1 Issue to Engage

Fiscally Responsible Strategies to Reduce Homelessness

[For the briefer version of our piece published by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.]

Whether you are outraged by our local government’s failure to reduce homelessness while your tax bills increase or your heart breaks when you see the human suffering in our public spaces, we share common ground: we all want the problem solved.


Lack of progress, as noted in Seattle Weekly’s recent article “One Table Has No Clear Game Plan for Tackling Regional Crisis,” adds to the frustration.

First, let’s continue the compassion that makes our city special.  Truly caring about the people suffering also means we should demand results: homelessness should be reduced so that human suffering is reduced. The good news is that the tools proven to reduce homelessness already exist. Unfortunately, Seattle’s political leaders have so far avoided the tough love needed to take charge and require those tools. Once Mayor Durkan applies the same relentless passion and accountability she used to launch and achieve reforms in our police department and once our Councilmembers help her by focusing all of their efforts on this emergency, they can reduce homelessness. There are fiscally responsible solutions, but they require political will:

  1. Learn from other cities: When we crafted the high-quality Seattle Preschool Program, we visited the cities that had already produced the best outcomes for children. Instead of wasting resources by reinventing the wheel, City Hall must learn from the mistakes and successes of communities that have already reduced homelessness: Atlanta, Columbus, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and others.


  1. Stick to evidence-based strategies. Other cities have reduced homelessness because they adhered to evidence-based strategies.  Mayor Durkan should enforce Barbara Poppe’s 2016 report (“The Path Forward”). Crafted by the national expert on reducing homelessness, “The Path Forward” should be Seattle’s proverbial playbook to guide all actions. It brilliantly spells out proven strategies such as:
  • Housing First
  • Diversion
  • Coordinated Entry
  • Homeward Bound
  • “By Name Lists”
  • Long-Term Stayers focus
  • Landlord-Liaison
  • Permanent Supportive Housing.  

While Rapid Rehousing is more difficult here than in cheaper cities, it can be tailored to work for moms and their children fleeing domestic violence. These solutions have been highlighted for years by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

  1. Stop funding programs that don’t work. Don’t spend less, but spend wisely — that’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. Re-invest those funds into the evidence-based strategies. City leaders should be commended for finally implementing performance-based contracts to ensure accountability for the nonprofits on the front lines that receive our tax dollars.  Now city leaders must enforce them. The Mayor should use her veto power to prevent the City Council from re-granting funds to organizations that are not achieving results.


  1. Use Data to Inform Decisions: Believe it or not, our city government is successfully moving many homeless people into permanent housing. But the number of homeless people on the streets is increasing. The City must continue to use independent surveys to track not only the raw numbers, but also the causes of their homelessness and where they are coming from. Any organizations receiving city funding must use the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) so that policymakers can analyze all available data and track results.


  1. Phase Out Encampments: HUD does not recognize encampments as housing and the evidence shows that government-authorized encampments fail to move enough homeless people into housing.


  1. Install a “Homelessness Czar.”  Accountability requires a single point of contact with authority to solve the problem.  Create a temporary Deputy Mayor position to head the Human Services Department. This Deputy Mayor would also have the authority to tell all departments (Parks, Transportation, Housing, etc) what to do to house the homeless.  The Mayor would also put this Deputy on the board of the Seattle Housing Authority, Housing Levy Oversight Committee, and any other boards with power over housing resources. Similar efforts in the past failed because the Mayor never gave the person real authority.  The Mayor and her Homeless Czar must hold all departments and service providers accountable for results.


  1. Reasonable Rules.  Individuals who refuse multiple offers of shelter/services must not be allowed to camp illegally in our city.  The recent ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals does not change this:  as reported in the Seattle Times, our City Attorney recently confirmed that the ruling still allows for Seattle’s reasonable ordinances limiting where camping can occur. According to the article, “Seattle prohibits people from sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., mostly downtown and in areas designated as neighborhood commercial zones. Camping is banned in public parks, with a few exceptions.”


  1. Build more truly affordable housing now.  Whether or not one favors the controversial H.A.L.A. up-zone scheme brokered by former Mayor Ed Murray, it will take too long to create the promised new affordable housing (and will likely destroy naturally occurring affordable housing). Our city already has substantial capacity to accommodate new housing units under current zoning, so let’s not wait. Sharpen the tools we already have, such as making full use of our city government’s authority to issue bonds and King County’s ability to leverage all hotel tax revenues (instead of subsidizing stadiums) to build more affordable housing quickly.

