such as streets, squares,parks, alleys, sidewalks, and other outdoor spaces are a key component to the health, vitality, and livability of individuals and communities. Copenhagen is a global leader in the development of public life in these spaces, and delegates will return with evidence-based practices and professional insight to help develop a shared vision for Capitol Hill’s public spaces.

The delegation includes members of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee, Seattle Central College, Sound Transit, the Seattle City Council, the King County Council, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Washington State Department of Transportation, 4Culture, Seattle University, Capitol Hill Housing, Kaiser Permanente, the GSBA, the Capitol Hill Business Alliance, the Bullitt Foundation, Blanton Turner, Shields Obletz Johnson, and consultants from COurban Design Collective and Framework Cultural Placemaking. The Urban Livability MasterClass is supported by the Scan|Design Foundation, the Bullitt Foundation, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Tune in this fall as delegates share lessons learned and report back.

Affordable Housing ORCA Passes Started at Capitol Hill Housing

CHH residents use ORCA card during EcoDistrict pilot program in 2017.

In 2017, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict partnered with Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) property management and resident services to pilot offering discounted transit through the ORCA Multifamily Passport program (a new transit product for multifamily residential buildings) to 122 households living in three CHH buildings. A resounding success, residents were able to save money and access increased services across the region.  The program reached many residents who could not afford transit otherwise, even through existing discount programs like LIFT. The Affordable ORCA Passport Pilot received funding from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Enterprise Community Partners with coordination support from King County Metro and Sound Transit. In 2018, we wrote about the need to expand this program to affordable housing residents across King County.

This year, the City of Seattle announced a year-long free transit pass program for 1,500 Seattle Housing Authority residents using the same delivery model based on the ORCA Multifamily Passport. This is a welcome next step for increasing access for low income residents of affordable housing and demonstrates the value of our 2017 pilot.  We commend the City of Seattle for this program and hope to see this program expand to include even more affordable housing residents across King County in the future.

Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines Update

Since 2017, an advisory board of community volunteers has worked with the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development and the Department of Construction and Inspections to update the design guidelines for the Capitol Hill Urban Village. Today, the draft update got a step closer to adoption by the City Council. Check out the presentation and hearing today before the Planning Land Use and Zoning Committee (begins at 1:00:00 mark):

http://www.seattlechannel.org/mayor-and-council/city-council/2018/2019-planning-land-use-and-zoning-committee?videoid=x104737&jwsource=cl

Community Engagement Continues on Developing Streetscape in Pike/Pine Corridor

 

Photo courtesy of Alex Garland

As the Pike/Pine corridor prepares for a facelift to include protected bike lanes next year, we want to ensure that anyone for whom this space is important has a chance to weigh in. These lanes will significantly change the corridor, and we all have a stake in what happens on the streets of our city.

Turning the traditional City engagement model on its head, we are testing the theory that planning can and should be done with the community. Those of us who use Pike/Pine – and those who want to use it more – are the experts and should have a say in how it evolves.

Take our Survey

This survey follows on the heels of a series of outreach events that we hosted this fall to raise awareness and collect feedback. In addition to extensive business outreach and hosting a temporary bike lane on Pike during Park(ing) Day, we held a Community Design Workshop to develop a shared vision for the streets of Capitol Hill.

On October 25th, more than 150 community members attended a Pike/Pine Protected Bike Lane Community Design Workshop. Guided by an advisory group designed to represent the interests of as many stakeholders as possible, this event was produced by community-based organizations committed to inclusive dialogue about public spaces.

Teams of community members gathered over maps to design the streets together, considering each other’s needs as they crafted a common vision. Residents heard from businesses that parking and loading zones matter. Bike enthusiasts learned that wheelchair users can, and often prefer to, travel in protected bike lanes. And safe street advocates shared that corridor improvements must be predictable to all users. We all learned that moving the bus trolley wires on Pike Street would be really, really expensive.

