CITY COUNCIL NOTES: Speed cameras; maritime/industrial zoning; rent control

Though it’s midsummer, the City Council has taken up some big topics. Here are quick notes on three:

SPEED CAMERAS: The Transportation and Utilities Committee has given its official approval to the proposal for “racing zones,” potentially enabling speed-enforcement cameras on Alki/Harbor Avenues and in other areas of the city. Tuesday morning’s vote was 4-0, including Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s vote. The discussion started 27:15 into the Seattle Channel meeting video below (and there was public comment starting around 6 minutes in):

Next step is a full Council vote, which could happen as soon as next Tuesday. As explained when we first wrote about this proposal last month, passage does not guarantee or fund cameras – that would be up to SDOT to plan and propose.

MARITIME/INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY: This plan to create more certainty around the future of maritime/industrial land got final approval from the full council unanimously on Tuesday. Here’s what the council website published afterward. For a deeper dive, including a map (which shows that West Seattle’s east shoreline areas are among the land affected), see the Office of Planning and Community Development‘s website.

RENT CONTROL? On Friday, the council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee is scheduled to consider a proposed rent-control policy for Seattle. It would only take effect if state prohibitions on rent control were repealed. The City Council website goes into details; you can read the proposal here. If the committee passes the legislation, it would go to the full council for a final vote.

GOT FEEDBACK? Since the speed cameras and rent-control proposals haven’t had final votes yet, you still have opportunities to provide feedback – (and watch the meeting agendas for specifics on commenting at meetings).

63 Replies to "CITY COUNCIL NOTES: Speed cameras; maritime/industrial zoning; rent control"

  • CarDriver July 19, 2023 (7:42 pm)

    WSB. If speed cameras are installed question is: Will they be on 24/7/365? And, as you are legally speeding at 1mph over posted speed assuming that’s the threshold they’ll use to issue ticket? 

    • WSB July 19, 2023 (7:59 pm)

      Operational details TBA

    • Peter July 19, 2023 (8:52 pm)

      Let’s hope so. Speeding in is totally out of control in west Seattle, and the irresponsible drivers never face any consequences at all. Everyone should be ticketed every time they exceed the speed limit, yes even if it’s by one mph. 

      • Mike July 20, 2023 (4:31 am)

        It’s also illegal to hold up traffic by not going the speed limit, driving in the left lane when not passing another vehicle, distracted driving, poor vehicle maintenance (yes, there’s laws against driving a poorly maintained vehicle), etc.  Most vehicular accidents are not due to speed but rather not paying attention.  1 mph is also less than the difference in an over or under inflated tire or tread wear.  Nobody should get a ticket for 1 mph difference.

    • eastvashon July 20, 2023 (8:00 am)

      simple lifehack to avoid speed camera tickets, even 1mph over…DONT SPEED

  • Lamont July 19, 2023 (8:23 pm)

    Never waste an opportunity to implement regressive taxation.  I’d like to see a study of how the tickets breakdown in terms of race, socioeconomic status and neighborhood that they live.  And only include the tickets that actually wind up getting paid, not just the ones that are written (although would also like to see a socioeconomic breakdown of the ones that get thrown out).

    • flimflam July 20, 2023 (7:42 am)

      lol, the lowest common denominator is that the cameras only impact you if you’re speeding.

    • 937 July 20, 2023 (9:03 am)

      Well Lamont, pull the data and analyze it and report back.

      I think you’ll find that only speeders speed. As for who pays and who doesn’t? I’d be interested in that too. But not so interested that I want to pull the data and do the work. I just know if you’ve been convicted and DON’T pay – it’ll start racking points on your credit and make the convicted susceptible to warrants and further legal issues.

      • Mike July 20, 2023 (5:48 pm)

        It’s also not possible for the city to ticket a vehicle for speeding.  That’s why lawyers are loving this opportunity cash in on each ticket a recipient calls them about.  The ones who make the most on this are lawyers and it’s going to jam up the courts even more than they already have been.  It’s on the city to prove who was driving.

    • John July 20, 2023 (10:59 am)

      You don’t need a socio-economic breakdown.The decision to speed is voluntary and is color blind.

      • Lamont July 20, 2023 (1:07 pm)

        Unless you can pay for a lawyer to get you out of it. And the people that use Marginal Way are probably commuting to work or doing work, but they live in places like South Park. The people who live on Alki and commute to downtown offices via Admiral and the WS bridge aren’t going to be hit by this enforcement at all.