As the rock band Pearl Jam decides how to spend a portion of the $12 million its fans raised to reduce homelessness and Jeff Bezos decides how to distribute his $2 billion, they can learn from the failings of our local government leaders:  if you really care about solving a problem, invest only in what’s proven to work.

Once the Mayor and City Council get their own house in order by adhering to fiscal responsibility and evidence-based strategies, more of the wealthiest businesses and philanthropists will be compelled to contribute to those solutions. While the city might not need new revenue sources to solve the problem, it will require prioritizing existing resources and using them smartly.

We already have what it takes to reduce homelessness: Mayor Durkan must once again lead the way by relentlessly holding City Hall accountable for results.

More to Explore:

  • For solutions from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, CLICK HERE.
  • For solutions from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, CLICK HERE.
  • To follow the issue of homelessness more closely, read the ongoing “Project Homeless” series in The Seattle Times: CLICK HERE.
  • For the action plan for Seattle by national expert Barbara Poppe, CLICK HERE or HERE.

1 Meeting to Connect

Seriously Save Seattle’s Trees

Remember that tree you loved to climb as a kid? Several tree advocates have raised concerns that real estate speculators would be able to rip out the trees we love due to the damaging changes to our tree protection laws proposed by Councilmember Rob Johnson.

The idea of protecting trees was started by a well-meaning Executive Order from then-Mayor Tim Burgess.  But some City Councilmembers, led by Rob Johnson, have twisted the positive concept so that, like “Alice in Wonderland,” up is down and down is up. The new ordinance, cynically dubbed “Trees for All,” would actually destroy more trees. While claiming to care about the environment and climate change, the current proposal would carve more loopholes in the city’s tree protection law.  Instead of whittling down the law, our elected officials should listen to their constituents and strengthen the law to preserve the larger trees we cherish while planting many more new trees so that we truly remain the Emerald City.

Councilmember Johnson cynically timed this weaker tree ordinance exactly when community groups are knee-deep spending their time and resources fighting City Hall’s inadequate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) triggered by the Ed Murray/Rob Johnson “H.A.L.A” proposal. Being forced upon communities throughout Seattle, the “M.H.A.” provision of H.A.L.A. requires real estate developers to build or write a check for a relatively small percentage of affordable housing in exchange for the ability to construction larger buildings. (For the most recent Op Ed about the upzones, CLICK HERE.)

While I was not a “tree-hugger” before researching this article, City Hall’s apparent assault on trees that are essential to our quality of life had me envisioning how I would not only hug a tree but also chain myself to it to prevent its removal.

Everyone loves trees. No matter your age, background, or ambitions, big trees provide beauty, oxygen, comfort. The benefits branch out like a leafy green democracy. Because big trees take decades to grow, planting little sticks in their place is not equivalent. Therefore, when our elected leaders propose laws that would allow more big trees to be ripped out, that’s wrong and should be stopped.

Saving big trees is also fiscally responsible. How? Keeping an existing tree is free. Moreover, trees provides health benefits. According to an article in The Atlantic, “It is becoming increasingly clear that trees help people live longer, healthier, happier lives—to the tune of $6.8 billion in averted health costs annually in the U.S., according to research published this week.”

What needs to change:  The City should immediately cancel / retract its flimsy and disingenuous “Determination of Non-Significance” (DNS).  The DNS seems wrong on its face. Moreover, a DNS from city officials forces regular folks who care about trees and have better ways to spend their time and life savings, to file a legal challenge to City Hall.