See photos of maps and group recommendations here.

If you were unable to attend the event and want to participate in this grassroots effort to design a Pike/Pine corridor that works for everyone, take our survey. It will remain open until December 31.

Once all feedback has been gathered and analyzed, we will present our findings to the Seattle City Council as well as to SDOT in order to meaningfully influence what comes next.

What started as a conversation about protected bike lanes ended with a call for inclusive community engagement for major infrastructure changes citywide. Our process was community-led, but we heard loud and clear from many workshop participants that this model should be replicated. With that in mind, we will share our lessons learned with the City and any other interested organizations in the hopes of making this a reality.

About the authors:

McCaela Daffern is the Sustainability Manager for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, a community-based initiative operating at the cross-section of sustainability, social equity, and cultural resilience.

Brie Gyncild is a community organizer for Central Seattle Greenways, a volunteer-led grassroots organization that works to make streets safer and more comfortable for people who walk, bike, live, work, and play in the Central District and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Central Seattle Greenways is a member of the citywide Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition.

These organizations have worked closely to organize community engagement toward a collective vision for protected bike lanes coming to the Pike/Pine corridor. Based on a commitment to supporting community-driven development, the groups continue to seek insight and feedback from all existing or would-be users of this important public space.

Metro Report Short on New Ideas for Improving Transit Access

More people than ever are riding transit in our region. King County Metro was recently named the best large transit system in North America, and is recognized as a leader for the ORCA LIFT reduced fare program. But many folks are still being left behind, so this summer the King County Council asked Metro to find ways to serve more low-income people.

Motion 2018-0255 directed Metro to identify opportunities to make public transit more affordable and accessible for youth, community college students, affordable housing residents and low-income employees, as well as options for very-low-income Metro fare “for individuals who are in households with incomes of two hundred percent or less of the federal poverty level and are unable to afford the ORCA LIFT fare.”

The resulting report from Metro recommends a pilot program to serve very low-income individuals as compliance with an earlier 2016 Council ordinance (Ordinance 18409, Section 115, Proviso P1). Unfortunately, Metro’s report is short on ways to make transit more accessible to the other groups named by the Council. Instead, Metro opens the report’s third paragraph with this conclusion:

“Although individuals in all the markets considered for this report would benefit from increased transit access, we conclude that special pricing for specific groups is not the best tool to achieve this end.

This conclusion runs counter to Metro’s current practices, including the Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP), which entitles senior riders (age 65 or older), riders with a disability and Medicare card holders to reduced fares. Metro also offers a discounted youth fare.

Metro suggests that “a comprehensive, income-based approach to fares would be the most equitable, viable, and aligned with adopted policy.” This sounds good, but then they kick the can down the road suggesting “policy updates supporting this approach in future updates of King County Metro’s Strategic Plan for Public Transportation,” which isn’t scheduled for update until 2021 or later.

In the body of the report, Metro makes broad assumptions about a small set of options for serving youth, students, low income residents and low wage earner groups might work to argue in each case that the cost would be too high to address their respective needs. In addition to considering limited options, Metro takes a very conservative approach to estimating the costs of potential programs, an approach which Metro admits in the report “may overstate the impact that programs could have on farebox recovery.”

Let’s look at how these assumptions play out in relation to one group—affordable housing residents—and a proposed program to adapt the Multifamily ORCA Passport to better serve this population.

Assumption 1: We can’t afford it.

In the existing Multifamily ORCA Passport program, costs are shared between the riders and their for-profit apartment landlord. Metro points out that subsidized housing operators “have very little if any availability to fund the partner/building operator share of the ORCA Multifamily Passport program.” This is true and is why we’ve argued that the Passport program is broken. We believe a modest subsidy of less than $1 million would go a long way towards fixing the program and increasing ridership among affordable housing residents, and suggest Metro work with other transit agencies to reduce the trip rate for Passports in affordable housing and think creatively about sources of funds to cover some or all the operator share. Following are potential sources to explore:

New Revenue: Metro is currently above its farebox recovery requirements and has a variety of options for new revenue.  New revenues of $3 million and $5 million are expected to come from Metro’s recent fare simplification.  Other revenues, such as parking user fees, should be explored.