        • CarDriver July 20, 2023 (6:29 pm)

          Lamont. As a daily morning walker on Alki Ave i see PLENTY of locals speeding on their way to work or school or appointments. I get the impression that these halo holders will be shocked that it won’t just be the “racers” that get tickets.

  • economic impact July 19, 2023 (9:09 pm)

    As the speed cameras have been addresses in previous WSB articles, the actual speed car racers won’t pay attention to speed zones with cameras and won’t pay any tickets.  And potentially be in stolen vehicles and vehicles without plates. 

    • WSB July 19, 2023 (9:21 pm)

      And for all the people who have repeated this, fact is, the car whose driver was at fault on Sunday night did have plates, clearly visible, and police confirm they were the plates that belonged with that particular car (not a stolen car, not stolen plates).

      • Gatewood88 July 20, 2023 (8:39 am)

        But  if there were cameras many of the racers/excessive speeders would quickly learn to obscure or remove their plates. This driver didn’t because he didnt need to. And from my understanding this would not be a “chaseable” offense – so there would be little to no enforcement for those who remove/obscure/trade out their plates. Speed bumps would be much more effective IMO- and would not give those willing to break the law the upper hand while punitively punishing normal citizens going 5 mph over the speed limit…

        • WSB July 20, 2023 (2:05 pm)

          The residents who have been advocating for action are pushing for cameras AND speed humps/cushions AND enforcement, as we’ve previously reported.

          • alki_2008 July 20, 2023 (7:39 pm)

            And there are plenty of residents that use Alki Ave almost daily that have not advocated for speed cameras. The residents that want cameras are a small fraction of the area’s residents. Residents don’t get loud to say “no cameras” – it’s only necessary to get loud if you “want cameras” – but maybe we’ll get a group of residents together to oppose the cameras if there is a public comment opportunity about them.

          • WSB July 20, 2023 (7:55 pm)

            Your next opportunity is before next week’s full council meeting (pending the agenda – it should appear tomorrow here ). I’m here at the Alki Community Council meeting and this wasn’t a formal comment opportunity but the topic was discussed fairly extensively by those in attendance.

      • alki_2008 July 20, 2023 (12:05 pm)

        And that crash still would’ve happened with the presence of speed cameras. Cameras would’ve made no difference. You think that driver would’ve cared if there were speed  cameras?

      • alki_2008 July 20, 2023 (12:11 pm)

        That crash would’ve happened even if there were speed cameras. It’s disingenuous to suggest that speed cameras would’ve prevented that crash. Any DUI or reckless driver is not going to care about the presence of a speed camera.

      • Lamont July 20, 2023 (1:02 pm)

        Any evidence that the threat of a fine would have stopped him? Or would it just be found much later than he had thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets and even a suspended license and just kept on driving and speeding?

        And it should be obvious that nobody will be taking countermeasures against license plate readers until the license plate readers are put in place. There’s no point in doing it before the city starts using them. After the city starts using them we can see like in places like NYC that there’s an ‘epidemic’ of people obscuring their license plates to avoid automated fines and tolls.

      • Stuck in West Seattle July 21, 2023 (1:10 pm)

        Hi I was wondering if they released the name of the guy that hit Maddy yet? Someone mentioned that they know the father and that the 23 year old has a criminal record and was not the owner of the vehicle. Curious what is the real story. Thanks

  • Orb July 19, 2023 (9:47 pm)

    Rent control? What is this, the 80s? Haven’t economists proven that rent control doesn’t work? Probably proposed by Sawant who doesn’t actually read any data. 

    • Mao July 19, 2023 (10:37 pm)

      Kinda hypocritical spouting off about reading when you didn’t do any yourself. Rent control works for renters and doesn’t work for lining the pockets of capitalists which, surprise, go hand and hand with your “economists” that see people and basic human rights are profit opportunities.

      When the mod comes a knockin’ to drag you from your single family home, you’ll hope you had rent control sooner.

      • MB July 20, 2023 (9:47 am)

        Rent control works for one class of people: current tenants. It does nothing to help future tenants, which we’re gonna have as people move into the city. If you have a rent controlled apartment, you are much more likely to stay put than to move which restricts the supply of available housing- just look at rentals in San Francisco, or housing in CA in general due to Prop 13. That means that once a place does go on the market it’ll go on at a far higher price than it normally would, hitting new renters hard.Rent control does something, but it ain’t a silver bullet for affordability by and large. 

