Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Regular Meeting

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency), Pacific Marine Center on Lake Union
1801 Fairview Avenue East
Thursday, November 20, 2008


Quarterly Round Robin on Neighborhood Projects and Issues
A Continuation of a Seemingly Never-ending Story

The September Federation meeting will continue our quarterly discussion of issues and projects in your neighborhood. It is your opportunity to brief our citywide membership about what you are working on and to share perceptions on what is going right and what isn’t with our city government.

The Round Robin is a great networking opportunity and a chance to generate support from the Federation and its member organizations for the important work you are doing.

If you have informational materials you would like distributed at the meeting, please email electronic copies or links to Jeannie Hale at jeannieh@serv.net.

7:00 Call to Order and Introductions
1. Changes to the agenda
2. Treasurer’s report
3. President’s report

7:15 Round Robin
1. Jail siting—Update (15 minutes)
2. Vote counting machines—Will King County be prepared to have a paper trail to voting results?
3. Appeal of the Children’s Final EIS
4. Electing a County Elections Officer—The Process and are there any Candidates for the February Election?
5. University Village proposed expansion—Yet again! 300 unit housing complex planned at QFC
6. Upcoming City Council Races
7. Other Issues/Projects

9:00 Adjourn

NOAA is a federal facility on high security alert, so attendees must enter by the security gate and may need to present photo ID. If you haven't attended a recent Federation meeting, please send your name, contact information, and address to rickbarrett@gmail.com to be added to the entry list. No e-mail? Call 206-365-1267. The building is ADA compliant, with ample parking in front.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Federation October 23, 2008 Meeting Highlights (Based on the editor's notes --- these are not official minutes)

Consider this contrast: (a) The City is getting ready to pass an ordinance for "incentive zoning," a catch phrase for giving developers bonuses in height and bulk in building apartments and condos in exchange for providing some "affordable" (i.e. middle income) housing units; and (b) the Mayor is moving to oust the homeless encampment (Nickelsville) at the parking lot of University Christian Church. Read on!

Incentive Zoning: John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition explained the proposal:
Developers would get greater density for apartments and condos if the developer agrees to lease 10-20% of the new units --- the exact figures have yet to be set --- at rents or sell condos at prices "affordable" for households earning 80% of area median income ("AMI"). Alternatively, the developer could "buy bulk" by paying between $15 and $18.94 per square foot for bonus square footage into a housing fund; commercial developers would pay an additional $ 3.25 per square foot toward childcare facilities.
The City calculates that the bonuses would increase a developer's return on investment by 15-20% for high-rise buildings and 1-2% with mid-rise structures. The program would use rent reporting --- no occupancy qualifications --- so that wealthier people could (experience shows they will) compete for the units. The "affordable units" need not be on site nor do the "buy bulk” replacements have to be in the neighborhood. The proposal was worked up a task force comprised of developers, save for one member. The City Council held a public hearing at 9:00 A.M., well attended by the developers and their employees. No more are planned. The AMI is now set at $81,400; 80% would be $65,120. . The formula multiplies gross pre-tax income by 30% and divides by 12 for a monthly rent. A developer could then charge $1384 for a 2 bedroom unit; $1230 for a one bedroom; and $1076 monthly for a studio unit. In fact, over 90% of the apartment units advertised in a free monthly apartment rental publication rent at less than those figures. 79% of the work force gross less than $ 65,120 annually ($32.56 per hour for a 2000 hours work year (50 weeks x 40 hours per week). 51.3% earn less than $ 42,200 annually ($21.10.
per hour). The $42,200 wage earner would have to pay over 30% of his pre--tax income to rent even a studio unit. Seattle's 2020 growth targets are already being exceeded in almost all neighborhoods.
The City claims "incentive zoning" won't increase "height and/or density limits in any neighborhood." However, common sense shouts out that the new buildings will be taller and bigger by the amount of the bonuses; that people will experience bigger and bulkier buildings on the ground; and that over a short time, those super-sized structures will set the standard for the neighborhood. It's de facto, haphazard up-zoning.
The Seattle Chamber of Commerce urged the City Council to cut the malarkey and do a direct up-zoning.

