West Seattle, Washington
(WSB file photo by Christopher Boffoli)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the City Council continues the next phase of discussion how, and whether, to change the budget officially presented by Mayor Tim Burgess three weeks ago.
Today, the council also met in morning and afternoon sessions. This is the stage of the budget where City Council staffers “identify issues” – such as, new proposed spending – and also mention the first round of council proposals for additions/changes.
The centerpiece was the Department of Transportation budget. Here’s the document in which the issues and possible changes are outlined:
(If the embedded version doesn’t work for you, see it here in PDF.)
When we first browsed the proposed city budget after it went public three weeks ago, one of the items that caught our eye was a proposal for a pilot program to enable remote openings/closings of one of the city’s five drawbridges. The proposal said they hadn’t yet determined which one – whether it would be the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (aka West Seattle “low bridge”) or somewhere else – but said the pilot project would cost an estimated $3 million.
During today’s briefing, the bridge proposal was first on the list of “issues,” 13 minutes into the meeting:
From the budget meeting briefing paper:
Remote Bridge Operations Pilot
The Proposed Budget includes $3M of Commercial Parking Tax revenue to implement remote operations for one of Seattle’s moveable bridges (to be determined). This project will allow SDOT to open and close the bridge from a central operating location. SDOT currently operates 5 moveable bridges with on-site operations; collectively, these bridges open approximately 15,400 times a year. The funding will provide for additional cameras, sensors, communication equipment, a remote operations center, and bridge modifications. The project will require approval from the U.S. Coast Guard, which regulates SDOT’s bridge operations.
Remote operations will not change the job requirements for Bridge Operators, and the pilot project is not anticipated to reduce operating costs as a stand-alone project. SDOT anticipates that if all 5 bridges were remotely operated, SDOT could save $1M per year through centralized staffing resulting in reduced labor costs. Full implementation to fully achieve these savings would require significant future funding, which is not currently identified.
Councilmember Rob Johnson was the first to call this into question, saying that theoretically spending $15 million over the next few years to convert all bridges to remote operation, and therefore saving $1 million a year, would be “spending a lot of money to save a little money” and “inconsistent” with budgeting philosophy.
Among the other SDOT issues, council staffers raised some concerns about the scheduling and funding for upcoming RapidRide lines including H for Delridge. From the briefing document:
The Move Seattle levy anticipates leveraging significant grant and partnership contributions for congestion relief projects, including seven bus rapid transit (BRT Corridor) projects identified in the levy. The Proposed Budget advances design on the Madison BRT, Roosevelt RapidRide, Delridge RapidRide, Rainier RapidRide, and Market/45th RapidRide projects. The total assumed grant and partnership contributions for these projects is $209M which is about 80 percent of the overall project costs.
Given the uncertainty with federal transportation funding under the current administration, Council may wish to consider a SLI asking SDOT to report on federal funding opportunities and present options for delivering the seven BRT Corridor projects in time for 2019-2020 Budget deliberations. Options could include revising project delivery schedules, reducing scope across projects, or prioritizing corridors for available funding.
Other SDOT issues include revenue from red-light and school-zone cameras. No new ones were installed this year but SDOT is reported to be reviewing 10 locations (not identified in the budget documents) for possible installation next year.
In the section of the briefing addressing changes proposed by councilmembers, one proposal of note was from Councilmember Mike O’Brien – who chairs the council committee dealing with transportation – would spend $200,000 to study what might happen when the future Highway 99 tunnel opens, with tolls, leading to “diversion” (some drivers not using it because they don’t want to pay):
This funding would support consultant studies to understand the implications of SR-99 diversion and explore options, such as congestion pricing, to help manage impacts to local streets and transit travel times.
Also proposed for addition to the budget, $500,000 for pedestrian improvements in South Park, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Herbold and Lorena González. Several speakers in the public-comment period of the morning meeting also asked for spending to safely connect South Park and Georgetown.