        • CAM July 21, 2023 (1:32 am)

          Wait, rent control is bad because without rent control renters are forced to move more often? Do you know how much it costs to move? Do you know the health and social costs to moving, outside the monetary expenses? How does people not moving lower the number of available rentals? Because they aren’t becoming homeless? Or because they aren’t being driven to have to move to less expensive neighborhoods? You sound super concerned about renters as human beings. 

        • James July 21, 2023 (3:47 pm)

          Yeah–what CA has is MUCH BETTER than here. I want what they have. I am never going to own so I am stuck paying for landlords to get rich and I am FED up with it. Just because you were born in an era where you were given free houses essentially. This is absurd. We NEED rent control. 

      • wscommuter July 20, 2023 (11:38 am)

        “Mao” … really?  Your anti-capitalist rant is one thing (hey, everyone has a right to an opinion, no matter how ill-informed it might be), but you want to be tied to a perpetrator of mass repression and murder?  Seriously?  Makes me think you know as little about history as you do about economics.  

        • James July 21, 2023 (3:48 pm)

          Now do George Bush, Obama, Reagan, Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria/etc etc body count. I’ll wait.  All capitalist economies fighting.  Try to have capitalism without low wage to near-slavery conditions. Nike shoes, your avocado toast…. where does that labor come from? Seattle homelessness? Capitalism is awful. WSCommuter, I question not only your economics knowledge, but your history and your present-day as well.

      • HappyCamper July 20, 2023 (11:44 am)

        Small time landlord AND affordability advocate here. 100% against slumlord stuff and unjustified greedy rent increases. We aren’t all giant corporations and a lot of these measures that may be good in spirit end up bad in practice. Lots of us rent below market and have a significantly higher exposure to risk from damage, late rent, etc.What inflation measure does she want to tether it to? Can my property tax increase dramatically but rent cannot? It does not make any sense for a business to be disallowed from charging a sustainable rate for their product or service. I understand this is housing but basic math still applies. We need small time landlords renting out their starter houses in this city. We need family size units. We need 3-4br rentals out there for blended families for example. I hope the council doesn’t make it so difficult for those (good) landlords that more people sell them and reduce supply making it even harder for these families.

        • Scarlett July 20, 2023 (7:06 pm)

          Understood. I hope that any rent control proposal will carefully consider protections for both,  and  for landlords with small rental property portfolio’s and comparatively more risk exposure and who are trying to do the right thing by tenants.  

      • WSlandlord July 20, 2023 (11:48 am)

        Just FYI, the reason why house prices are increasing is because investors with cash are buying up homes instead of people. By 2030, 40% of SFHs will be owned by Wall Street which is driving prices up steeply. 

    • 1994 July 19, 2023 (10:40 pm)

       Sawant was an economics instructor prior to being elected to city council. I was hoping the recall election was successful.She received her PhD in economics from North Carolina State University in 2003.[15] Her dissertation was titled Elderly Labor Supply in a Rural, Less Developed Economy.[2][16]After moving to Seattle, she taught at Seattle University and University of Washington Tacoma and was an adjunct professor at Seattle Central College  

    • Rusty July 19, 2023 (11:34 pm)

      Rent control doesn’t “work” for the landlords

      • Ivan Weiss July 20, 2023 (7:24 am)

        Rent control works just fine for landlords who control rents.

      • WS Guy July 20, 2023 (8:58 am)

        …thus driving landlords out of the business, leading to fewer, shoddily maintained rental units.  This is Sawants goal.  In the resulting crisis, the government will fill the void left by private landlords with public housing projects.  The government becomes your landlord.

        • Scarlett July 20, 2023 (12:06 pm)

          Human nature being what it is – greedy – we can’t depend on the capricious whims of a landlord to do the right thing;  there are many landlords who rent shoddy units and abuse tenants without any help from the government.  The government, unfortunately, is having to fill the void left by predatory capitalism.  No one dislikes a nanny state anymore than me, but lets not put the cart before the horse. 

          • WS Guy July 20, 2023 (7:01 pm)

            I’d rather rent from a human being that I can get to know, who is fully empowered to make decisions.  Rather than an endless, faceless bureaucracy that holds a monopoly on housing.  So count me out of government housing; I don’t like corporate housing either.

            I want the government to play referee, not play the game too. Rent control goes too far.

          • alki_2008 July 20, 2023 (7:42 pm)

            If you know someone living in a shoddy rental, then report them to the city’s RRIO, which is a relatively new program that requires all landlords to register their rental properties and pay for random inspections. So they can’t be renting out “shoddy” units.

      • James July 21, 2023 (3:42 pm)

        How many landlords are there and how many renters? Case closed.

