West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Update

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met on August 12.

Bridge Updates

First of all, SDOT confirmed the project remains on schedule for completion in mid-2022, and provided an update about how future schedule and cost estimates will be determined.

As I’ve explained in past blog posts, SDOT is using the General Contractor/Construction Manager (GCCM), which varies from standard contacting methods. Normally, a project is designed, and then put out to bid. The GCCM approach saves time by involving the construction contractor in design at 60% and 90% design, to identify potential challenges, and avoid change orders that can delay projects.

SDOT has provided the construction contractor, Kraemer, with a 60% completed design.  This will enable them to develop a first estimated cost/schedule estimate later this month. After 90% design is reached next month, a second estimate will be due in October. At that point, the Maximum Allowable Construction Cost (MACC) negotiations will begin, and construction will begin in November. The schedule below notes this, along with funding agreements with other funders, such as the federal government, in September:

Some work has been taking place on the bridge, such as asbestos work. Being inside the box girder, the work isn’t visible from outside.

What Went Wrong?

Graphics below are in response to public questions about what went wrong with the bridge. The original bridge was designed to the standards of that time, which did not include adequate post-tensioning of steel cables. This led to the cracking of concrete.

There are three spans to the bridge: the center span, and the two approaches. Cracking took place in all three spans. The center span across the Duwamish has been stabilized, which sharply limited crack growth. The two tail spans have not yet been stabilized; the repair will add post tensioning to the two tail spans:

Another question from community members is why a lane of traffic can’t be opened in the meantime.

SDOT indicates traffic would cause more cracking and harm the condition of the bridge, with the tail spans needing additional work to strengthen. The repair will add post tensioning to the entire bridge. In addition, there are holes in the deck used to access the box girders.

Reconnect West Seattle Update

Through August 1, over 1,500 applications for use of the lower bridge have been received, with the following access granted:

Traffic travel times on detour routes such as West Marginal Way are up significantly from last year; bus ridership and water taxi ridership are increasing slowly:

The West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way intersection improvements, designed to improve intersection throughput and concurrent turning movements, are on track to be completed by the end of September.

South Park Drainage and Roadway Partnership Project Update

SDOT also presented the South Park Drainage and Roadway Partnership Project.  This is a joint project between SDOT and Seattle Public Utilities to construct street improvements and drainage systems to address flooding that regularly occurs in some parts of South Park. The project includes a new pump station. I last wrote about the pump station here when construction began last Fall.

The project will take place in the South Park Industrial Area between 2nd Ave S and 8th Ave S, and S Holden St and S Monroe St.

For the map below, the blue lines are where street AND drainage improvements will take place, and the one yellow block is where only drainage improvements are planned:

The project will begin in September, and take 12-16 months. Project elements are noted below:

Work will begin first on South Monroe and South Chicago Streets, which are currently gravel roads.

Construction details are below:

Stay Cool In the Heat

Looking for tips on keeping cool during the heat surge?  Try this list of hot weather tips, and check out these City-operated cooling locations, including day centers, libraries, wading pools, and more.

Know the signs of dangerous heat exposure, and help your family and friends stay safe.

SPD Staffing, Overtime and Budget Update

On Tuesday, the Public Safety and Human Services Committee heard two items related to the SPD budget. First, we heard the second 2021 SPD update from Council Central Staff on finances, staffing, and use of overtime in SPD. The Council requested these updates and Central Staff is presenting them on a quarterly basis.

The second item was a briefing and discussion from SPD on their 2021 funding proposal that I requested they provide to the Council.

Since early this year, I’ve been advocating for resources so SPD can address the officer shortage, from increasing civilian staffing and funding new alternative responses, so sworn officers have more capacity to respond to the calls only they can address, such as violent crime.

I have proposed spending in the second quarter supplemental budget for programs such as Community Service Officers, Crime Prevention Coordinators, technology needs, SPD evidence storage capacity as identified by the Inspector General, funding Public Disclosure Request (PDR) positions in OPA and Seattle IT to address PDR backlogs as identified by the City Auditor, and the city’s investment in the Regional Peacekeepers’ Collaborative.

I have also proposed funding now, rather than waiting for the 2022 budget, to support the creation of the new Triage One program and a new dispatch system, which will allow us to deploy the right resources and allow for better analysis so we can build more alternatives to sending an armed police officers to every 911 call. The recent 911 call analysis commissioned by SPD indicates 12% of calls can be responded to without SPD involvement in the short term, and in the longer term, as many as 49%.

I said in my Public Safety and Human Services committee this week what I wrote in my blog post last week, that “despite that the Council fully funded SPD’s 2021 staffing plan, police officers are still leaving the SPD in unprecedented numbers. I thank those remaining and I appreciate those committed to their public service in Seattle. I want to ensure that the city prioritizes their time to addressing the calls to which only they can respond.”

The current budget discussions are regarding an estimated $15 million from what are called “salary savings.”  This is the budget term for the difference between the amount of funding actually needed to pay current officers as well as hire new ones, and the total funding included in the budget for this purpose.  Due to more officers leaving than we are hiring, there is a projected $15 million in salary savings in SPD’s budget.

