City of Seattle

Background

Seattle has been a leader on climate change, but we still have a long way to go to meet our goals. Seattle adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2013, and updated it in 2018. In 2019, Seattle passed the Green New Deal, which sets an ambitious goal of carbon neutral by 2030. In 2020, Seattle passed the JumpStart bill, which levied a payroll tax on big business in order to fund supportive housing, and including $20 million per year for the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal legislation set aside money for a staff position in OSE to serve as a liaison for the Green New Deal Oversight Board. As a result of the Covid-19 budget shortfalls, that position was cut, and the GND Oversight Board has not been named. OSE plans to cover this shortfall by working with the Environmental Justice Committee that is already in place. The JumpStart legislation passed by the council in July 2020 restores the funding for the liaison staff position, but the mayor may choose not to spend the money.

The mayor's Executive Order from Jan. 2020 calls for an inter-departmental committee of the city to identify the ten most pressing actions the city could take on climate change. Their report was due in June 2020, but was postponed due the coronavirus. We don't have a new date, and we don't know if this is something the city is even still pursuing.

News

Community panel discussion at the Sustainability and Renter's Right's Committee on the Climate Justice Priorities in Seattle by Matt Remle (Mazaska Talks), Debolina Bannerjee (Puget Sound Sage), Deepa Silvarajan (Climate Solutions) and Jess Wallach (350 Seattle) - view, slides.

SDOT released its proposed spending plan for the $20 VLF passed by the Council last Nov., after extensive outreach from community members. Money is divided between bridge maintenance, safe sidewalks, active transportation improvements, Vision Zero, more planning, and reserve funds. For more see Ryan Packer's article in the Seattle Bike Blog, Safety, maintenance compete for slice of council-approved car tab revenue. Councilmember Pedersen has proposed an alternate spending plan, to bond the revenue over 20 years starting in Jan 2022, for a lump sum of $100 million, spending 75% on bridges, and 25% on other projects. The City Auditor has completed a bridge audit, which finds that four of our bridges are in poor repair, and estimates that the city should be spending $34-$102 million per year on bridge maintenance, while the city has actually spent only $6.6 million annually on average over the past 14 years. The City is expected to propose a new levy when the Move Seattle expires in 2023, but funds from this will not be available until 2025. SDOT is in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for repairing bridges, but does not have any projects currently ready to go.

The Office of Economic Development released the Fossil Fuel Workforce Study. Presentation to the Community and Economic Development Committee expected in May.

The Federal Transit Administration has allocated $59.9M in funding from the Small Starts Program to Rapid Ride G (Madison Ave.) for construction. These funds cover 45% of the total cost, with the balance supplied by the Move Seattle levy and the Capital Improvement Program agreements with Sound Transit. Once the funds are transferred, construction is expected to begin this fall for completion in 2024.

The City released Seattle’s Clean Transportation Electrification Blueprint: Electrifying Our Transportation System. It sets goals for transportation electrification, as well as calling for equitable infrastructure investments, and zero-emissions areas. A great article on this by Ryan Packer is up on the Seattle Bike Blog: City transportation electrification “blueprint” includes emissions-free area by 2030.

The Green New Deal Oversight Board is taking applications, and some positions have already been nominated: Debolina Banerjee (Sage), Matt Remle, Christoph Strouse, Jess Wallach, Rachel Heaton, and Kristina Chu.

The Office of Sustainability gave an update (presentation, video start at 39:00) to council on new hires, the GND Oversight Board, the GHG Emissions Inventory, and their climate-related projects. Some longer term projects they highlighted: Emerald Cities study on building electrification workforce, a study on fossil fuel subsidies, a more aggressive local building standard based on the State Clean Buildings Act, engaging with the equity advisory board on road pricing.

Timeline

May – City Light Integrated Resource Plan review resource needs & CETA targets

June 4, City Council Budget Committee meets to take up a bill with first allocations from the federal ARPA Covid-19 relief funding.

July - Sept. – City Light Integrated Resource Plan resource targets & CETA plan

Sept.-Nov. – 2022 Budget

Nov. 2021 - March 2022 – City Light review Clean Energy Action Plan

Nov 2021 – Election for Mayor & at-large council seats

April/May 2022 – City Light Integrated Resource Plan legislation

Fall 2022 – Redistricting

Fall 2023 – Election for Positions 1-7


Unscheduled Items on Work Plan

These items are taken from the proposed Work Plan filed with City Council. I have excerpted items I thought were climate related.