Nickelsville Homeless encampment: When Mayor Nickels evicted "Nickelsville" on a street end, the University Christian Church offered to host it for several months in its parking lot at NE 50th St and 15th Avenue NE. The encampment houses about 100 people in individual blue, green, and pink tents. Its rules forbid alcohol and drug use and disorderly conduct; it supplies its own Sanicans; and volunteers provide security. Residents sleep in sleeping bags over air mattresses on the ground. Some residents work seasonally, some are unskilled, depending on casual labor, some are transients, and some suffer with mental illness that renders them unemployable. The Mayor ordered the encampment closed by Halloween; he cites an agreement with a sponsor of another encampment several years ago that only one such site would be permitted at any one time. Another sponsor is hosting one elsewhere.
Motion passed to write to the Mayor urging the City to seek a declaratory judgment before evicting this encampment. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) sets a high standard that a government must meet before impinging on the exercise of religious liberty. Helping the homeless is part of the church's religious mission. The City would therefore have to prove that it has a compelling interest in, and no less restrictive alternative to, closing the encampment; and if it fails, the City may be liable for damages and attorney's fees.

New $220,000,000 Jail? Real Change is urging the City Council to reconsider spending 4½ million dollars to plan for a new seven-acre municipal jail. It urges the City to invest in mental health and drug rehab services, diversion programs, home detention, group rehab houses, and other alternatives to lock-ups.
Motion passed to support Real Change's request and broaden the study to consider alternatives to detention and thereby reduce the size of the facility, cut the annual cost of jailing people, and get better results.
[Moderators Note: In recent days the movement to re-examine the need for a new jail is gathering steam. Here’s what the City Council, The King County Prosecutor, the City Attorney and the local media have very recently said:

Tim Burgess, Chair, Public Safety, Human Services & Education Committee said: (11/11/08)
The Council is also very likely to order a study of jail capacity needs in the future, including a review of the City's very successful jail diversion efforts that have led to a 40% reduction in jail bookings over the past 10 years. The Council wants to study additional alternatives to jail for low-level criminal behavior, such as minor drug offenses. I toured the region's jails this summer as part of my work on jail expansion plans and found two types of individuals incarcerated who didn't belong there—persons with mental health challenges and low-level drug offenders. Both of these groups deserve treatment services instead of jail.

Councilmember Nick Licata, a member of Tim’s Public Safety Committee says: (11/10/08)
In last week’s Council Budget Committee of the Whole, I presented a proposal that would help the City determine whether we truly need to build a new jail. I believe we need to examine the inevitability of needing a new seven-acre facility, estimated at $110 million to build and about $19 million a year to operate and proposed to a) either be sited in a Seattle neighborhood and operated by the City or b) sited in King County suburban city and jointly operated .

With the city's budget turning shaky, the last thing to spend money on should be a new jail. It's not a priority when people are hurting.
The Seattle City Council is weighing a good step toward investigating the necessity of a new jail. The council could withhold millions in facility funding for 2009 and 2010 until the city studies whether it might avert the need with new policies and programs on drug arrests.
Duty, not enthusiasm, has driven Mayor Greg Nickels' work on a jail. A mayoral adviser welcomed the idea of studying whether most drug offenders could be diverted -- safely and efficiently -- to social services before being jailed. A key would be King County funding enough services through a new mental health and substance abuse sales tax. The county and city have to make tough budget choices. If public safety can be preserved without a new jail, everyone will be happier.

The Stranger - Culture Clash by Dominic Holden (11/13/08):
In a testy letter to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, [City Attorney] Carr chastised the P-I's editorial board for suggesting that city leaders should consider "shift[ing resources] from the prosecution of low-level drug crimes into recovery programs" to handle the city's free-falling budget. That strategy, popular among Seattle progressives and several local lawmakers, saves money and has been shown to be more effective than incarceration.
King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg is diverting about 2,300 low-level drug cases away from prosecution and jail to help shave roughly $4 million from his budget, Satterberg, in contrast, has proposed sending thousands of drug-possession cases from King County Superior Court to the lower county district court, where, he says, most defendants "will not get jail." Because those defendants would no longer be eligible for drug court, a division of King County Superior Court, Satterberg's approach is actually more lax than the one advocated by the P-I's editorial board.

The Stranger - In The Hall by Erica C. Barnett (11/13/08):
The council may also hold off on spending the $82 million the mayor has requested to widen Mercer Street in South Lake Union, cut funding for pedestrian-safety programs, and put planning for a new city jail on hold until the council can determine whether changing the city's approach to drug crimes could make a new jail unnecessary.
In addition, 36th District Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, who came to our aid during the Northwest Hospital Incinerator battle more than a decade ago, and who represents the area that includes the proposed Interbay jail site, as well as the nearby Magnolia Community Club and the Queen Anne Community Council, both noted powerhouse community groups with plenty of clout, has expressed an interest in a legislative investigation of the proposed jail financing and siting scheme.