In September 2020, the Mayor proposed cutting $15.7 million from the SPD base budget from salary savings. In addition, she proposed reducing civilian spending in SPD by $4.1 million, for a $19.8 million salary savings cut from SPD, and directed those funds to other departments and Mayoral priorities.

The Mayor’s proposed cut garnered little media coverage. The Council does its business in public—not behind closed doors—so Council discussions generate media attention, even for smaller amounts of budget reductions.

With additional data available during the budget process, in November the Council included $5 million for “salary savings” in what is called a budget “proviso.” This keeps the funds within SPD but held in reserve; they require Council action to spend, release the funds to SPD, or re-direct them to other uses. An additional $2.5 million was held in proviso for potential layoffs for “Brady List” officers only, that is, officers with a finding of for example dishonesty or bias; their testimony can be impeached, so they can’t fulfill all their duties as officers. These kind of lay offs aren’t permitted under current state law; so no officers have been laid off.

Unlike the Mayor’s $19.8 million SPD budget cut proposal, this $7.5 million was not re-directed to other departments, so the Council could opt to keep that funding within SPD, or move it elsewhere.

I proposed releasing these $7.5 million in provisos to SPD in legislation earlier this year that did not pass, and the Mayor did not support. I continue to support releasing those provisos, and I welcome the Mayor’s current support for this.

Council Central Staff’s Presentation includes the information requested from SPD on budget, staffing, overtime and 911 response. SPD did a lot of work to assist with the presentation, and I thank them for this.

The overall budget has been spent at 48% through mid-year.  With officer departures, additional funding for separation pay is clearly needed.

Through June, the annual overtime budget has been spent at 44%. Central Staff (and SPD) estimate this will not be sufficient for the year, as more events happen during the warm weather months. The 2021 budget was reduced by both the Mayor and the Council, as fewer events were anticipated due to the COVID pandemic. Consequently, some increase in overtime is needed. Chief Diaz has mentioned to me that he tracks overtime daily; I appreciate that level of attention.

I continue to be interested in transferring as much of this event overtime work to Parking Enforcement Officers as possible, especially considering the shortage of sworn officers.

Overall staffing is down, with 100 separations and 38 hires during 2021. SPD is proposing changes to how background checks for new recruits take place, by hiring a third-party backgrounding service through the end of 2022. This is to accelerate background checks; currently, there is a significant time gap between when candidates apply, and the completion of this process, and improving this can assist with fewer recruits dropping out. Transitioning to e-testing is also designed to expedite the hiring process.

911 response times are in several cases higher than 7 minutes for Priority 1 calls. The median (e.g. midpoint) response time during the 2nd quarter was below 7 minutes in two of the five precincts, and the average (total times divided by number of calls) was above 7 minutes in all precincts. This highlights the need for funding alternative responses that reduce the workload of sworn officers, including Triage One, Health One, Community Service Officers, and violence-prevention programs operating in West Seattle, South Seattle, and the Central District, and for our continuing work on 911 call analysis, and the programs funded through the Department of Human Services Department Safe and Thriving Communities Division as described in the next section.

Building Safety In Our Communities

Thirty-three community safety projects will be building safety in our neighborhoods from the ground up for the next 18 months, thanks to $10.4 million in funding I proposed, and approved by Council starting last summer.  At Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Safety & Human Services committee, representatives from the Human Services Department (HSD) presented on their recent award decisions.

This work builds upon the $4 million awarded last year to the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI), led by Community Passageways, which built community safety hubs and wraparound services in three Seattle neighborhoods, including West Seattle.  I sponsored that investment, which Council funded through a $4M appropriation during last summer’s 2020 budget rebalancing process.   You can learn more about SCSI here.

In addition to operating community safety programs that respond to violent and non-violent crimes, these organizations will meet together regularly with an evaluation team to assess their impact and learn from each other.  Seattle’s City Auditor has previously done a significant amount of work to understand the impact of street outreach programs, so I asked them to produce a brief report based on recommendations from the 2015 report on Street Outreach to help support these programs.

Some of the funded programs have indicated they are an alternative to an armed police response, or are able to co-respond to incidents with police.  I have asked Rex Brown, the Director of HSD’s new Safe and Thriving Division, to provide more information about these programs in particular.  I look forward to sharing what I learn.

Time and again, I’ve heard from constituents that the response to poverty, behavioral health crisis, and homelessness shouldn’t be an armed police officer, but instead better resources and community-led programs that address these core needs. The fourteen members of the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, including interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz, recommend exactly this kind of investment in anti-violence strategies to combat increased violence and property offenses in cities across the country, including in Seattle.

Covid Update: Vaccines Are Best Defense Against Delta; D1 Popup Vax Clinics; Mask Uh3 Indoors; Assess Your Masks

Seattle is already leading the country on our vaccination rates: over 82.5% of residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

There is no doubt that vaccines work, and vaccination is our best defense against the highly contagious Delta variant. There has not been a reported death of a Seattle resident since July 11, and Seattle has averaged some of its lowest hospitalizations of the entire pandemic. Of the 1.45 million residents fully vaccinated in King County, 0.1% have had a positive test result following vaccination, 0.004% have been hospitalized for COVID-19 and 0.001% have died due to COVID-19.