Other Jurisdictions: We’ve heard some local jurisdictions suggest that if Metro could bring down the cost (e.g. by reducing the trip rate for Multi-Family Housing Passports in affordable housing), those cities might help to cover the partner/operator share for buildings in their jurisdictions. These conversations have been mostly informal and should be followed up.

Sound Transit: Metro’s report assumes other transit agencies won’t participate in a reduced fare program serving affordable housing. But there’s no suggestion in the report that they’ve asked for input from Sound Transit or the other transit agencies part of the ORCA pantheon (Community Transit, Everett Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, Washington State Ferries).

Federal Funds (e.g. CMAQ): The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) administers millions of dollars in mitigation funds block granted from the Federal Highway Administration to address the pollution impacts of congestion. For example, in 2018 PSRC will distribute $26M under the Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) program. Metro could explore options with PSRC to see where there might be a good fit in 2019.

Assumption 2: It wouldn’t be fair, Part 1.

Metro suggests it would be unfair to offer a less expensive pass to affordable housing residents because they might get a deal unavailable to similarly low-income or lower-income people not living in affordable housing. We share Metro’s commitment to fairness and recommend better service to low- and very low-income individuals everywhere they reside in the County, including within subsidized housing.

Affordable ORCA Passports would be a complement to other reduced fare products like ORCA LIFT, not a replacement. Passports are effective for reaching groups of riders connected to an apartment building or business, just as the student program services students in Seattle Public Schools. ORCA LIFT is a good option for individual low-income riders not connected to an institution.

Assumption 3: It wouldn’t be fair, Part 2.

Metro suggests that because not all affordable housing is located near transit, offering a lower price transit pass to all affordable housing residents would not serve folks living away from transit hubs.

We suggest offering a program that affordable housing providers could opt into based on the level of interest of residents in their building. It is most likely that buildings with poor transit access would not have a great demand for the program as compared to buildings near transit and would not opt in. This is consistent with how the current Multi-family ORCA Passport program works. Buildings opt in, at least that is the idea. Currently, Metro has very few customers for the Multifamily ORCA Passport program. This is likely because in market-rate buildings near transit, most of the residents already have a Passport through their employer. This is far less likely in an affordable housing property where residents are less likely to have a pass subsidized by their employer.

Assumption 4: We should just do more of what we do.

What is perhaps most disappointing about the Metro report is the absence of creative problem solving. To be fair, Metro was only given a couple of months from when Council passed Motion 15171 and when Metro was required to deliver a report. But instead of offering opportunities, as the motion requested, and perhaps asking for more time and/or resources to develop creative solutions, Metro retreats to promoting what they’re already doing or committed to do.

The main recommendation of the report besides piloting a very low income program is to focus “on increasing ORCA LIFT enrollment among youth, students/trainees, subsidized housing residents, who have low-wage/low-incomes and are communities of color, limited English speaking, and immigrants and refugees.” In other words, better marketing.

Sure, better marketing and outreach to support existing programs is a good idea, but it shouldn’t be the only idea coming out of a report that was supposed to expand opportunities for serving low-income riders. It may not even be the best way to improve ORCA LIFT enrollment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

King County Metro could make the ORCA LIFT program immediately better and likely boost enrollment by bringing the eligibility requirements for the program into alignment with the eligibility requirements for affordable housing. Currently, Metro bases eligibility for ORCA LIFT on 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is set annually in relation to income levels across the continental US and used to qualify for federal programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The FPL is woefully LOW ($12,140/year for an individual; $25,100/year for a family of four), especially in an expensive place like King County.