All said, it appears that what was proposed as an inevitable seven-acre blight in some unfortunate Seattle neighborhood may not get past the initial planning stage.]

Air Pollution: Motion passed to approve the letters in our September newsletter to government officials. These letters follow up recent studies pointing to higher risks of cancer due to airborne pollutants.

Budget priorities:
(a) The Mayor over estimated revenues and left it to the City Council to make cuts. One proposed cut would chop $300,000 for support of the City's senior centers. The economic downturn has especially hurt seniors, who must stretch their fixed incomes further and senior centers are more vital for them for meals, companionship, and helping each other.
(b) The Central Area Seniors have no lease for their center and need to get money to fix it up, but granting agencies won't consider their application until it gets a lease.
Motion passed to write letters opposing the budget cut (a) above, and ask for a lease and assistance to the Central Area Seniors.
(c) The City needs therapeutic pools for seniors and others afflicted with a variety of ailments. Children’s' Hospital has the only warm water therapy pool in Seattle and it is over-subscribed. The City's population over age 60 is now 15.6% of the population and will soon reach 20.4%. Moreover, the City needs more swimming pools for the general public. A growing percentage of Seattle youth never learn to swim. Private pools have long waiting lists, and the current public pools are crowded.
Motion passed authoring letters to appropriate government officials to ask that the next parks levy include therapeutic pools; that the City assess opening the former Officers' pool at Magnuson Park; and that it consider adding pools in the next parks levy.

Magnuson Park: The City Council passed ordinances authorizing long-term sweetheart leases at Sand Point and an amendment to its overlay ordinance to authorize the non-park uses. It is also negotiating with the Federal government to release the restriction of uses to park purposes. It is also seeking to change the ground rules to allow it to tear down buildings within the historic district and construct new faux buildings that would expand their footprint. Although the City had promised the United States in its environmental process preliminary to the acquisition that it would create a Sand Point Historic District, and represented that it was doing so, the City never followed through. Developers see this lapse as an opportunity and are moving in.
Motion passed to write to appropriate officials at the federal and state level nominating the district for designation, and to the City and its Landmarks Board for establishing a historic district; to urge the City to comply with the Landmarks Ordinance as if the district had been established as promised and represented; and to express dismay at the lapse.

University Village Expansion: University Village shopping center will expand by 26% and add a 900 space parking garage. Incredibly, DPD determined that it has no significant environmental impact. Moreover, it relied traffic studies done for the Children's Hospital expansion, which were inadequate.

Neighborhood blogs: The Seattle Channel has the video of the recent City Club/Library meeting on neighborhood blogs, a nascent but potent influential phenomena. Seattle is well represented; See The West Seattle blog, Pinehurst Community Blog, Miller Park Neighborhood Association blog, Capitol Hill Seattle, Central District News are outstanding examples of good neighborhood blogs. See the list of neighborhood blogs and websites (sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart) on the Federation blog

Noise ordinance appeal: Chris Leman presented his appeal on the amendments to the City noise ordinance that permit public works construction to exceed nighttime noise limits. The City determined that this would have no significant environmental impact. Chris called two witnesses: Dr. Ted Lane and the former mayor of Burien, an acoustical engineer. The City sought to block their testimony on procedural grounds and partially succeeded. The City Attorney's office has been a stickler on the rules, pouncing on the slightest deviation. Briefs are due soon.
[Editors Note: the Assistant City Attorney later moved to strike Chris' brief because it was filed one minute late! The motion was denied.]

Mercer Mess: Motion passed to send a letter of appreciation to Senator Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36) for opposing use of state money for the Mayor/Vulcan Development $220,000,000 proposal for a two-way Mercer Street, that would actually increase travel time through this corridor.

Save the Trees: Motion passed to send a comment letter to the City's Department of Community Development opposing the issuance of a permit on application #3009549 to cut a grove of trees on the Ingraham High School Campus. Last August, the Superior Court had issued a temporary injunction, and the School District then withdrew its application. The School district has now filed a new application very similar to the earlier one. There are alternate locations on the 28-acre site for the construction.