Get Vaxed:  Lots of popup vax clinics coming to District 1 this weekend…

Saturday, August 14

  • 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Ave S 98108
  • 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM, South Delridge Farmer’s Market, 9421 18th Ave SW, 98106
  • 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM, Blaxinate Lounge, Alki Beach Bathhouse, 2701 Alki Ave SW, 98116

Sunday, August 15,

  • 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Statue of Liberty Plaza, Alki Beach Park, 2665 Alki Ave SW, 98116

And you can always find vaccination near you:

Mask Up Indoors:  Health officers from all 35 local health jurisdictions across Washington state have joined together to send a message: Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask in indoor, public spaces. This unified recommendation comes as case counts in our region are rising again, driven largely by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

Assess Your Masks:  The highly contagious Delta variant requires renewed vigilance – and better “mask hygiene.” We will most likely be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic longer than we hoped. We must continue to protect our neighbors who can’t be vaccinated, including kids under 12 and immune-compromised folks.

So, it’s a good time to assess your mask quality and supply – to have the best filtering and best fitting mask or respirator you can. To resist the Delta variant, you’ll want both a good fit and a high-quality mask.   Learn more here.

PEO Unit Transfer

During this week’s committee meeting we discussed and moved forward CB 120148 which will transfer the Parking Enforcement Unit (PEOs) out of the Seattle Police Department and into the Seattle Department of Transportation.

You may remember when I last wrote about the transfer of functions out of SPD, the Council had voted on the transfer of 911 dispatchers out of SPD.  Due to a divided workforce and uncertainty from other Councilmembers, we held off on transferring the PEOs out of SPD in May. Unfortunately, the workforce remains divided in the question of to which department they would like to be transferred, but the Council needed to act in transferring the unit prior to September 1 or the workers in the unit would not be paid.

CB 120148 passed out of committee unanimously and will be heard at Full Council on Monday, August 16 prior to the Council’s recess.

SDOT Outdoor Café Survey Open Through August 15

Last year, the Council adopted legislation to facilitate street cafes during the COVID pandemic, when there were sharp restrictions on restaurant and café capacity due to the pandemic. Allowing for outdoor service on sidewalks and streets helped small businesses survive.

In May, the Council adopted legislation which included a section requiring SDOT to present the Council a draft permitting proposal for the continuation of business uses, by March 31, 2022.

SDOT is conducting a survey to gather public input. The survey is open through August 15th, and available here.

Here’s SDOT’s blog post with additional information.

Fire Science Associate Degree Program

On Monday the Seattle Fire Department announced a new Fire Sciences Associate degree program in partnership with North Seattle College. This is an important step for addressing our aging workforce. I’ve continued to support additional funding for more firefighter recruit classes as well. In last year’s budget process I secured $1.6 million to restore recruitment class size and reverse proposed funding cuts for testing. Last year the SFD saw an increase in firefighter separations, and, if the same attrition averages over the last five years (38 separations) continue in 2021, the SFD could have 75 vacancies with an additional 412 firefighters eligible for retirement.

I’m excited that the Fire Sciences Associate degree program will launch this Fall, and targets two different demographics for potential applicants:

“The first is high school graduates looking to pursue a career in the fire service and the second is existing firefighters planning to wanting to strengthen profession-specific skills and further their baccalaureate education. An overarching goal of the program is to help bring a diverse array of applicants to local fire departments’ hiring processes by providing youth with an opportunity to learn about the fire service in advance of applying for a firefighting position.”

If you’re considering applying, the application deadline is September 20, 2021.

Duwamish Steward Position

On Thursday the Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 9, of which I am a member and represent the City of Seattle, discussed adding a new steward position for the Duwamish River. A stewardship position can assist with conservation efforts and the community in a number of ways including:

“planning and prioritizing open space acquisitions and habitat restoration projects, coordinating with local jurisdictions and non-profit partners, pursuing grants and other restoration funding sources, coordinating community science and monitoring efforts, and engaging the public both to convey and receive input on priority work. These roles are critical for advancing salmon recovery in the watershed. Without a Duwamish Basin Steward, opportunities for land acquisition and habitat restoration have been left untended and have been lost to development of incompatible uses.”

I have been advocating for this position since 2019 and I am excited that we’re finally moving forward with funding for this position. Stakeholders including the City, Port of Seattle, King County and other cities effected by the Duwamish River are still considering different funding models, but the position should be hired in 2022. I want to thank the Green River Coalition and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and the Duwamish Alive Coalition for their advocacy in making this happen.

Office Hours Update

Office hours tentatively scheduled for August 20, have been cancelled. My next virtual office hours will be on Friday, September 24.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, please contact my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time.

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours which will continue as virtual office hours until indicated otherwise. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, October 29, 2021
  • Friday, December 17, 2021

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