Category: Renter Initiative

Meet the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative Leadership Committee!

In early spring, six neighborhood advocates were nominated and confirmed to join the first Leadership Committee for the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative. This vibrant group of renters come to their new roles with a diverse range of interests and lived experiences and share a united vision for creating a more sustainable and affordable Capitol Hill. Throughout the next year these leaders will provide guidance and strategic direction for CHRI advocacy, shaping our outreach efforts while affirming CHRI’s commitment to elevating the voice of renters’ in Capitol Hill.

As they grow into their role, this group of dedicated renter leaders will play a vital part in advocating for the vision, goals, and future of the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative, help us welcome them into their new roles!

Learn more about each of our new renter leaders:

Ryan (Jonesy) Jones

My name is Ryan Jones (Jonesy) and I have been living in Seattle just shy of two and a half years in the same Capitol Hill apartment.  Living in a micro-apartment has inspired me to better understand the issues surrounding this type of housing as well as other issues related to housing in Seattle.  I really believe in the work that CHRI does and I would be pleased to assist with the strategic direction of CHRI as well as work on some of its specific projects and efforts.  I have always been interested in environmental issues and I view housing, transportation, and planning as being integral to the ecological and social well-being of communities.

Austin Valeske

I’m a software engineer with Socrata, a civic tech company where we help government make data driven decisions and open data to the public. I spend the rest of my time fighting for transit justice, housing affordability, inclusive zoning, and racial justice by organizing with the Capitol Hill Renter’s Initiative, Seattle Tech Solidarity, and the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Action Coalition. Increasing density, access to opportunity, and access to transit is a fundamental piece of fighting climate change and reducing inequity in our city.

Myra Lara

I’m an architectural designer by day and cartoonist by night. I moved to Seattle in 2010 for the sole purpose of living sustainably, growing creatively, and fighting “the man” among like-minded people. My current priorities are housing affordability for all peoples (especially new multifamily affordable housing and re-legalizing the “missing middle” in single family zones), racial justice (learning about, acknowledging our complicity, and actively fixing our segregated cities – to especially have women of color as urban leaders), mass transit and neighborhood connectivity. I live on the hill because I live car-less, bike-full, and thrive on art, living near friends, and weirdness. I’ve been living in this neighborhood since 2010.

Zach Lubarsky

I’m Zach, a ~3-month Capitol Hill/First Hill resident. I lived in Belltown for 3 years, and New York State before that. I’m interested in zoning and how that interacts with community building and affordability. I’d love to give renters a bigger ear to our city wide and district politicians, city, county, and, state.

Noelle Symanski

As a Capitol Hill renter, I feel committed to the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative’s goal of addressing affordability and mobility challenges. Capitol Hill is a vibrant and diverse neighborhood, and I wish to support my community members in building a coalition that gives voice to renters from all backgrounds. I am particularly passionate about recruiting and affirming involvement of Capitol Hill residents that are not traditionally represented in neighborhood groups or state and local government processes.

 Andy Katz

After watching Capitol Hill grow and change over the eight years I’ve rented here, I now have the time to engage more actively with our community and to advocate on behalf of the renters who comprise the majority of Capitol Hill residents, including the most vulnerable and marginalized.  I’m most passionate about affordable housing and transit advocacy, and I’m excited to deepen my understanding of inclusionary land use initiatives like MHA upzones so we can build the best, most affordable, and most equitable Seattle possible.  If time and energy permit, I’d also like to explore connecting our renter livability work group with city and county efforts to address the homelessness and opioid addiction crisis, e.g. by creating supervised consumption sites.  I’m excited about the opportunity to meet and serve alongside my Capitol Hill neighbors.

Thank you to our renter leaders for your dedication and service to the community!

As we grow into 2017, it’s important for the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative to reflect the diverse interests of renters in Capitol Hill. This includes building a leadership structure that reflects the diversity of the neighborhood. We reserved at least one spot on the Leadership Committee for a renter living in subsidized affordable housing. We are also open to expanding membership to include diverse and intersectional perspectives. We encourage folks from all identities including people of color, and LGBTQ people, women, and renters from all ages and abilities to talk to us about joining the Leadership Committee. No need for previous experience, just an interest in taking on a leadership role and passion for renter advocacy. Contact cwalther@capitolhillhousing.org for more details or if you have questions.  