    • Rick July 20, 2023 (9:12 am)

      She just makes up her own.

    • Economist July 20, 2023 (9:49 am)

      Sawant got her PhD in economics…so she is an economist.The Q is what kind of economist you want to be ..

    • Bronson July 20, 2023 (10:38 am)

      You’re absolutely correct. The only thing rent control will accomplish is to exacerbate the shortage of housing. Seems as though Rusty and Mao may want to pick up an Econ 101 book. 

  • PSPS July 19, 2023 (9:55 pm)

    “Speed cameras” don’t issue real traffic tickets against individuals because that requires a cop witnessing the infraction and personally handing the driver the ticket. Even though they’re worded in a scary way, the owner of the car can simply deny he was driving and it will be dismissed. Otherwise, it’s treated like a parking ticket and doesn’t even appear on anyone’s driving record.

    • Christopher B. July 20, 2023 (7:01 am)

      the owner of the car can simply deny he was driving and it will be dismissed”  So in other words, your advice is to lie and commit fraud in service of an aversion to taking responsibility for your own behavior? Classic. At a time when death rates on the roads are surging, I find that recommendation despicable.

      • Danimal July 21, 2023 (7:20 am)

        I don’t think that PSPS was giving advice at all. I don’t see wording to the effect that they recommend a particular course of action. They were stating a fact, though. This is why these traffic cameras are silly. The speeders already scoff at the law – and if they’re scofflaws, I’ll bet they already know about the loophole (a valid one that is based on right-to-privacy legal protections). Speed cameras aren’t going to do anything but fill the coffers of the city with money from average citizens who aren’t the real problem that the camera idea purports to address. 

    • Commonseattlesense July 20, 2023 (9:34 am)

      What needs to happen is the city sets up rolling stings that target these racers.  Fines for racing should be in the 5k-10k range, cars impounded, and if they can’t pay then their cars are sold. Do this is on a regular basis, make it very public, and you will see this end.  

      • anonyme July 20, 2023 (1:35 pm)

        That’s exactly what should happen, and throw in some jail time as well.  Trouble is, common sense ain’t so common – especially when dealing with city government.

  • Marcus July 20, 2023 (6:26 am)

    Speed cameras good, most Seattle drivers are courteous and follow the rules.  However there are always people driving way too fast at all hours morning noon and night.  

  • Rod July 20, 2023 (6:32 am)

    Will the speed cameras remotely alert police to ongoing speeding/racing?

    • WSB July 20, 2023 (2:03 pm)


  • HS July 20, 2023 (8:56 am)

    I’ve been reading the text for the  proposed regulations for rent control. I have also read and seen documentation for astounding rent increases ($300-800/mo. in apartment complexes). However, I fear that it is disincentivising, especially for small landlords at a time when the city has finally allowed zoning for small home development on some single family properties. As an example, I have been trying to figure out financing for a detached unit. They’re averaging about $350,000 to $450,000 to build at this time. If the property that I would use for that development held a rental unit anytime within the last ten years, (new detached units are a smaller square footage than the average home in Seattle), the rent that I could legally charge for the new detached small home could be less than a third of the mortgage payment (not including insurance and property taxes). It’s not just that rents have increased, it’s that the cost of construction and capital repairs (roof, etc.) have skyrocketed. And we have a skilled labor shortage within the building industry, so labor and speed of construction have all been affected. I think this proposal may stop development of mother-in-law housing which is a pivotal supply of affordable “middle housing”.

    • Frog July 20, 2023 (12:23 pm)

      According to Sawant’s material promoting the law, rent increases would be limited to the “rate of inflation,” though that is not clearly defined.  Possibly it means the CPI published by the federal government.  Problem is, CPI is a political, artificially low number.  The cost of building ownership (taxes, insurance, materials, labor, etc.) is guaranteed to rise faster than the CPI.  In Sawant’s simple view, landlord = slumlord = greedy, all-powerful capitalist exploiting helpless renter, and that’s all you need to know.  In reality, building situations vary a lot.  Older buildings held for a long time by the current owner may be cash cows, which can be milked for years even with expenses rising faster than rents.  Buildings that were recently constructed, or recently purchased with high debt, on the other hand, could become cash-flow negative after a few years of rent control like this.  The one key detail not mentioned is whether the law would constrain conversion or redevelopment of rental property into condos or townhouses.  In the long run, the law as written would reduce the private rental housing stock by a lot.

      • K July 20, 2023 (1:18 pm)

        Most pay raises are based on that CPI so having housing cost increases tied to the same metric is the best way to assure the home will remain affordable.  