Area Median Income (AMI) is based on income levels in King County, which makes it far more relevant as a measure of how someone is doing in our local economy. We suggest resetting the ORCA LIFT eligibility to 60% AMI, which would have the dual benefits of qualifying more cost-burdened people and making it easier for affordable housing providers to help enroll residents already income qualified for 60% AMI housing.

Similarly, Metro could consider applying a lower AMI rate, say 30 percent of AMI, to qualify for the new very low-income product they hope to pilot. With Motion 2018-0255, the King County Council directed Metro to identify opportunities to better serve low-income and very low-income riders. Metro has responded by recommending a pilot program to reach very-low income riders. We look forward to working alongside Metro for the success of this program and its full scaling to reach the many folks who need transit access but can’t currently afford an ORCA LIFT card.

We also offer to help Metro respond to the other needs outlined in Motion 2018-0255 and take a deeper look at modifying the ORCA Passport to serve low income folks. Finally, we support the crafting of a comprehensive, income-based approach to fares and recommend that Council and Metro not wait until the next strategic planning process to craft it.

 

 

Why Can’t One of the Richest Cities in the U.S. Solve Its Homelessness Crisis? Well, It Isn’t Really Trying—and It Won’t Until You Make It

Photo: Ansel Herz

This article originally appeared in the Stranger

By McCaela Daffern

It’s not a new story when a large corporation throws its weight around, devouring public resources and hectoring its way through city government. With the Head Tax decapitated, Seattle’s homelessness crisis raging on, and with King County threatening to minimize its commitment to affordable housing, who will bear any responsibility for investing in this city and its people? Who is writing this story anyway?

Community engagement is the key to leveraging strength against a powerhouse player when it comes to large-scale development. I know this because I was part of a coalition that effectively took on the Washington State Convention Center expansion and came away with a model for winning major community benefits. I believe the model we used in that fight— enlist allies, find a champion, and leverage collective power—can be applied to other struggles over the direction of our city, including the long debate over how to address our homelessness crisis.

The upcoming $1.7 billion expansion of the Convention Center will be the largest real estate project in Seattle history and promises increased tourism revenue and new jobs. But what good will it deliver to nearby neighborhoods impacted by the addition of noise, traffic, and general disruption? Where will new service-wage workers live? The coalition I was a part of asked these questions because we believed that as residents of Seattle, we deserve a better legacy than to become a footnote in a saga of growing pains. Communities need to rewrite this story to be our own.

A vast power imbalance between government, corporations, and regular people does not have to equal futility, though it is rare to have a partner like the one we found in the Washington State Convention Center. It turns out, the folks at the convention center were more than willing to listen. What I discovered in our pursuit to secure public benefits from a powerful, well-funded enterprise is a truth: the privilege of having the connections and resources of an expert organization is undeniable.

I work at such an organization—Capitol Hill Housing. They entered this negotiation to ensure that funding for public benefits would include affordable housing, and at first, the Convention Center put $5 million on the table. Amid a crisis of homelessness in which King County is short up to 14,000 affordable homes, that amount was absurd.

In response, the Community Package Coalition (CPC) formed in January of 2017 and included eight organizations from adjoining neighborhoods: Capitol Hill HousingCascade Bicycle ClubCentral Seattle GreenwaysFirst Hill Improvement AssociationFreeway Park AssociationHousing Development ConsortiumLid I-5, and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Using the King County Health Equity Toolkit, we could see that housing was the most significant tool we had to promote health equity in our neighborhoods. In addition to affordable housing, the Coalition pushed for funding for public space like parks and bike lanes. Communities are knitted together through safe and equitable access to meaningful and lasting amenities that make Seattle livable. Our ever-expanding city should grow closer, not farther apart.

The Coalition worked. We secured more than $80 million in public benefits, including funding for bike lanes, sidewalk improvements, open space, a study to lid I-5, and $30 million for affordable housing throughout Seattle.