Do Small Businesses Also Need a Renters’ Commission?

The City Council Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee voted yesterday to move legislation to create the nation’s first Renters’ Commission. The legislation will go to the full City Council for consideration on Monday, March 20th.

During Committee discussion, members expressed excitement for the new Renters’ Commission and discussed another group that might similarly benefit from direct engagement with City Hall. CM Johnson pointed out that, like households that rent, commercial tenants face a high risk of displacement by rising costs.

CM Herbold suggested revitalizing the Economic Development Commission (EDC), which was decommissioned about nine months ago, to represent the interests of small businesses operating out of rented space. This would represent a major shift from the past incarnation of the EDC, whose former roster was dominated by multinationals, venture capitalists, big institutions and property interests, including Amazon, the Port of Seattle, 360° Hotel Group, the University of Washington and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

According to former EDC member and Columbia City developer Rob Mohn, the EDC focused on how to keep Seattle economically competitive by addressing broad issues like quality of life, education attainment, work readiness, and the built environment. His focus was on the City planning process and believes EDC findings and recommendations informed last year’s restructuring of Seattle’s planning office into its current two departments.

When asked if the EDC addressed issues of commercial affordability for small businesses, Mohn responded, “No, not at all. That wasn’t on our radar.”

Mohn, who serves on the board of the Columbia City Business Improvement Area and participates in the Columbia City Business Association, wonders how the City can help struggling businesses short of providing subsidies to help with rent.

Last year, Mayor Murray empaneled a Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee to address this very question. Following the Committee’s September 2016 recommendations, the Mayor delivered his Commercial Affordability Action Plan, which involves earmarking Community Development Block Grant dollars for technical assistance, tenant improvements to commercial spaces, and microbusiness loans. The Mayor didn’t establish a means for small business renters to provide ongoing consultation to the City on their emerging issues.

It’s not entirely clear why the Mayor disbanded the EDC. Re-organizing it to address the needs of commercial renters is an idea worth exploring. Healthy small businesses, as well as nonprofit organizations who tend to rent commercial space, are an essential part of what makes neighborhoods like Capitol Hill livable.

Renters’ Commission Will Be Good for Seattle Neighborhoods

Last month, affordable housing developer Mercy Housing completed a large new building with a total of 108 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments, a block from my home. I live with my wife and daughter in a small single family home in the Othello neighborhood of the Rainier Valley. We’re close to a light rail station and our block is part of a proposed expansion and upzone of the Othello Urban Village. Not all of my neighbors are happy about the Mercy Housing project or the development of more apartment buildings expected to follow. Some people worry about losing the parking in front of their homes. Others argue that renters don’t take care of things as well as owners, that they are transient. Others think that owners and long-time residents have earned a louder voice in the decisions affecting our block. After all, they have more at stake.

Thankfully, not all of my neighbors feel this way. Some recognize that “folks have to live somewhere” and buying a home is out of reach for most of the people they know. In fact, half the 2,100 applications to live in the affordable units at the Mercy Housing buildings are from our neighborhood. At a recent community meeting, I even heard some of my neighbors advocate for a bigger expansion of the urban village. Some locals know that renters can be great neighbors, just as some property owners can be assholes.

Renter households now outnumber homeowner households across the City, and as with Seattle homeowners, “Seattle renters” comprise a large and diverse group. They are families and individuals, professionals and students, queer and straight, young and old, white and people of color, low and middle income, long-time renters and people saving to buy a first home. They live in studios, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments, single family homes, townhomes, dormitories, mother-in-law apartments, SROs and aPodments. Groups of roommates share space while some individuals live alone either by choice or circumstance.

The Capitol Hill Renter Initiative (CHRI) was started a year ago to engage local members of this diverse group to advocate for things renters seem to universally want, the very same things I wanted 20 years ago when I rented a little studio on Fremont Ave: affordability, mobility (i.e walkability, bikeability, transit access), public safety, and access to nearby amenities and necessities, like groceries and green space. Green space is critical, since most renters don’t have a backyard to relax in, garden, raise chickens or barbecue ribs.