Goodwill site redevelopment: The hearing examiner made findings and recommendations in accord with the City's presentation and failed to discuss major points made by the community. The community will appeal to the City Council. The developer is asking for vacation of two acres of City streets and will pay eight million dollars in street vacation fees, but wants the City to apply all the money for project mitigation that the developer is required to do.
Motion passed to authorize two sets of letters:
(a) a letter to appropriate City officials to oppose applying the street vacation fees for mitigation. The developer on its own should pay those costs. There are other very important needs in the area that the money should be spent on. The developer's proposal in essence lets it get the street vacation for free.
(b) a letter to the City Council asking it not to accept the Hearing Examiner's recommendation. The Hearing Examiner did not follow all the criteria for a rezone. The Hearing Examiner picked out the portions of the record that support the City's presentation, but did not cite the record as a whole.
Residential Parking Zones. Motion passed to oppose imposing RPZs where they're not wanted by local residents and businesses.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Councilmember Burgess on new jail

Excerpted from Tim Burgess’ City View Newsletter
Volume 1, Issue #12 • November 12, 2008

Other Public Safety Considerations

The Council is also very likely to order a study of jail capacity needs in the future, including a review of the City's very successful jail diversion efforts that have led to a 40% reduction in jail bookings over the past 10 years. The Council wants to study additional alternatives to jail for low-level criminal behavior, such as minor drug offenses. I toured the region's jails this summer as part of my work on jail expansion plans and found two types of individuals incarcerated who didn't belong there - persons with mental health challenges and low-level drug offenders. Both of these groups deserve treatment services instead of jail.

Councilmember Burgess is the chair of the Public Safety, Human Services & Education Committee and may be contacted at Phone: (206) 684-8806 Fax: (206) 684-8587
Tim burgess@seattle.gov


Urban Politics #266, 11/13/08

By City Councilmember Nick Licata


In last week*s Council Budget Committee of the Whole, I presented a
proposal that would help the City determine whether we truly need to
build a new jail. I believe we need to examine the inevitability of
needing a new seven-acre facility, estimated at $110 million to build
and about $19 million a year to operate and proposed to a) either be
sited in a Seattle neighborhood and operated by the City or b) sited in
King County suburban city and jointly operated .

The City*s contract with King County for jail space expires in 2012
and without a contract with the County, the City has no place to jail
arrested misdemeanants. For this reason, 4.5 million dollars of next
year's city budget have been dedicated to siting a new jail which the
City determines could be built by the end of 2013.

In addition, the King County Prosecutor, in response to impending
budget reductions, is offering many drug defendants a reduced plea to a
misdemeanor, after which the defendant will have no requirement to, and
no assistance to, get treatment or any other intervention that would
lessen the likelihood of future criminal conduct. I prefer the approach
described below that continues to use the threat of incarceration to
entice offenders into treatment programs.

My proposal would require an evaluation of how arrests and jail
bookings could be reduced if the Seattle Police Department changed its
approach to enforcing low-level felony drug violations (offenses
involving marijuana or less than ten grams of other illegal drugs).
Here are some of the questions I proposed that this evaluation

If some number of violations could be addressed through referrals to
appropriate treatment and services, what impact would be seen on the
need for jail beds? What types of treatment and services would be
needed; at what cost? Would there be impacts to public safety; if so,
what? Could these alternatives to criminal prosecution of low-level
drug felonies be established in such a manner to ensure long-term access
to King County jail space adequate to accommodate all Seattle

My proposal directs the Office of Management and Planning to coordinate
an effort using the resources and problem-solving abilities of
community-based groups to address these questions and provide to the
Council an assessment of whether a different approach to enforcing
certain crimes could eliminate the need for a new jail.

One such approach that has been very effective is a model that uses a
pre-arrest prevention approach. In this model, SPD offers a suspect an
alternative to being booked into jail: going immediately instead to an
intake center for the law enforcement diversion program. A preliminary
assessment of the 125 participants in this program to date shows that
although they have an average of 7.6 arrests and 2.7 convictions by the
time they enter the program (average age of 25), after more than a year
the non-recidivism rate was 82%. You can read more about how the
diversion program works:

Last night (11/12/08) the proponents of this model spoke to about 150
members of the Belltown Community Council. Some community leaders are
interested in exploring submitting an application for about $1 million
in new money in a fund administered by King County so that this model
can be brought to Belltown.

