From housing to trees @ 34th District Democrats

This month’s meeting of our area’s largest political organization, the 34th District Democrats. That’s where our report on Wednesday night’s meeting begins:

LOW-INCOME HOUSING: Introducing the presenters, second vice chair Sofia Aragon said the inspiration for the presentation was that, to say the least, it’s a “hot topic.” State/local government is deeply involved – one example she cited, the Legislature has $175 million in the Housing Trust Fund – something many states don’t have – and local jurisdictions are allowed to “carve out” part of the already-charged sales tax to use for housing. (The city announced a plan in July.) Another key part of addressing the problem, she said, was expanding the amount of time renters are given to find somewhere new if they’re evicted – they used to have as little as three days; now they have 14. Aragon talked about her mom’s career as a nurse and said there’s almost nowhere her mom could live in King County on a nurse’s pay.

First presenter: Robin Koskey of the city Office of Housing:

“The main thing we do … is provide financing for affordable housing” to be built. They also invest in “permanently affordable homeownership opportunities” like the two Mayor Durkan announced last week (involving surplus City Light properties in North Seattle). “And we are stewards of existing affordable housing” that they’ve funded over the years. (Here’s the newest annual report on investments [PDF].)

About 35 percent of Seattle households are “cost burdened” – spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. People of color are disproportionately affected – 27 percent of African Americans pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing, more than twice the percentage of whites. Also: “Family-size units affordable to low-income households are uncommon in Seattle.”

The city has “roughly 30,000 income- and rent-restricted affordable housing units.” More than 80 percent of them are in urban centers/urban villages. But that’s “a fraction of the demonstrated need.” She mentioned all this would be addressed in Mayor Durkan’s budget, due out September 23, and that these are issues whose champions include West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold.

The city has a dashboard showing affordable housing that’s under development
with about 5,300 units due to hit the market in the next year-plus. (The only all-affordable project shown in West Seattle is Transitional Resources‘ Yancy Street supportive housing, which hasn’t broken ground yet.)

Also speaking, Daniel Malone of DESC (which has a supportive-housing building in West Seattle, at 5444 Delridge Way SW). That building and many others in DESC’s fold provide permanent housing and other services to people who have “disabling conditions.” “It is the single evidence-based (practice) for ending chronic homelessness,” he declared. DESC also has six shelters with about 500 beds “that help keep people safe” but, he stressed, “shelter does not end homelessness – only housing ends homelessness.” DESC also provides services such as mental-health care (as noted when we spotlighted its Delridge complex Cottage Grove Commons on its fifth anniversary).

He said he hears a lot of “commnity dialogue” about “people who are broken, they need to be fixed, and if they don’t want to be fixed, we need to force them to.” But he said there’s no “magic” solution. Behavioral-health servces are vital but so is housing, so people can have a stable life.

He acknowledged “there is not a full vision for what the community needs to do about homelessness …there are a million ideas out there,” but nothing coherent. Yet. He sees hope that it will start aligning into a plan, though a “Regional Action Plan” is under development and consultants are likely to come forward with something more specifically identifying “gaps … and put a price tag on what it’s going to take to fill those gaps. “I think the [cost of a] solution to homelessness is going to have a B.”

Q&A included one about replicating programs like Camp Second Chance. Tiny-house villages “are not cheap to create,” noted Koskey. Finding sites “that neighborhoods feel comfortable with” is challenging too, she noted.

What about people with mental health/substance-abuse challenges? “Housing First,” getting them housed without requiring a commitment to treatment etc., is successful, Malone said.

Also at the meeting:

SCHOOL BOARD ENDORSEMENTS: The 34th already has endorsed incumbent Leslie Harris for Seattle Public Schools Board District 6 (West Seattle and most of South Park(. In the general election, all districts up for election are voted on citywide. Eric Blumhagen was endorsed for District 1. He talked about the district’s erroneous enrollment projections for high schools, saying they thought enrollment would drop by 700 – but in reality, enrollment is up. Also endorsed by unanimous vote, Rebeca Muñiz for District 3.

To the south, part of the Highline Public Schools district is in the 34th; the group also endorsed Aaron Garcia for District 1 on a unanimous voice vote.

TREE RESOLUTION: The group voted in favor of a resolution supporting a revised city tree ordinance. Key points:

*Trees 6″ diameter and larger would be “significant trees,” protected
*New policies for removing them
*Permit costs
*Replacement requirements
*New city fund that in-lieu fees would be paid into
*Limit non-development sites to 2 significant-tree removals in 3 years

An opponent said big trees don’t belong in the city because they kill people, and that they limit housing development and solar-power access. A supporter countered that the proposal allows removal of hazard trees.

ELECTED OFFICIALS: State Sen. Joe Nguyen took the mic, saying “it’s been a busy couple of months” including a new baby in his family. The upcoming legislative session is short, just 60 days, but he’s looking forward to talking with community members about them. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is coming to C & P Coffee (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor) for 4:30 pm conversation on September 28th, he said. …

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Southwest Youth and Family Services‘ gala is October 5th at the Seattle Design Center… Tonight is the White Center Food Bank‘s annual dinner/auction at South Seattle College‘s Brockey Center … White Center Community Development Association is also having a gala, at Metropolist on September 20th.