The renters engaged in the CHRI are motivated, insightful community leaders who care deeply about the neighborhood and care deeply about keeping it livable for the many residents who want to live in a dense urban setting. They are the opposite of the stereotypes some owners like to throw out as arguments against empowering renters to affect local and municipal governance. CHRI members show up to testify for affordability and livability legislation, they show up to support greenways and protected bike lanes, they show up to advocate for better transit access, they show up for green space.

Last week, City Councilmembers Burgess, O’Brien and Herbold announced their plan to introduce legislation that will form the first Renters’ Commission in the country. It will address development and affordability issues, as well as transportation, open space, education, and public health. This bodes well for Seattle’s neighborhoods and should be welcomed by all of Seattle’s renters and owners. Through the CHRI, we have found that with a bit of education, coordination and encouragement, renters can be motivated, insightful and effective advocates for the very things that make Capitol Hill, and all of Seattle, great.

This post originally appeared on the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, 2 March 2017.

Housing Justice Movie Night

The Capitol Hill Renter Initiative is excited to be partnering with Latino LGBTQ nonprofit Entre Hermanos for a Housing Justice Movie Night to raise awareness for diverse affordable housing options in Seattle. The team is also proud to have a growing list of co-sponsors signed on including Futurewise, CASA Latina, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, LGBTQ Allyship, and Sierra Club Washington State Chapter! Representatives from each of these organizations will be in attendance to share what they are working on and how renters can get involved.

This movie night will feature the 2006 award-winning drama Quinceañera. The film’s story line centers around a young Latina teenager, growing up in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, who finds herself pregnant and kicked out of her home before her 15th birthday, forcing her to move in with her great grand uncle. She is joined by her cousin who has been kicked out of his house for coming out as gay. Under the roof of a small backyard cottage, they each face their own challenges and find support in one another. Through these personal stories Quinceañera tackles issues of affordability, gentrification, and tenants’ rights, all major challenges facing Seattle today.

This event was created in response to the recent decision by the Seattle hearing examiner to indefinitely delay an ordinance that would make it easier for homeowners to build backyard cottages (legally called Detached Accessory Dwelling Units or DADUs) like the home the main characters share in the movie. The hearing examiner decision came after a legal challenge by the Queen Anne Community Council, a neighborhood group that hired attorneys in order to delay these low cost housing options from coming to their neighborhood.

After the film, representatives from each organization will lead a discussion on the how renters can address the issues highlighted in Quinceañera including how to take action on backyard cottages and other housing justice campaigns!

The event will be held on Wednesday, February 8th at 7pm at Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave). There is suggested donation of $3 to help cover costs. However, this is a free event and everyone (ages 18+) are welcome.

“Buy” your free ticket to reserve a seat here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/e/2834116 or RSVP on the Facebook event page here

A Poem from Michelle Penaloza

The following poem was shared by Michelle Peñaloza at the #RenterSummit. It’s published here with her permission.

 

michelle penaloza

WE WALK A HEART AROUND LAKE UNION

by Michelle Peñaloza

and you point to buildings and streets
that bear the scars around your own:
the elementary school that taught you
difference and its consequences; the law
firm where twenty-five years later your daily
prayer and hijab reinforced the lesson.
There, the bus stop where you last saw
your brother, out of his mind and out of your
reach, his mouth an open sore.
We’ve talked many times before about
what it means to be noticed, to be
threatening and invisible at the same time.
In this way, we are sisters. We stay close,
two brown women walking together.
This city’s always been very segregated
and it’s true that when you walk north
the prices rise and the faces pale.
We touch the Scotch broom and lilacs
erupted in spring, notice the renegade ferns
growing upon the stumps of old docks.
All along the water’s edge, we note the glorious blue
made bluer by the hulls of gleaming white boats;
upon a hillside suffuse in green, amid artifacts of rust,
people fly kites, edging out over the skyline.
On your left! Bikers zoom past us, their spandex,
the shine of their helmets, rejoicing.
It’s true that people here are different
when exposed to the sun; they crowd
the sidewalks with strollers and wagging dogs.
Sunglasses, then. Smiles and hellos.
We pass condo after condo, clustered houseboats,
marinas of artisan sailboats, luxury yachts.
Who are these people, we ask, looking in.
All day you’ve spoken the landscape of your life
as we walk among places that no longer exist —
neighborhoods reconceptualized and fenced off.
This city does not want me.
What do we do when the ground we claim
as home changes beneath our feet?
Landscape, layered. You can look back,
remember the stories beneath all this shine.
We part ways upon a freshly paved greenspace.
In the shadow of History and Industry, people
play bocce on gravel among orange café seating.
Beneath an awning along the water,
a man carves a canoe from salvaged cedar.