        • Frog July 20, 2023 (5:06 pm)

          Well, yes and no.  Tying rent to CPI is the best way to slowly snuff out supply.  Housing will remain affordable to those lucky enough to have a place, but will make housing completely unavailable to those who don’t.  If you ever lived in a jurisdiction that had rent control for a long, you would see all types of weird things happen.  Problem is, CPI is an aromatic number, cooked up by government economists primarily for the purpose of limiting wage increases, and secondarily to fool people about the declining real value of their wages.  Evidence is everywhere, but consider the most obvious:  new construction never lowers the cost of housing in Seattle.  New buildings always come into the market with breathtaking premium rents, because the the real cost of construction (land, materials, labor, permitting, etc.) is so high that, without government subsidy, it’s not possible to deliver new housing at a cost people can afford with their actual current wages.  That’s a telltale sign of how far real wages have fallen over the last few decades, never mind that they were telling us all along that something called the CPI had barely budged.

          • alki_2008 July 20, 2023 (7:56 pm)

            What will happen is that landlords will raise rent every year, because of the “vacancy control” aspect of the proposed legislation. Some small-time landlords don’t raise rents on current tenants, or raise it very little, and only increase the rent up to market rate when the unit is vacated and a new tenant moves in. But the legislation will not allow a larger than inflation rate increase between tenancies, so landlords would need to take their allowed increase every year or else they will be far behind when a tenant moves out and a new tenant wants to move in.

            For example, my tenant pays about 30% less than local comps, but they’ve been there for years and so I like having them stay and so I don’t raise their rent except by maybe $100 every couple years. With this legislation, if they move out, which they plan to do in a couple years because they’re saving for a house purchase, then rent for a new tenant would be based on their current under-market rate plus inflation, which would make my place still way under market.

          • K July 20, 2023 (8:08 pm)

            Making housing increasingly unaffordable for some doesn’t increase supply, it just changes who lives here.  To create more housing, you need to build new housing, not price out the people who are already here.

  • Blacklabjaz July 20, 2023 (10:30 am)

    I’ve lived on Alki for the past 11 years and have contacted several city officials over that time period to do something about the street racing, dangerous driving, etc  The responses have all been the same. Nothing. When the speed bumps were installed on Harbor Avenue towards Alki I had hope that they would extend further down Alki but nothing was done and there are no plans to install more. So the Alki Speedway remains open. I have pointed out to city officials that the distance from the speed bump near Luna Park to the next speed bump in the business district is a little over a mile. Within that stretch of Alki Ave are 15 crosswalks! These are used regularly by Alki residents but none of them are lighted or have the capability of flashing when needed. Not one of the city officials would tolerate the dangerous and reckless driving in their neighborhood that we experience all the time. Alki is our neighborhood. We shouldn’t have to experience it either. Do your job!

  • namercury July 20, 2023 (11:15 am)

    The speed carmeras present a complicated dilemma and further complicates an already complicated situation.  First, the 25 mph speed limit is too low in most areas; if they issue a ticket for 1 mph over it will be intolerable.  Second: what’s the true objective.  In my humble opinion it’s 2/3 revenue generation and 1/3 speed/safety.  Third: racing is a feable  proxy  reason for camera’s; the real  justiification is fine collection or general safety and not racing. Racing is almost totally confined to very specific locations at limited time periods.  Racing should be controlled by physical police and major fines like someone suggested; 1,000-10,000$.  

    • Jethro Marx July 20, 2023 (8:07 pm)

      It’s common for almost all the revenue generated to end up in the hands of a private contractor who won a lucrative contract providing some low-skilled work processing tolls/tickets. Government, believe it or not, often wastes money or gives it away without any special intent or conspiracy.

  • My two cents July 20, 2023 (3:27 pm)

    Should SPD have another monitoring tool – and given their track record, how should the citizens feel? Safer? Intrusive technology today / tomorrow who knows? Only stating this given the issues around SPD for decades. 

  • True North July 21, 2023 (1:05 pm)

    To all of you that are concerned about regular citizens being ticketed, and who declare that the racers, by legal rights, will simply deny they were driving their vehicle when the violation occurred, then by your logic, the regular citizens, if ticketed, could presumably do the same thing, Frankly, your logic is not only weak but is also illogical. 

  • WSDAD July 21, 2023 (3:17 pm)

    Just put in more speed bumps. A lot of these race cars are super low to the ground. The drivers of these cars will not speed over speed bumps, It will destroy their cars. It’s a lot cheaper option too. 

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