The groups that I hope can help the Council and Executive to determine
whether we can eliminate the need for a new jail include the King County
Bar Association, the Urban League, citizen representatives of the
Precinct Advisory Councils, the ACLU and the public defenders. The
government agencies would include the Seattle Police Department, the
Human Services Department, the Seattle Municipal Court, and the City
Attorney*s office. Once assembled, this group would need also to
invite representatives from the King County Executive, the King County
Council, and the King County Prosecutor*s Office to join this effort
because a critical element to these deliberations is whether King County
would consider re-opening a discussion about extending the City*s
contract for use of the King County Jail.

A budget proviso is a mechanism that restricts spending by a city
department until some pre-set condition is completed by it. As a way to
ensure this work is done thoroughly, I want the City Council to attach a
proviso to a portion of the $4.5 million in the 2009 City Budget. The
City Budget Office says that the project will have at least $2 million
of 2009 funds available (plus any amount the City carries over from
2008) to fund the environmental assessments on the potential sites
Seattle is considering and any other planning work that needs to be done
in the first half of 2009. Thus a proviso of $2 million dollars should
not stop the city from future jail planning while this work is done, but
it will ensure that it*s done. Given that the Council has not always
received requested information from the Executive departments in a
timely fashion, the proviso assures the Council that it will in this

The Mayor does not support the proviso because Seattle has established
a strong regional collaboration with some of our suburban cities in
working toward a common jail site and this proviso may give them the
impression that Seattle may not be a reliable partner in that pursuit.
However, the proviso is constructed in a way to allow Seattle to
continue to work with these cities while determining if a jail is needed
of if a smaller one could suffice. Certainly if it is found that a
smaller jail is required, with lower construction and maintenance costs,
then all cities could benefit from this work.

An approach like this could accomplish 4 things:

1) Mitigate the possible negative impact on public safety and quality
of life in our neighborhoods that may result from the King County
Prosecutor*s decision to reduce many felony drug charges to

2) Considerably improve the County budget picture by decreasing
criminal justice system utilization;

3) Help us determine whether we need to build a new jail - which could
free up another $2.5 million dollars in the City budget mid-year; and

4) Help offenders to make positive changes in their lives by removing
obstacles to a better life for participants, rather than creating new
barriers and at a fraction of what it costs to arrest, book, prosecute
and convict the participants of low-level drug crimes.

Here is an editorial from this week*s Seattle P.I. supporting my


The Council will be voting on this budget action on Monday morning,
November 17.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current
public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of
helping citizens shape Seattle's future.

Instructions on subscribing or unsubscribing to the Urban Politics
mailing list are at the bottom of the UP.



Citizens are directed to the following website to complete a form to
send an email to the Mayor's Office.


To subscribe, send a message to: urbanpolitics-subscribe@speakeasy.net

To unsubscribe, send a message to:
You do not need to include anything in the body of the messages.

Here is the link for you to send a comment, by the end of the workday TODAY, Thursday Nov. 13th, on Permit # 3009549 for Ingraham HS. You can also use this web address: http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/LUIB/CommentEmail.aspx?BID=358&NID=8971&P=3009549&D=10/16/2008
Your comments TODAY can help save the significant forest grove at Ingraham High School and help us pass a state law to save significant urban forest groves.

The City is also holding a public meeting at 6:30 PM on Tuesday November 18th at Ingraham (1819 N 135th) to take comments.

The groves of trees at Ingraham HS and the Campfire Girls property (Waldo Woods) on 15th NE as examples of how we need local activism to save urban tree groves and to use those lessons to pass state legislation for that important goal. The message below includes a request for your help from Save the Trees. Please take a few minutes to send a comment by Thursday the 13th via the link attached (real easy!) or two hours at the public hearing on Tuesday Nov 18th at Ingraham HS at 6:30 PM.

Saving trees in Seattle is critical for our urban habitat, cleaning up Puget Sound (by reducing stormwater runoff and pollution), reducing carbon and greenhouse gas pollutants, providing children and families with environmental education and recreation.

"We need your help. The Seattle School District has re-filed their construction permit with the City of Seattle to build their addition to Ingraham High School in the same location as before - in the grove of old trees on the West side of the school. In August, after encountering strong citizen support for saving the endangered grove of 75 year old 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees, the Seattle School District withdrew their permits in an attempt to cut down 68 trees in the grove without environmental review by the City of Seattle.