 

From landscape / heartbreak

Republished in The Seattle Review of Books

 

Questions asked by Building Ambassadors at the #RenterSummit

questions at SummitAt yesterday’s Renter Summit, small groups were asked to prepare questions for the civic leaders on the afternoon Q&A panel. Serving on the panel were House Speaker Frank Chopp, 43rd District Senator Jamie Pedersen, King County Metro Deputy General Manager Victor Obeso, Seattle District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and Seattle District 4 Councilmember Rob Johnson.

Here are the questions renters submitted:

ON RENTER EMPOWERMENT

Councilmembers Johnson and Sawant: do you support the creation of a City-wide Renter’s Commission?

ON MOBILITY

  1. What can we do to increase late night transit?
  2. How can we make transit more accessible to kids and families?
  3. How are we incorporating safety for vulnerable populations in plans to expand transit?
  4. Why are we not moving forward with a parking benefit district?
  5. How do we improve last-leg connections for those who don’t live directly near the main transit lines?
  6. Can we make transit passes free or low cost for all people, especially workers and students?
  7. How can we make Metro friendlier, less expensive and easier to use for families, especially single mothers with children?
  8. Where does the money from zoned [RPZ] parking go?
  9. How can we better involve women and minority owned contractors in transit development?
  10. How is King County Metro/Sound Transit working with the City of Seattle and WSDOT to get transit priority improvements on the street?
  11. What are we waiting on to get buses out of traffic?
  12. There have been 2 bike fatalities this week. How can we accelerate the creation of protected bike lanes?*
  13. How much money are we spending on fare collecting and enforcement? Could we better use these funds for transit access and affordability?*

Q&AON AFFORDABILITY

  1. What is the top priority in Olympia for moving HALA forward? Does Frank Chopp support the MHA-R program in HALA?
  2. Why do we have zoning that limits building heights and requires parking?
  3. Can we consider a vacancy tax to disincentivize sitting on overpriced or investment rental units?
  4. Why are urban villages being forced to absorb all of the City’s growth?
  5. When can we talk about the dominance of single family housing in Seattle again?
  6. How can we incentivize the development of unused land?
  7. What does the City do to protect renters from retaliation by landlords?
  8. How can we increase accountability for landlords re: ethics and standards?
  9. Are there non-subsidized solutions?
  10. When are you going to be brave and bold enough to give inter-sexed people the safe affordable house we deserve?
  11. Can the Council implement a capital gains tax that eliminates property speculation?
  12. What are the plans to curb economic displacement due to transit oriented development in Seattle?
  13. What happens when a tenant no longer qualifies for the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) Program? What is tenant to do in regards to rent payment?
  14. What’s being done to prevent landlords from requiring applicants to have incomes 3x the rent?
  15. Is there a way for renters to apply to new housing before it’s built?
  16. What new forms of public revenue can be made to build more affordable housing quickly? (e.g. land tax, foreign investment tax, parking tax)*
  17. How can we cap/change the laws around rent increases with lease renewals?*
  18. Frank Chopp: We feel a preservation tax exemption would be great for affordability. What would it take to get your support?*

*Question asked of the panel at the #RenterSummit.

Capitol Hill Renters (and Homeowners) Are Like No Other

Seattle Times Renter Owner

Back in August, the Seattle Times created this nice little infographic comparing renters and homeowners in Seattle.  The big takeaways weren’t too surprising.  Overall, renters in Seattle make less money, have smaller households, and live in smaller places.  They are more likely to be young, more likely to be people of color, more likely to have moved recently, and less likely to own a car than Seattle homeowners.

But what about Capitol Hill, where 80% of residents are renters? We broke down the numbers, and the comparisons are fascinating.

 

Owning vs Renting Capitol Hill

          Data for Capitol Hill owners and renters from 2010-2014 ACS

Capitol Hill residents are slightly less wealthy than Seattle overall, and that’s true for both renters and homeowners.  The gap between owners and renters on Capitol Hill is still significant however; the median household income of a renter on Capitol Hill is about $57,000 less than that of someone who owns.