In addition, the advocacy group “Friends of Urban Forests” is asking City Hall to:

  1. Allow more time for possible changes, analysis of impacts, and public input on the current tree ordinance draft by delaying action to the beginning of 2019 as recommended by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission.  [UPDATE: It seems some City Councilmembers heard this plea, according to the statement they issued Sept 12, 2018: CLICK HERE.]
  2. Put back existing protections for Exceptional Trees  (“An exceptional tree: 1. Is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle; or 2. Is rare of exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of a grove of trees.” Lower the threshold for large exceptional trees to 24″ diameter at 54 inches high (DBH*).
  3. Limit removal of trees to no more than 2 per year on developed property
  4. Put back the prohibition on cutting down trees greater than 6″ DBH on undeveloped lots.
  5. Base tree permits on diameter and species of trees, not tree canopy measurements.
  6. Require all trees 6″ DBH and larger that are removed to be replaced on site or off site or a replacement and maintenance fee must be paid to the City.
  7. Require 2 week posting and yellow ribbons on trees for all permits for removal; include a online public posting of applications and permit approvals.
[ * Here’s how you measure “diameter at breast height” (D.B.H.):  at 4 1/2 feet or 54 inches above the ground, wrap a measuring tape around the tree trunk and divide by Pi (3.14). Example, if the tape measures the tree’s circumference as 6.5 feet around, that’s 78 inches divided by 3.14 = 24.8 inches – Exceptional! For a video on how to measure, CLICK HERE.]

This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is SERIOUSLY SAVE SEATTLE’S TREES.

BEFORE: (lovely mature trees on corner of NE 50th Street and 15th Ave NE)
photo of bulldozer at NE 50th Street & Brooklyn on March 7, 2017

AFTER: (trees removed thanks to weak city policies):
photo of bulldozer at NE 50th Street & Brooklyn on March 7, 2017


  • For an article in “The Atlantic” on the health benefits of trees, CLICK HERE.
  • For a good example of how architects and developers actually listed to neighbors to retain trees, setbacks, and parking (Bryant Heights), CLICK HERE.
  • For the most recent version of the proposed ordinance, CLICK HERE.
  • For condescending Disneyland diagram of how the new ordinance will make everything super called “Trees for All”, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Sept 12 statement from City Councilmembers indicating they MIGHT amend their proposal for the better, CLICK HERE. But let’s be vigilant and see what the next version of their legislation actually says.
  • For the Friends of Urban Forests, CLICK HERE and for Tree PAC, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Urban Forestry Commission, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Urban Forestry Commission’s letter criticizing the proposed ordinance, CLICK HERE.
  • For more about how important trees are to birds and other wildlife, CLICK HERE for the AUDUBON STORE (The Nature Shop) in Northeast Seattle.
  • For a more passionate piece on this topic, CLICK HERE for “Outside City Hall”
  • For a view more favorable toward the proposed ordinance, see the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties: CLICK HERE.


  • WHEN: Of the over 35 budget meetings Sept 24 to Nov 19, 2018, here are some key ones:
    • Monday, Sept 24 at 2:00 p.m.: Mayor’s presentation
    • Wednesday, Sept 26 at 6:30 p.m.: District 5 (far Northeast/North Seattle) at Bitter Lake Community Center, 13035 Linden Ave. N. with Councilmember Debora Juarez and Budget Director Ben Noble.
    • Thursday, October 4 at 5:30 p.m.: Public Hearing (location t.b.d.)
    • Monday, November 19 at 2:00 p.m.: Final Adoption
  • WHERE: usually City Hall (or watch on Seattle Channel), except for Sept 26 and Oct 4 (see above).
  • WHO: lobbyists, interest groups, sycophants and, hopefully, the people of Seattle
  • WHY: because it’s YOUR $5 billion and YOUR city

1 Fun to Enjoy

“Full Moon Sail” with Sail Sand Point

Want to enjoy the beauty and breezes of Lake Washington at night, but you don’t know your port side from your aft? Want to finally be the captain of your own ship (or very, very small boat)? And you promise you’re not a werewolf?

Then this season’s FUN TO ENJOY is for you:  “FULL MOON SAIL” WITH SAIL SAND POINT.

As these Northeast Seattle sailors say on their website, “Sail Sand Point is a non-profit community boating center located in Seattle’s Magnuson Park. Our mission is to bring the joy and life-enhancing benefits of sailing and small boats to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.”

Sail Sand Point offers classes April to October for youth and adults with the bulk during the summer months. But if you enjoy the Full Moon Sail, you should sign up for the 2019 classes before they fill up. To see their classes, sail through their program booklet by CLICKING HERE. Classes range from “Sailing Basics” to “Racing Clinics.” Private lessons are available to accelerate your learning. Toss your boss into the lake during a company-bonding group event.