The 34th District Democrats meet second Wednesdays most months, 7 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy. Watch for updates.

7 Replies to "From housing to trees @ 34th District Democrats"

  • John September 14, 2019 (5:12 pm)

    The Tree Resolution is akin to rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic goes down. Do the 34th District Democrats believe in CLIMATE CHANGE?  Do they know who our governor is and his platform for presidency?Why in this disintegrating world would my liberal friends jump on such a cynically contrived regressive tree code that will not increase tree canopy in any significant way?  And no, our tree canopy is not necessarily shrinking as the recent studies were inconclusive (28%)Our Tree Code is already unfair in that it puts ALL of the costs on the property owner as it takes away their rights, while next door the neighbors have no trees at all and no costs or damages associated with trees.  If trees are for the good of all, then all should have trees.  This new law actually encourages homeowners with trees approaching six inches to remove them before loosing them to the control of City.

  • dsa September 14, 2019 (9:27 pm)

    If this goes through, many of my beloved trees may come down prematurely.

  • anonyme September 15, 2019 (7:50 am)

    The nonsensical opinions expressed above are exactly why we need stronger tree protections that are real, not the meaningless proposals that were approved.  Not only are many trees cut illegally and unnecessarily, but trees  (especially conifers) are dying at an alarming rate – making protection all the more urgent.  If you’re scared of big trees, move to Nevada.  Your chance of being killed by a tree is infinitesimal compared to driving to Starbucks.  

    • John September 15, 2019 (11:04 am)

      ANONYME,It is defining to see you write that concerns about CLIMATE CHANGE are “nonsensical opinions”.What is nonsensical about encouraging the planting of trees rather than continuing down the  draconian failing system that punishes those with trees?What is nonsensical about everyone having trees?What is nonsensical about increasing significantly our tree canopy?Since ANONYME brought up being killed by a tree, I can cite  examples of people killed by trees in our area recently (hey those infinitesimal odds strike someone!).  Can ANONYME  cite any people killed driving to Starbucks?Nonsensical?

    • JVP September 15, 2019 (8:30 pm)

      Climate change is real. Forcing us to keep trees on our city lots is nonproductive and stupid. I love the cities, but I like our views too. I don’t want a tree falling and killing families. This is insane.  Get out into the mountains and real forests sometime. People supporting such draconian tree policies need to get out more. A few (often invasive) trees in our urban lots does nothing real. I can accept hefty fees to remove trees. Said money could then could go to actually making an impact on our open spaces or preserving functional forests. Maybe funds could go to getting rid of the english ivy and planting native conifers in our urban open spaces. Use it for restoring our urban streams. But if some of us want to protect our home, protect our family, or (gasp!) protect our views, let us. It’s far more environmentally sound to get high density in the cities, let those cities be nice (light and views), and protect actual forests. Prevent sprawl. There’s lots of valuable things tree removal fees could go for.  But this current and proposed policy is nuts. P.S. I’ve done a lot of real environmental restoration work out in actual forests and open spaces. I consider myself a “true” greenie. This city tree protectionism is just greenwashing. 

      • John September 16, 2019 (12:08 pm)

        Amen, JVP, and well spoken like a traditional Seattleite.I hope we are seeing the start of a turnaround exposing Seattle Tree Policies for what they are – unfair, unjust, ineffective  and where they are going – an even more unfair continuation of a failed policy.On a positive note, Lisa Herbold knocked on our front door last week campaigning in Gatewood.  I immediately invited her in to show her our trees and explain how the current regressive codes affect our once view property.    I showed her the dozen Madrones that sprouted after the removal of a large sugar pine that had tormented our neighbors for 60 years. The tree had cracked the retaining wall to their driveway and  large brittle falling  branches had damaged their cars not to mention the dripping pine pitch covering windshields cars and walkways.   Someone heard the chainsaw and turned us in fr tree removal.   None of our neighbors have ‘significant’ or ‘exceptional’ trees to tend to while we have dozens.  The cost to have a certified arborist trim our exceptional douglas fir to ANSI standards for safety of our house is $2,000 -$3,000. I tied up a good ten minutes of Lisa Herbold’s door-belling time after which Lisa suggested hat the proposed regulations would not pass.   But Lisa Herbold did not re-assure me that she would oppose the proposal.I would like to see the Tree Inequity and Climate Change issue be raised in theses candidate forums.  

  • shawn September 19, 2019 (1:13 pm)

    Our tree coverage is absolutely shameful.  I’m not in any way a capital “D” Democrat, but I support their efforts here wholeheartedly. Here’s some numbers: Recommended City Tree Coverage: 40%.  Atlanta: 36%.  National Average: 27%.  Seattle: 25%… and that was in the 90s.  Who knows how low it is now.  I’d be surprised if we are even at 20%.  Dramatic action is called for.

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