Without this deep alliance and the support of Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, City Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Teresa Mosqueda, and especially Mike O’Brien, as well as the tireless efforts of Seattle City Council staff, this win would have been impossible. As a city, we owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who helped to shape our future with this work.

Together, we proved that community efforts can change the story of large-scale development and put pressure on major developers to be accountable to their neighbors. With the Convention Center’s willing ear, we were able to articulate our vision of what would serve Seattleites rather than take what we were offered.

As a coalition, we must recognize our immense privilege in having the means and connections to bring the Washington State Convention Center to the table. We could make the time, we had relationships with City officials, and we enjoyed an expertise in developing the very assets we were asking the Convention Center to fund. It shouldn’t take such an abundance of resources to stand up for what you believe in or to ask for what you deserve.

Communities of color especially face the brunt of displacement and discrimination when it comes to housing and economic opportunities. Thanks to the work of advocacy organizations like Puget Sound Sage, the City has adopted a process by which groups representing marginalized communities become a central voice in the decision-making process. This is essential if Seattle is to realize its potential as a vibrant, diverse, and welcoming city where real opportunity exists for anyone willing to reach for it.

It is my hope that our success with the Community Package Coalition paves the way for coalitions that follow. As debate over the lodging tax, or “hotel/motel tax”, reaches a fever pitch, now is the time to come together to support funding for affordable housing. Nearly three years ago, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine declared a state of emergency on homelessness, yet County Councilmembers are currently discussing using the lodging tax to fund $180 million in stadium improvements for Safeco Field, home of the Mariners, with only the minimum amount required by law going toward affordable workforce housing and services for homeless youth. Now, I like baseball as much as anyone. But, as Ethan Phelps Goodman, founder of Seattle Tech 4 Housing, said at a recent hearing on the subject, “Did we declare a state of emergency around stadium maintenance three years ago?”

The Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness, Housing Development Consortium (HDC)—of which Capitol Hill Housing is a member—and others have created #TeamHousing as a rallying cry in support of maximizing public investments in affordable housing. As an individual community member, you can take action to center our most marginalized neighbors. Speak at the next public hearing on August 29 or contact your county council member and let them know that you agree – we must do the most we can for affordable housing, not the least.

Get involved. Ending homelessness in Seattle will only be a true government priority if we make sure of it. Join #TeamHousing or connect with the King County Regional Affordable Housing Task Force, and let your voice be heard. It is essential that institutions like the King County Council, the Convention Center, and any corporation or institution residing in our community respect and reflect the values and priorities of their neighbors as well as that of the city and county at large. In the story of Seattle’s growth, its people should be the protagonists. Corporations and large institutions form an important scenery that they and we should get to design together.

McCaela Daffern is the Sustainability Manager for Capitol Hill Housing, a community development corporation and public development authority. Her work includes staffing the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, a community-driven effort to promote equity, environmental resilience, and cultural space in the most densely populated urban village in the Pacific Northwest.

City Council Committee Passes Bike Network Resolution

Councilmember Mike O’Brien introduced Resolution #312826 and his committee, the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, passed it 5-0 yesterday.

“With Wednesday’s committee meeting, we’re reaffirming our commitment to establishing a connected, protected bicycle lane network in downtown Seattle,” said O’Brien in a press release. “We’re also committing Seattle to achieving zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. Given what’s at stake, it’s too expensive not to make more investments in completing the network for all to utilize and enjoy.”

(image courtesy of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways)

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Clup helped organized a big turnout at Wednesday’s hearing. Joel Sisolak from the EcoDistrict testified on behalf of the Resolution and specifically the connection of downtown to Capitol Hill via a protected bike lane in Pike-Pine.

“In the past 18 months, I’ve been in two separate bike accidents commuting to Capitol Hill,” Sisolak said. “I’m deeply invested in Vision Zero and seeing the bike network completed on the Hill.”