A court order obtained by Save the Trees - Seattle temporarily stopped the clear cutting of the trees. Despite neighbor's urging to build elsewhere on the Ingraham campus, like the North Lawn area where no large trees would have to be cut, the Seattle School District is ignoring public concern and going ahead just as before to cut the trees.
You have an opportunity to help save the trees by adding your voice to that of others speaking against cutting the trees. The construction permits including the destruction of what is a neighborhood de facto park area at Ingraham High School is being reviewed by Department of Planning and Development (DPD) for the City.

There is an official page on the DPD website where you can easily enter some comments. Even a few sentences from you will help expand the overall public record in support of saving the trees at Ingraham from the chainsaw. We can have both trees and education at Ingraham because alternative sites like the North Lawn area allow the addition to be built without needlessly sacrificing our urban green habitat."

Here are some other important points, which I suggest you can incorporate:

· The City's Comprehensive Plan sets a goal of no net loss of urban forest and the City's Urban Forest Management Plan sets a goal of 30% tree canopy for public properties.

· The 70 trees proposed to be cut include over a dozen madronas, which are greatly declining and are supposed to be protected when possible.

· The School District's estimates of tree height and age in their prior environmental review were found to be far off from reality. The grove includes trees over 100 feet high and approximately 75 years old. (The District said the trees were only 75 feet high. How does a school district which teaches "everyday math" fail to calculate the height of trees by 33%?).

· The plan calls for significant parking lot expansions where neighborhood advocates propose the school building additions could go.

· 100 new trees planted at Ingraham in 2000 and 2001 as mitigation for other work all died - that reality shows the need to preserve existing healthy groves, and not count proposed replacement trees in calculating whether the project will meet tree canopy goals years from now.

· Mature trees remove 60-70x more pollution and have a tremendous impact on reducing our stormwater runoff problems (which includes carrying pollution from streets into Puget Sound). This is vital for the City to consider as a significant environmental impact (instead of pretending that new plantings are equal), and for our state laws to be changed for mandating protection of mature urban tree groves in order to protect Puget Sound.

Let's also not forget that we need a state law requiring that all cities designate significant urban groves and protect them. Write our legislators urging them to take the lead on legislation amending our Growth Management Act and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Ask them to make changes to require that cities protect urban tree groves to reduce global warming impacts, reduce pollution runoff and protect urban habitat. You can reach them at: jacobsen.ken@leg.wa.gov

For more info on the Ingraham trees, go to Steve Zemke's blog or http://www.majorityrules.org/blog/2008/10/seattle-school-district-refiles.html

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A public meeting aimed at saving the Cascade People's Center is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the center, 309 Pontius Ave. N. in the Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union.
For more information: http://www.cascadepeoplescenter.org or http://www.lcsnw.org or call 206-587-0320

Community center rallies supporters Cascade-area nonprofit is slated to lose city funding


In its 10-year existence, the Cascade People's Center has dreamed big, served thousands and come close to extinction several times. The family support center, which has brought together people from varied cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, is threatened once again. Tuesday, in response to news that the center would not receive city funding, urgent e-mails were dispatched, pleading for support among City Council members and community and business leaders. Without the hoped-for $75,000 in city funding for 2009, "we will be forced to close our doors for good on Dec. 31st," Myla Becker, the center's program manager, wrote in an e-mail urging attendance at a meeting Wednesday to discuss how to rescue the popular center. The budget is expected to be completed Thursday.
"Unless they can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, that's pretty much it," said a disappointed Lloyd Douglas, president of the Cascade Neighborhood Council. The center has continued to serve against all odds in a neighborhood committed to its survival. It is hard to calculate the potential losses, Douglas said, because of a snowball effect. "The flavor of the neighborhood will go away, the mix of people who might never cross paths in the real world, yet they do here -- all those interactions and connections across all boundaries of society -- at P-patches or AA meetings, teen band practices, Central American ballet programs -- will go away," Douglas said. "All the great things we were trying to get going, like a farmers market, using the center as a base, will go. "Supporters of the center, acknowledging higher-density, taller-building proposals for South Lake Union, said they do not think the push for gentrification is behind the center's funding fate. Becker, who is on the board of the South Lake Union Friends and Neighbors (SLUFAN), a group that forwarded proposals for the upzoning to the city, said local businesses are among the center's strongest supporters. Vulcan, a large property owner in South Lake Union, was the main sponsor of a center fundraiser/auction earlier this year, she said, and contributed $20,000 -- the center's largest single donation. The issue, supporters say, is one of city budget constraints.
The Cascade People's Center, on city-owned land, is one of six family-support centers in King and Snohomish counties run by the nonprofit Lutheran Community Services Northwest. By most accounts, it is a lean operation, and supporters say it saves the city money by providing a range of human services to homeless and low-income families with a small staff and volunteers. City Hall was closed Tuesday because of Veterans Day. Becker said the center provides free programs, such as after-school care and caregiver education, serving a total 6,000 local residents annually. Becker is part of a six-person staff, four part-time people plus two AmeriCorps/Vista volunteers. They work 30 hours a week. About 400 volunteers do 60 percent of the work. Since the loss of city human services funding in the last biennium, needs have increased, Becker said. The center has learned to make do with less for years amid rising needs. It abandoned eco-friendly redesign plans years ago when capital costs loomed out of reach. The center must renegotiate its lease with Seattle Parks and Recreation at the end of this month, said Janet St. Clair, area director for Lutheran Community Services. "We have worked diligently to decrease our support on the city. Our core funding has decreased from $300,000 to $75,000," St. Clair said. "We've raised matching funds, grant money and private donations. We can't continue without the core (city) money. We're just hoping we can get a commitment from the city that we're in the budget for next year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