Capitol Hill is also much younger. That’s partly because we have lots of renters and renters trend younger citywide. Our renters are also younger than other Seattle renters; 60% of renters on Capitol Hill are under age 35. The same holds true for our homeowners – nearly twice as many are under 35 compared to Seattle homeowners at large.

When it comes to transit, the differences are stark. 43% of Capitol Hill renters do not own a car, well above the 29% of renters city-wide that forgo a vehicle. Both of those are still light years beyond the 4% of homeowners in Seattle who have given up their car. Living in a dense, transit-rich neighborhood seems to make the difference. 15% of homeowners on Capitol Hill don’t own a car.

We also move less often—a lot less often.  When you don’t breakdown households by tenure (renter/owner) it looks like people on Capitol Hill move a lot.  56% of renters moved into their unit in 2010 or later (but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re new to the neighborhood). Renters on Capitol Hill are actually far less likely to have moved recently than renters elsewhere. The same is true for homeowners on Capitol Hill.  Only 4% of Capitol Hill homeowners moved into their place in 2010 or later.

Capitol Hill homeowners have much smaller households sizes and smaller homes than their counterparts throughout the city (condos outnumber craftsman bungalows), dramatically closing the big differences between owners and renters we see at the city level. The racial gap is smaller as well.  Capitol Hill has similar racial demographics to Seattle as a whole.  Renters here are more white than renters elsewhere, and homeowners here are less white than homeowners elsewhere.

What does all of this mean for Capitol Hill? It’s an important reminder that the experience of renting on Capitol Hill is a unique one with its own set of challenges and circumstances. And when we talk about the future of Capitol Hill we should be talking about how it affects our renter majority.

This data gives us an idea of that, but numbers only tell a fraction of the story. To hear from renters directly and engage in deeper conversation about what these numbers mean, come out this Saturday for the first-ever Capitol Hill Renter Summit. Join other renters from the neighborhood along with the Mayor and other local officials in a day dedicated to building the voice and power of renters. The program starts at 11:30 at Miller Community Center. We have over 100 renters signed up, but there’s still room for more! Register beforehand at bit.ly/RenterSummit

Vanquishing Source of Income Discrimination in Seattle

 

From a 1964 protest in Seattle against discrimination in the housing market

From a 1964 protest in Seattle against discrimination in the housing market. Photo, Item 63893, Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives

After years of trying to find safe and stable housing for herself and her daughter,  Naomi was thrilled to receive a Section 8 voucher to help pay rent.  Yet to her dismay, her struggles continued as landlords refused to accept her because of her voucher (Watch Naomi’s story).

She had a legitimate, stable way of paying rent, but was denied housing because of the source of her income. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story.

On August 8th meeting at 2pm, the City Council will vote on a piece of legislation proposed by Mayor Murray that would help protect people like Naomi  from discrimination when trying to find a safe, affordable home. 

Why is this change necessary? We currently have laws on the books that protect renters from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, color, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, political ideology, veteran or military status, or use of Section 8 vouchers. (Though Section 8 vouchers are protected, the law is often disregarded, as Naomi’s story illustrates). However, left out are a wide range of income sources that people use to pay rent such as Social Security Income, veteran’s benefits and child support payments, and even those protections already in place are not always enforced, as is clearly highlighted by Naomi’s story.

Other equity issues stem from source of income discrimination. As explained by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA), “this [discrimination] has a significant impact on communities who disproportionately need to rely on housing subsidies to make ends meet:  households of color, seniors, people with disabilities, and single parent households with young children.” Furthermore, there is evidence suggesting that municipalities which have adopted similar policies are experiencing lesser degrees of poverty amongst people who use vouchers. According to WLIHA, Martha Galvez’s 2011 study, “Defining Choice in the Housing Choice Voucher Program…” found that average neighborhood poverty rates for voucher holders were lower in areas with source of income discrimination laws in place. People shouldn’t be evicted for paying their rent with Social Security or any other legitimate source of income or financial assistance. If you can pay your rent in full and on time, you should expect to be treated fairly by your landlord.

You can make your voices heard by testifying on August 8th at City Hall before the City Council votes on the legislation. Public comment begins at 2pm, but it’s good to get there early to sign up for your two minute speaking slot. Another great way to get involved is to email your Councilmember to share your thoughts on the proposal. The office of Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who brought the legislation to committee, has posted more information about the policy. Our next monthly meeting of the Renter Initiative will follow shortly after on Wednesday, August 10th.