Sail Sand Point is an official member of US Sailing, among just 32 sanctioned community programs nationwide.

  • WHAT: Full Moon Sail at Sail Sand Point’s Boating Center
  • WHEN: Saturday, Sept 22nd at 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Magnuson Park, northwestern tip past Arena Sports:  7861 62nd Ave NE.  Enter from Sand Point Way NE at NE 74th Street. For Google Maps, CLICK HERE.
  • PARKING? Yes.

Advice from their website for the Full Moon Sail: “We start around 8-8:30pm with a dessert potluck and aim to be on the water around 9 pm. Volunteers will be skippering (or you can take a boat out on your own) RS Quests, Hobie Waves, FJ’s and keelboats, or you can come out and launch your own boat. Boat spaces are on a first come first serve basis so arriving early is recommended.” Also, bring a headlamp and flashlight and dress warmly.

And, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you are hereby educated on sailing terminology:

Aft:  toward the direction of the stern (the back end of the boat). (To remember: the word “aft” sounds like a 3-letter word that describes one’s lower backside.)

Bow: the part of the ship that faces forward when the ship underway. The bow usually has a sharply angled hull, which provides less resistance, making it easier for the ship to plow through water. (To remember: you bow forward or shoot your bow and arrow forward)

Forward: toward the direction of the bow (the front of the boat when facing forward).

Port: the left side of the ship, when facing forward. (To remember: you read from left to right and the word “Port” comes before “Starboard” in the dictionary.)

Starboard: the right side of the ship, when facing forward.

Stern: The stern is located at the back end of the ship, opposite from the bow. (To remember: The captain’s face grew stern when someone said his boat had a big, fat Aft.)

BONUS FUNs for the Fall:

  • Wedgwood Annual Picnic: Sept 15th 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hunter Farm (next to the 98115 Post Office). CLICK HERE.
  • Fremont Oktoberfest: Sept 21, 22, 23. CLICK HERE. Enter at 3503 Phinney Ave. Yes, you can do yoga and sample craft beer at the same time.
  • Wallingford Wurst Festival: Sept 21st 4 p.m. and Sept 22nd 10 a.m. at St. Benedict School parking lot. CLICK HERE.
  • Wallingford Historic Homes Fair: Oct 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Good Shepherd Center at NE 50th Street and Sunnyside. CLICK HERE.
  • Best of the Northwest Art & Fine Craft Art Show:  Nov 9 thru Nov 11 in Hangar 30 at Seattle’s Magnuson Park. CLICK HERE.
  • Philharmonica Northwest: Nov 18 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Laurelhurst. CLICK HERE.
  • Roosevelt Jazz Nutcracker: Dec 8th (7:30 p.m.) and 9th (2 p.m.)  at Roosevelt High School. CLICK HERE.

Families can find other fun events this month on the calendar websites of Parent MapRed Tricycle, and Seattle’s Child.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  To learn more about Magnuson Park, attend a meeting of the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee which meets 2nd Wednesdays of each month at 6:00 p.m. In Building 30.  For their agendas and minutes, CLICK HERE.  To explore more FUN at Magnuson Park, including the activities featured by 4 to Explore over the past 5 years, click on the links below:

1 Store to Adore

Fiddler’s Inn in Wedgwood

At the northern edge of the Wedgwood neighborhood, tucked away like the rustic home of a forest elf where Gandalf the Wizard might tell you to meet him, sits a gem of a pub that welcomes all with a relaxing seat, cold pint, and hot food.  If you’ve never been to the FIDDLER’S INN, head to this vintage Store to Adore and read the rest of this 4toExplore with an ale at your side.

As they say on their website, “…the original owner, Walt Haines, left a career in music to start a new one with the Fiddler’s Inn. We’ve kept the historic charm alive – the original Fiddler’s Inn neon sign, wooden floors, dim lighting, cozy warmth and a welcoming atmosphere that invites a steady stream of neighborhood regulars and first timers alike.”  For their food menu, CLICK HERE. For what’s on tap, CLICK HERE. The local proprietors of Fiddler’s Inn also own the Latona Pub on NE 65th Street near Green Lake.