In today’s afternoon meeting, councilmembers were briefed on issues/proposals for the Seattle Public Utilities budget (see the document here) and for the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (see the document here). Here’s the video – no public commenters, so the discussion started off the top:
Key issues included money earmarked for the Seattle Police North Precinct and the new proposal by Councilmembers O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley for a “head tax” that they say would only affect the top 10 percent (in gross revenue) Seattle businesses, raising more money for efforts to reduce homelessness.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Herbold described the process in her weekly e-mail/online update last Friday. That includes this calendar with the full budget-process schedule. The next phase starts next Monday: “Proposals for the next set of meetings, from October 23 to 25, will need to be have specific funding amounts; they will also need three Council sponsors, by a 2 p.m. deadline on October 19.” So if there’s something you want to see in next year’s budget but haven’t seen so far, contact the council – firstname.lastname@example.org. And in the meantime, each of the budget committee meetings has a public-comment period, so if any of the departments interests you and you can make it to City Hall for that meeting, you can sign up to speak. There’s also one more nighttime public hearing about the budget in general, set for 5:30 pm November 1st.
With the help of texters/callers/commenters, we tracked orcas through the area this afternoon. And tonight Gary Jones shared photos from Alki Point! Passing ferry passengers got the best view:
The Kitsap Transit foot ferry, too:
Gary said the orcas were spread out over a distance, headed north when he photographed them around 5 pm.
According to Orca Network, they were likely Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Thanks to the texter who sent that photo of sandbags outside Delridge Community Center, a traditional pickup spot for those who live in flood-prone areas of West Seattle – particularly along nearby Longfellow Creek (which flooded in a big way 10 years ago). Meantime, the approaching storm now looks to be the rainiest on Wednesday and Thursday, so you have a little more time to clear your storm drain(s) and take other preparatory steps.
Two weeks ago today, a crash on the northbound Alaskan Way Viaduct sparked a van fire that resulted in more than two hours of morning-commute trouble. We brought you updates during our morning traffic coverage that day. As noted there, the vehicle that burned was a van belonging to Cupcake Royale, which said its driver was unhurt. The fire, while briefly big, as the photo above shows, was out before too long – SFD was dispatched at 6:14 am and the last engine left at 7:13, according to the incident log – but the burned van blocked a lane on the Viaduct for another hour and a quarter.
Given the commitment to clear key routes quickly, we asked what happened. Seattle Police, which handles incidents on the Viaduct though it’s a state structure, pointed us to the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which oversees the city’s towing contract. FAS deputy communications director Cyndi Wilder researched it for us:
Initially, it appeared to be a breakdown in communication that caused the towing response time. However, we’ve reviewed information from SPD and Lincoln Towing’s dispatch data, and we determined that the response time to clear the incident was due to delays in retrieving the flatbed truck SPD requested.
SPD had requested three tows, which included the request for a flatbed truck. The City’s tow contractor, Lincoln Towing, dispatched two line trucks to the scene and sent a third to Lincoln’s Aurora Avenue North location to pick up the flatbed truck. The line trucks arrived on the scene at 6:58 a.m. and 7:05 a.m. Due to heavy traffic to pick up the flatbed truck and return to the incident scene, the flatbed did not arrive at the scene until 8:15 a.m.
Although Lincoln Towing’s response times met the performance standards of the towing contract (excerpts from the contract are below), we are working with Lincoln Towing on ways to improve response times for future incidents. When special equipment is requested (like a flatbed truck), we’ve asked Lincoln Towing to reach out to its subcontractors to determine if they have the requested equipment in a location where they can respond to the scene more quickly.
Here are the excerpts Wilder provided from the city’s towing contract:
5.a.ii- Minimum Performance Standards
With an officer standing-by or inside the Downtown Traffic Control Zone (DTCZ), Vendor will respond within 30 minutes when a Class A tow truck is needed to perform a tow. When a Class B, Class C or Class E tow truck is needed to perform a tow, Vendor will respond within 60 minutes.
7.a.ii-Exemptions to Minimum Performance Standards
……The following subsections describe situations when the City will grant an exemption
Two or more Tow Trucks Requested to One Impound Site: When two or more tow trucks are requested at one impound site, the first arriving tow truck will be held to the response time standard. SPD will grant an exemption for each tow truck arriving, provided the second tow truck arrives at the location of the impound within 60 minutes.