Our Capitol Hill Renter Initiative

 

Since March 22, the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative has steadily gathered momentum, growing from 25 renters at our first meeting to a mailing list of 132 today. And Seattle is taking notice.

We have made our voices heard, testifying in front of City Council in support of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update (Seattle 2035), and the Carl Haglund Law. We have written letters to the City Council and met with some of them in person, including Councilmember Sawant at the Gearshift Community Forum and Councilmember Gonzalez at the June meeting of the Renter Initiative. Hours after partnering with the Mayor to announce the City’s break with the District Council system, Kathy Nyland—Director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods—sat down with about 40 of us to discuss how the City could reform its community engagement program in order to give renters and other underrepresented communities greater access to local policy discussions.

July Renter Initiative Meeting with Kathy Nyland, Director of the Department of Neighborhoods

July Renter Initiative Meeting with Kathy Nyland, Director of the Department of Neighborhoods

The Renter Initiative Facebook page has been a great community building forum, with members discussing posted articles and videos, organizing and sharing events such as monthly meetings and community outreach opportunities.  On September 24, we will hold Capitol Hill’s first Renter Summit (RSVP now!), bringing together renters from 100 different buildings across our neighborhood to exchange ideas, refine and organize behind a collective political voice, and build a set of policy recommendations that renters can continue to rally behind as the City moves forward in its pursuit of affordability and livability.

According to figures from the most recent Census data, renters make up a majority of Seattle residents and over 80 percent of people living on Capitol Hill.  However, if an outsider were to look at the demographic profile of the current participants in Seattle’s debate around affordable housing, they would most likely guess otherwise. To have any sort of successful discussion and debate on HALA and MHA, we as a city must make sure that the people affected by rising rents are central to the conversation.

CH Renters Summit VideoWallGraphic 072216

 

Reforming Seattle’s Broken Neighborhood Engagement System

These community members have overcome the barriers to participating in the current system to make their voices heard. Now, the City is trying to reform its outreach to bring everyone into the conversation.

These community members have overcome the barriers to participating in the current system to make their voices heard. Now, the City is trying to reform its outreach to bring everyone into the conversation.

 

Since the late ’80s, District Councils have been the City’s primary means of implementing citizen participation in the political process. The Councils are responsible for recommending local projects to the Mayor and City Council for Neighborhood Matching Fund grants. These District Councils also receive the lion share of DON staff support from 8 district coordinators.

As Director of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON), Kathy Nyland recently facilitated an evaluation of the City’s current engagement strategies—chiefly the district council system—and found a profound gap in representation. The demographics of the people currently serving on Seattle’s 13 District Councils are in remarkable contrast to the actual make-up of their communities (explained in this article from Seattle Met summarizing DON’s findings).

In her evaluation, Nyland explains that “Seattle’s population demographics are changing and DON needs to re-envision our approach to public engagement; re-think how to best connect with underrepresented communities; and retool our strategies to reach a broader cross-section of Seattle’s population, including ethnic and cultural groups, seniors, youth, home-owners, and renters.”

Nyland recognizes that the voices of many communities are not being heard under the current methods of outreach. “Many District Council members choose to define “community” as neighborhoods that are geographically based, leaving out those who build and experience community around non-geographical concepts, like language, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or issue-based interests.”

This is an important finding, because if the City’s current system of community engagement is taking recommendations from groups of people that do not speak for the breadth of voices in their neighborhood, then it is failing its fundamental objective to “promote, support, and involve citizen participation at the neighborhood level” as stated in Resolution 27709, the legislation that created the District Council system.

 

Mayor Murray will sign an executive order today to retool the Department of Neighborhoods’ community outreach strategy and ditch the District Council system in favor of what he is calling the “Community Involvement Commission” (covered here by Josh Feit). This is a great time to get involved and help shape the new systems from the ground up.

For other perspectives on the current system: here is a piece by local blogger Erica Barnett that discusses District Council power dynamics in relation to HALA; here is an article by former mayor Michael McGinn touching upon a bit of everything; finally, here is information from the City about the structure of the neighborhood involvement system in Seattle.

1 2