The history of the Fiddler’s Inn runs deep: it originally opened just after Prohibition ended in 1933 — when FDR was in his first term as President and “Stormy Weather” was the top radio song followed by hits from Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby. For a detailed history of the Fiddler’s Inn, CLICK HERE.

  • LOCATION: 9219 35th Avenue NE (at 94th Street across from Fire station), Seattle, WA 98115
  • HOURS: 12 noon to 12 midnight, 7 days a week. (Happy “Hour” 3-6 p.m. M-F. Kitchen closes around 10 p.m.
  • Takes Reservations? No.
  • 11 beers on tap? Yes!
  • Barbecue? Yes!
  • Dog-friendly outdoor patio with hop vines growing overhead? Yes!

But don’t take our word for it, CLICK HERE to check out their reviews on YELP!

Here are some other Stores to Adore on 35th Avenue:

Local stores that we adore on 35th Avenue NE and throughout Seattle are under assault by the city officials speeding ahead with zoning, parking, and taxing policies that disregard neighborhood business. Stores like Hardwick’s Hardware in the U District are closing down after decades of service to our community.  For a dizzying array of examples, see Vanishing Seattle on Facebook.

We know all too well the stories of senior citizens and others on fixed incomes who struggle to stay in the city they love.  For a recent piece on this in the Seattle Times, read “Seattle’s Rush to Upzone Tramples Neighborhood Input” by CLICKING HERE.  But the media does little to explain what’s happening to mom & pop businesses in our communities. While the grassroots efforts to save the Showbox music venue downtown grabbed the headlines (as politicians quickly jumped on the bandwagon to claim they saved at least one building in the city), special places in our the neighborhoods continue to suffer.

In addition to the constant disruptions from the Seattle Department of Transportation (as on 35th Avenue) and skyrocketing utility bills from our city-run utility companies that fail to control their costs, the upzones are hurting many small businesses. Why? Most businesses rent their space. Most of their leases are “triple net” (“NNN”), which means the landlords make the mom & pop shops pay for three major expenses:  property insurance, maintenance, and the big variable — real estate taxes. When certain City Councilmembers dramatically upzone a neighborhood, the assessed value shoots up, thereby increasing the tax bill burdening the mom & pop business. It’s akin to a massive, unanticipated rent increase.

In addition to needing Councilmembers who actually listen to their constituents, strong neighborhood-based chambers of commerce — or associations that unify several neighborhood business districts — are needed so that small stores have a voice. In the meantime, a group called Save 35th Avenue has grown fast to give voice to the frustration many neighbors and businesses feel and to protest the strange silence from Mayor Durkan’s office.

Save 35th Ave: If your are concerned about City Hall’s $8 million project to re-pave 35th Ave, remove much of the parking, and consolidate (remove) some bus stops — when Mayor Durkan could simply install more crosswalks and greenways not only around 35th Ave and but also in other neighborhoods like View Ridge, Lake City, and South Seattle — explore “Save 35th Avenue”: CLICK HERE.

“Safe” 35th Ave: If you want the $8 million project to continue as spearheaded by Councilmember Rob Johnson, you might be interested in this other group: CLICK HERE.

SDOT: For updates from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), CLICK HERE.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  To explore more of Wedgwood, subscribe to Wedgwood View and the Wedgwood Echo.  We have featured a lot of cool stuff in Wedgwood, including the Wedgwood Arts Festival (every July) and many of the Stores to Adore listed above. The Wedgwood Community Council has monthly meetings and sponsors an annual festival (every September) at Hunters Farm (next to the 98115 Post Office).

1 Meeting to Connect


Can setting up a barbecue in the middle of your street make your neighborhood safer? YES it can — on NATIONAL NIGHT OUT.

On Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018 after 6 p.m. (which is also Election Day), your neighbors throughout Northeast Seattle will connect and enjoy food on their blocks. Connecting with neighbors makes everyone safer.

As we know, Northeast Seattle has suffered its share of significant crime incidents, including the recent home invasion and shooting in Bryant, scary school lock-downs, frequent bank robberies (such as Key Bank in Wedgwood), and the horrific multiple shooting at Cafe Racer.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is NATIONAL NIGHT OUT.

  • WHAT: National Night Out (crime prevention and neighborhood bonding)
  • WHO: You and your neighbors, Seattle Police & Fire Departments
  • WHEN: Tuesday, August 7 from 6:00 p.m. into the evening
  • WHERE: on a neighborhood block near you. To set up a block party or find one nearby, CLICK HERE.