Sisolak also noted that as sustainability advocates for Capitol Hill and as a member of the Community Package Coalition that helped negotiate community benefits from the Washington State Convention Center expansion, the EcoDistrict is a staunch advocate of well designed bike infrastructure for Pike Pine.

Bike lanes need to work for all stakeholders, including people who would choose to bike if it were safer. Capitol Hill Housing and the EcoDistrict are committed to working with SDOT, Central Seattle Greenways and other community interests to ensure that our business community and all users of the Pike-Pine corridor have a say in how these lanes are designed so that their implementation is successful and the lanes are well and safely used.

(image courtesy of City of Seattle)

O’Brien was joined in passing the Resolution by Councilmembers Johnson, Sawant, Bagshaw and Gonzalez. A vote of the full Council is expected July 30th.

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Make the ORCA Passport Program Work for All

If you have an ORCA card, there’s a good chance you got it through your employer or your apartment building. The largest group of ORCA users get their pass that way, taking advantage of one of two “Passport” programs (ORCA Business Passport Programfor employers and the Multifamily ORCA Passportfor apartment-dwellers).

Either way, you are a beneficiary of the most effective transit pass program in the system. In 2017, King County brought in $76 million in revenue from the ORCA Passport programs for approximately 35 million boardings.

The ORCA Passport Program is both effective in getting people on transit and popular, but unfortunately, it doesn’t serve most low-income people. In 2016, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), a city-wide affordable housing developer and community development organization, surveyed people living in apartments along Pike Street. We found that in market rate buildings, 68 percent had an ORCA pass subsidized by their employer. In contrast, only 22 percent of the residents in affordable housing buildings had Passports.

Far fewer affordable housing residents are offered an ORCA Passport by employers. These residents must resort to more expensive individual passes or walking long distances to work, school or appointments.

To address this disparity, in 2016-17 CHH piloted an expansion of the ORCA Passport programin affordable housing. The project, funded by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Enterprise Community Partners, enabled  57 households in three CHH buildings making below 60 percent of the area median income (roughly $60,000 for a family of four) to purchase ORCA Passports at under $20/month, the same amount or slightly more than what many local employees pay for their Passports through work or their apartment building.

The pilot tested three things:

  • Would affordable housing residents making $20,000-40,000/year pay $10-20/month for an ORCA Passport?
  • How much they use the Passport once purchased?
  • Would the program be easy for an affordable housing provider to administer?

The results of pilot were illuminating. More than half of our residents participated in the program and they used it A LOT, an average of 43 trips per month, 80 percent above what KC Metro models anticipated. And the program was easy to administer. Each month, we collected the rider share of the cost via the same mechanism by which we collect monthly rent.

Our residents loved the Affordable ORCA Passport Pilot. It made it easier for them to connect to jobs, healthcare, and opportunities in our city. Here’s a sample of quotes from participants:

“Makes my family feel normal and connected to public transportation, allowing my family to have extra funds to apply to other household cost(s).”

“Please keep it funded and going! I decided not to keep my car and just use this $10 pass and walk. Loving it and saves me money.”

Unfortunately, the pilot ended in 2017. CHH is pressing for an expansion to affordable housing residents across King County. Other housing organizations, including Seattle Housing Authority, King County Housing Authority and the Housing Development Consortium, support an expansion. King County Council has also received letters from Forterra, Futurewise, the Transit Riders Union, the Mayor of Tukwila and the North Urban Human Services Alliance Board, among others.

Advocacy is working. Last month, the King County Council passed a motion that instructs Metro to address transit access and affordability for affordable housing residents, as well as youth and community college students. The projected costs of these strategies will inform the Council’s Fall budget deliberations and could lead to a major expansion of transit access to low-income households.

Motion 2018-0255 is open ended. One big question is how an expanded Affordable ORCA Passport program would be funded. Based on our estimates, the cost should not be prohibitive. The subsidy cost to serve three CHH buildings for a year was under $35,000. We suggest the County create a $1M pool of funds to launch a robust Affordable ORCA Passport program County-wide and target households making 60% of the area median income and lower-income buildings near transit.