November 11, 2008

Mayor Greg Nickels
600 Fourth Avenue
P.O. Box 94749
Seattle, Washington 98124-4749

RE: Homeless Encampment on University Christian Church Parking Lot

Dear Mayor Nickels:

The Seattle Community Council Federation, a coalition of community groups throughout Seattle, urges you to allow the homeless encampment at NE 50th Street and 15th Avenue NE in the parking lot of the University Christian Church to continue as long at the Church is able to accommodate the tenants and to waive permitting fees. In light of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 42 USC ¶ 2000 cc (“RLUIPA”), we urge you to defer taking action on the ground to evict the homeless encampment at NE 50th Street and 15th Avenue NE on the parking lot of University Christian Church until the City has secured a declaratory judgment authorizing it.

In hosting the encampment, the University Christian Church is carrying out an undertaking of its members pursuant to its religious faith. The New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46 charges Christians with the duty to give food to the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to take in the homeless stranger, to clothe the naked, and to visit those in prison. Matthew 7:12 also sets for the Golden Rule. An extended list of citations to chapters and verses of the New Testament and the Old Testament on this theme could fill this page and then some. It is very expensive for the University Christian Church to host the encampment and the City should be appreciative of the commitment of the Church to take on this responsibility.

RLUIPA sets high standards for government actions to meet before impinging on the exercise of religious liberty. To invoke its protections, the Church would first have to show that forbidding the encampment imposes a “substantial burden” on the exercise of its religion. Cases say that schools, day care centers, youth camps, and even parking lots for parishioners “exercise” right to worship are permitted. 42 USC ¶ 2000 cc-5(7). Surely, caring for the “lease of these” in society in their need does so too, and closing the encampment before its time burdens the church’s charitable deed during the approaching holiday season when Christians are especially called upon to remember and to carry out the Golden Rule.

If the court finds that the City’s restrictions of homeless encampments to a single site citywide is a “substantial burden” to the church’s religious mission, RLUIPA requires the City to prove that its restriction furthers a “compelling governmental interest” and is the least restrictive means of achieving that end. 42 USC ¶ 2000 cc(a)(1). That’s a tall order when the church owners of the sites welcome the homeless and the encampment meets health standards. The City would have to show a very compelling reason for restricting supervised homeless encampments to just one site citywide. Administrative convenience will not suffice. Should the City proceed, a lawsuit arise and the City lose, it will have to pay damages, attorneys’ fees and costs to the church and the homeless displaced from the encampment.

Perhaps the City’s rule of only one encampment at a time citywide reflects a settlement made with sponsors of such an encampment several years ago? While such an agreement would bind those who are party to it, it would not affect a church or campers who were not signatories.

This encampment is an exercise of religion—religious liberty is an unalienable First Amendment Right. Prudence therefore calls upon government officials to use caution and restraint and to act strictly in accordance with the law.

Thank you for considering the views of the Seattle Community Council Federation.


Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

cc: Janetta Cravens Boyd, University Christian Church, Michael Ramos, Director, Church Council of Greater Seattle