If you prefer to learn more about Seattle’s National Night Out on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

While our Police Department has made tremendous strides reforming how it uses force and analyzing data to fight crime under Police Chiefs Kathleen O’Toole and Carmen Best, our new Mayor Jenny Durkan is in the process of selecting a new Chief from among 3 finalists. My former boss Tim Burgess played a key role in conducting a national search for a highly qualified replacement who can solidify the reforms as required by the federal judge. Stay tuned.

— The head of our North Precinct continues to be Captain Sean.ODonnell@seattle.gov — and he grew up in NE Seattle!

— Community Policing Officers (solving community issues; not 911): Um, it seems like our police department has veered away from “community policing” as it’s no longer possible to find our community policing officers on the SPD website.  We hope the new police chief embraces community policing to build community and prevent crimes.

— Crime Prevention Coordinator: If you would like to talk to someone at SPD about crime prevention techniques, ongoing crime problems in your neighborhood, getting involved in Block Watch, and setting up a meeting to train you and your neighbors on crime prevention tips, contact Mary.Amberg@seattle.gov or call her at 206-684-7711.

Our North Precinct has been the subject of intense debate about how best to deploy tax dollars for crime prevention and enforcement, specifically how to spend tax dollars to replace the 34-year old station currently across from North Seattle College. Protests derailed the project. For the latest, CLICK HERE. In sum: instead of building a new station on Aurora (Highway 99) soon, the City will extend the useful life of the existing station until decisions can be made on a new station later — perhaps even building two, scaled back stations to cover the large geographic area of the “North Precinct” (entire city north of the ship canal).

If you’re inspired to stay connected with your community after experiencing National Night Out, here are links to some of our community councils:

Be sure to get on your neighborhood email list so that you can report suspicious activity and spot trends together. When in doubt, always call 911.


  • WHEN: Sat, July 14 and Sun, July 15, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • WHERE: Our Lady of Lake Parish at 35th Ave NE and NE 89th St
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and art lovers
  • WHY: art, music, food, fun
  • WHEN: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Maple Leaf Park on Roosevelt Way NE at NE 83rd Street
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and ice cream lovers
  • WHY: ice cream
  • WHEN: Saturday, Aug 4, 2018 (Parade starts 7:00 p.m.)
  • WHERE: Parade runs south on Lake City Way from 135th Street to 125th Street
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and seafairing lovers
  • WHY: Seafair!
  • DETAILS: CLICK HERE for website CLICK HERE for their Facebook.
Neighborhoods endure. But it takes neighbors like you to keep them going. Connect!

1 Issue to Engage

Annual Community Survey 2018: We Love Hearing From You!

We Heard Your Voice and the results are HERE. Nearly 400 subscribers in Northeast Seattle completed our 14-question survey about local issues May 8-10, 2018.

As you may recall, we believe public officials should “conduct official surveys and release results to the public,” as we urged in our Crosscut column entitled, “4 Ideas to Make City Hall Listen.” While our annual survey is not “official,” we hope it advances discussions and clarifies important issues impacting our communities in Northeast Seattle. For our COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS, CLICK HERE. For a potentially annoying and definitely subjective summary of the survey, keep reading:

MYSTERIOUS Result: After 6 months of her leading our city, residents are still unsure of Mayor Durkan. When asked “Are you happy with the new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan” an unusually high 50% said “Don’t Know.”

URGENT Result: One of the most pressing issues is City Hall’s proposal to spend $8 million to repave 35th Avenue NE. As if City Hall officials were literally deaf to the people who elected them, the project is poised to proceed even though only 12% support it, according to this survey (see discussion below about the validity of our survey).  In our view, Mayor Durkan should immediately revamp the project by completing only the crosswalk improvements. This would free up some of these tax dollars to address other urgent crosswalk and sidewalk needs throughout Northeast Seattle (65th Street, View Ridge, Lake City, etc) — and throughout the rest of our city. While Mayor Durkan might have been hoping 35th Avenue would be “too local” of an issue to impact her, a trifecta of forces changes the political calculus:  residents are still forming an opinion about her leadership, the media has recently published several reports of SDOT over-spending, and there is major opposition to the project. 35th Ave is poised to become a memorable litmus test for the Mayor in an area of the city that turns out the vote.