There is still a lot left to figure out, which is why Metro’s work under the motion is so important. It directs them to price options for Council consideration in the Fall budget cycle, allowing for a more nuanced discussion of how we can better connect low-income residents to public transit.

An expansion won’t be simple, but folks are willing to roll up their sleeves to figure it out. Mayor Allan Ekberg of Tukwila writes: “The City welcomes the opportunity to participate in conversations about this expansion and how Tukwila might both contribute to its success and benefit our constituents.”

This is a pressing issue that affects all parts of King County, not just Seattle. In a letter to Councilmember Dembowski, the North Urban Human Services Alliance Board, which includes the Cities of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, laid out a case that could be made for cities throughout our County and underscores why this should be a high priority for Council and Metro going forward:

“As you well know, North King County is growing rapidly. All of the NKC cities are investing in transit infrastructure.  And all of these cities and the County are spending millions of dollars to build affordable housing near transit  hubs. We want to be sure that the folks who live in those buildings can afford to ride transit to school, jobs and other services.  Fixing the ORCA Passport is a logical step towards meeting this goal.”

 

Another Reason to Visit Cal Anderson Park – It’s Pesticide Free!

Cal Anderson Park is pesticide-free! Barb DeCaro from Seattle Parks and Recreation delivered that surprise piece of good news during a tour of the park Tuesday with representatives from the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Seattle Audubon, Earthcorps, SalmonSafe, and the Cal Anderson Park Alliance.

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee has been concerned about pesticide use in Cal Anderson since the Seattle Times ran a story last July on Seattle Parks’ wide use of pesticides, including glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular product Roundup.

Why the concern?

Glyphosate was tagged as a “probable carcinogen” in early 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Since the classification, activists in some cities, including Portland, Oregon, have been asking for a ban on glyphosate use in public parks.

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict staff and allies have been seeking more information about glyphosate use in Seattle Parks and were gearing up for a fight to get pesticides out of Cal Anderson Park and spark a conversation about getting glyphosates out of all Seattle Parks.

And then we found out on Tuesday that we are lucky among neighborhoods in Seattle. According to DeCaro, Cal Anderson Park doesn’t get sprayed with pesticides as part of an agreement with Seattle Public Utilities to protect the water quality of Lincoln Reservoir that lies below the northern half of the park.

But what is going on in other nearby parks, including Volunteer Park? Are we and our pets protected from exposure to a probable carcinogen?

According to the Times article, the answer is no. Glyphosate was sprayed in Volunteer Park as recently as 2016, as well as Alder Creek Park,  Washington Park, Thomas C. Wales Park, and many others.

“In 2016, Parks and Recreation conducted 732 pesticide treatments in parks that were either developed or in active restoration. More than 60 percent of these applications included glyphosate,” according to the Times. The heaviest use of pesticides is on Seattle’s golf courses.

And glyphosate is probably in other green spaces nearby. Megan Dunn, from the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, was in town for Tuesday’s tour. She pointed out that even if glyphosates are not in Cal Anderson Park, they are definitely used heavily in nearby private yards and public rights of way. Dunn points to the growing evidence against glyphosate use on both public and private land, but the substance is still widely used. And it is finding its way into our bodies.

“This chemical is in our food, water, air, and has been found in breast milk and urine. The manufacturing, distribution and sale of glyphosate is a multi-billion-dollar industry,” Dunn writes on the NCAP blog.

Monsanto, the makers of RoundUp and other pesticide products containing glyphosate, claims there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. They are currently defending this position in California and Missouri courts.

In the meantime, RoundUp continues to fly off the shelves of local home improvement stores and Seattle Parks has expressed no intent to stop applying glyphosate in many neighborhood parks. If you don’t want yourselves or your pets exposed, come over to Cal Anderson Park!

 

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