Back in 2015, after the notorious “fish-truck crash” blocked southbound 99 for nine hours, a variety of policy changes were recommended. Looking back at that, we’re seeing fodder for another followup.
Just in from Jennifer Burbridge, Southwest Precinct crime-prevention coordinator – the date’s set for the next Drug Take-Back Day:
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.
The DEA’s Take Back Day events provide an opportunity for Americans to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and anonymous means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and medications.
The SW Precinct’s DEA Drug Take-Back Day will be on Saturday, October 28th, from 10 am-2 pm at the SW Precinct (2300 SW Webster).
Whatever you need to drop off, just take it to the precinct lobby – right off its parking lot along SW Webster, east of the south Home Depot entrance – that day.
1:44 PM: Avoid SW Roxbury/8th SW for a while – it’s going to take some time to clean up after that car fire. After hearing the first engine at the scene call for backup, we went over to check it out. SFD tells us no one was hurt.
2:46 PM: Just heard via scanner that most of the intersection has reopened (sounds like eastbound Roxbury is the exception). Heading back to check in person.
4:05 PM: Finally made it over. Now open all ways.
1:04 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip that resident orcas have been heading southbound – we just checked Orca Network for updates and they were seen from Bainbridge Island not that long ago. So we are sharing this heads-up. If you see them off West Seattle, please let us know – best way is via our 24/7 hotline, text or voice, 206-293-6302 (or comment below) – thank you!
2:51 PM: ON reports they were seen headed this way from the north side of Elliott Bay as of about 10 minutes ago.
4:20 PM: Thanks for the update – just got a text that three orcas were seen passing Weather Watch Park!
4:35 PM: And Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called to say they’re off Emma Schmitz Overlook, visible WITHOUT binoculars. We’re headed down in hopes of photos.
5:13 PM: And … oh well. The orcas turned around and headed back north before we got to the shore.
Do we have enough police officers? What do you think of the police force? Have you been a victim of crime? Are people in your neighborhood likely to intervene if they see potential criminal activity? Those are the types of questions you’ll be asked when you reply to this year’s Seattle Public Safety Survey. It’s now open and available online in 11 languages. It’s managed by Seattle University, which continues to have graduate students interning as research analysts in SPD precincts. This is the third year for the citywide survey – you can see last year’s results here.
P.S. If you don’t have time to take the survey now, you can use the “Share This” link below to e-mail yourself (or anyone else!) the link to this story.
CITY COUNCIL BUDGET DISCUSSIONS: If you’re tracking the ongoing process of the council reviewing and in some cases amending the city budget – a process that this year is being led by our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold – there are two Budget Committee meetings at City Hall today, at 10:30 am and at 2:30 pm. (600 4th Ave. – also live at seattlechannel.org and Cable Channel 21)
AFTERNOON BOOK GROUP: 2-3 pm at Southwest Library. This month, the book is “NW” by Zadie Smith. All welcome! (9010 35th SW)
TINKERLAB: 4-5:30 pm at Delridge Library – this week, make a helicopter! “Join us for Tinkerlab, fun all ages programs that show you how to use science, technology, engineering and math to experiment and create amazing inventions.” Free. (5423 Delridge Way SW)
FAMILY STORY TIME: 6:30 pm at High Point Library. Free – bring kids of all ages. (35th SW/SW Raymond)
MONDAY QUIZ: Free, all ages, with prizes! 7:30 pm at The Skylark. (3803 Delridge Way SW)
One week from today – on Monday, October 23rd – you’re invited to hear the results of last summer’s Delridge Business Survey, a collaboration between local organizations (right) who sent out volunteer “ambassadors” to talk with North Delridge business owners and entrepreneurs:
Calling all Delridge businesses and interested community members!
Please join us for a (rescheduled) mixer and to hear the results of the Delridge Business Survey that finished in August 2017.
Meet at Ounces Taproom and Beer Garden (3809 Delridge Way SW)
Monday, October 23rd
5:30 pm — Mixer
6:00 pm — Presentation of Results
This is a chance to meet business leaders working in North Delridge and hear about challenges and opportunities for businesses in this neighborhood. We need your feedback to start prioritizing how we can work together to grow the local economy and support Delridge businesses.