LOPSIDED Result: A whopping 88% of respondents said “real estate developers should be required to provide some parking spaces at their new buildings.” This flies in the face of City Council’s recent 8 to 1 vote to loosen the requirement again. (Thank you, Lisa Herbold, for bravely voting against it.)

You might remember the most lopsided result in our previous surveys: 85% of residents agreed that “real estate developers should be required to pay Impact Fees to help defray the costs of building new schools, fire stations, and sidewalks as the city’s population grows” (See HERE and HERE). Because it has been so clear Seattleites would like to see their Mayor and City Council impose Impact Fees, we decided to ask the parking question instead this year.

It’s important to clear up a false premise repeated by some to confuse the public: if the cost to build housing increases, do rents or home prices increase? No. Prices are set by the maximum the market will bear. In other words, developers do not voluntarily charge lower rent or home prices. When the costs to build increase, developers and investors make less “profit” (their return on equity decreases). The genuine concern then becomes, at what point would a developer not build, therefore negatively impacting supply?  Adding Impact Fees and on-site parking back into the costs to build need to be considered cumulatively, just like City Hall considers the cumulative impact of each property tax that they propose on us. (Ha! kidding about the property taxes; City Hall just piles those taxes onto residents.) Seriously, though, most other Puget Sound and west coast cities require both Impact Fees and on-site parking. Talented developers can cope and can leverage the fact that Seattle is still an extraordinarily desirable place to live, thanks to the hard work and spirit of existing residents. This debate will surely continue!

INTRIGUING Result: Among the qualities people want in their local government leaders, “Accountable” and “Fiscally Responsible” scored by far the highest, while scoring the lowest were “Experienced,” “Creative,” and “Environmentalist.”

For the other 10 survey questions, including “Do you support Environmental Initiative 1631?” and “Should Wallingford and The Ave be removed from the proposed upzones?” and “Should the City Council put Mayor Durkan’s Families and Education Levy on the ballot?”, CLICK HERE.

Thanks to the hundreds who completed the survey. We know it takes time and we are deeply grateful — especially for your thoughtful written comments that added context and passion to your choices.

Validity of the Survey (a.k.a. no good deed goes unpunished): 

  • Significant? The good news is that the survey is statistically significant among the universe of our readership (~7,000 subscribers). According to statistical tools, such as calculator.net, creative research systems, and surveymonkey.com, we exceed the magic number to achieve statistically significant results. The 387 respondents produce a 95% confidence level, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 basis points. In other words (subject to the caveats below), we should be 95% confident that between 83% and 93% of the 7,000 subscribers (5 below and 5 above 88%) believe developers should provide off-street parking. In fact, most city-wide polls survey only 400 people.
  • “Self-Selection”? While 100% of our subscribers are above average and good-looking, we acknowledge that they might not reflect every adult resident of Northeast Seattle. Those who continue to subscribe to 4toExplore are “self-selected” in that they probably share my overarching concerns about the direction City Hall has been taking. Certainly my sense of humor is not sufficient to keep them reading. Moreover, this is not a pure “random sample” of our readership because only people with the time or interest completed it. Of course, even sophisticated, live telephone polls have this problem when many respondents interrupted from their dinner of salmon and coffee slam down their phones on the hapless surveyor.
  • Objective? We acknowledge that it’s difficult to craft surveys with pure objectivity. Opinions of the designer (me, in this case) surely seep into how questions are phrased. I tried to avoid loaded questions liked, “Come on, do you really want this stupid project to proceed?” But even deciding which questions to ask is subjective. We believe, however, that it’s better to try to ask reasonable questions and to listen to your responses, than not to ask at all.

The limitations of community surveys reinforces the point we made earlier: City Hall — with its financial means and public mission — should be the one to conduct and publish surveys for everyone’s benefit.  As we said in our previous issue of 4 to Explore, “a sustainable city is where elected officials listen to their constituents.  ‘Listening’ does not mean public hearings and blog posts to state concerns — listening means materially changing / re-crafting government policies and budgets to address the concerns of residents….”

If you were not able to take this most recent survey, share your kind thoughts by e-mailing Alex@4toExplore.org

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