Finance & Housing Committee

  • Jump Start Seattle Spending Plan

  • Regionalization of taxi, for‐hire and TNC licensing and regulations


Land Use Committee

  • Authorize increased density for affordable housing on sites developed with religious institutions

  • Permit new gas stations through an administrative conditional use process

  • Update the City's incentive zoning regulations, including consideration of green building incentives and other incentives identified by the Seattle 2030 District

  • Consider imposing transportation impact fees

  • Capitol Hill Public Life Study review

  • Review I‐5 Lid Feasibility Study

  • Review legislation to implement the Mandatory Housing Affordability program in the University District

  • Comprehensive Plan docket

  • Review outreach and EIS for 2024 Comprehensive Plan major update. Consider planning and EIS scope inclusions related to ensuring that essential urban services necessary for a 20‐Minute City are included in the 2024 Comprehensive Plan major update.

  • Consider changes to shoreline regulations and opportunities to build resiliency in shoreline areas in the face of climate change

  • Review amendments to Building, Electrical, and other technical codes


Sustainability & Renter's Rights Committee

  • Explore strategies and monitor efforts to decarbonize existing buildings, including the establishment of Building Performance Standards, and expand restrictions on natural gas hookups for new buildings

  • Develop legislation to implement proposals regarding the Green New Deal that are made by community organizations and activists

  • Monitor implementation of Executive Order 2020‐01 (Advancing a Green New Deal for Seattle), including (1) actions proposed by the Green New Deal City Team to reduce the City's greenhouse gas emissions; (2) identification of potential funding partners to help achieve the goals of the Green New Deal for Seattle; (3) efforts to decarbonize municipal buildings; and (4) improvements to greenhouse gas emissions reporting.

  • Monitor and review the City's progress on implementing the Seattle Climate Action Plan, including progress under the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. Monitor development and implementation of the Climate Impact Assessment Toolkit for major capital projects and purchasing decisions.

  • Review the response to SLI SDOT‐915‐A‐1, which requested the Seattle Department of Transportation to develop a plan to make all public transit in Seattle free to ride, and consider how to implement free transit programs.

  • Monitor implementation of programs and activities related to the Heating Oil Tax, including outreach prior to the effective date of the tax (September 1).


Transportation & Utilities

  • Monitor progress of Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) programs and implementation of the Commuter Benefit Ordinance. Monitor SDOT's efforts to study congestion pricing

  • Incorporate “first and last mile” solutions as part of North End transit restructuring with opening of new Sound Transit Link stations in North Seattle over the next few years.

  • Explore parking policy options related to on‐street parking, residential parking zones, parking benefit districts, and emerging parking issues.

  • Review SDOT's spending proposal and related legislation for the vehicle license fee increase that was authorized in the 2021 Adopted Budget.

  • Examine potential policies to encourage employers in the city to provide transit passes to their employees.

  • Consider phaseout of fossil fuel‐powered leaf blowers with electricity‐powered tools using a potential buyback program.

  • Monitor City Light's rate pilot programs, leading to possible recommendations for changes in the rate structure: commercial vehicle charging, industrial demand response, energy equity, and residential time of day.

  • Review and consider the proposed, new Strategic Plan for 2022 ‐ 2026

  • Explore the possibility of banning polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, products from being sold in Seattle.

2021 Budget

The 2021 budget approved two new positions in the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE). The climate policy advisor "oversees implementation of the Climate Action Plan and measures progress towards its goals. Additionally, this position is responsible for developing and implementing a Climate Impact Assessment Toolkit (Executive Order 2018-01), creating policies to support green jobs as part of the economic recovery, evaluating racial equity impacts of building decarbonization, and establishing Building Performance Standards." as described here.

OSE will also hire a Green New Deal advisor. As described here, "In addition to providing administrative support to the Board, this position is responsible for coordinating the City’s internal strategy to reduce climate pollutants, helping to achieve the goals identified in the Green New Deal for Seattle." Having this position filled should pave the way for the mayor the council to appoint the Green New Deal Oversight Board.

The budget also allocated $200,000 for building electrification, to go to low income households and to be administered by the Office of Housing Weatherization department.

Executive Order 2020-01

The Mayor issued this executive order in Jan. 2020 in response to the City Council's passage of the Green New Deal. It calls for the following:

  • All City departments to work with the Green New Deal Oversight Board, the Mayor's Youth Climate Council, and other stakeholders. The City department should advance actions that reduce GHG to amount commensurate with 1.5C temperature rise, promote economic opportunity and inclusive access to stable well-paying jobs, and advance environmental justice. Update: Mayor has since eliminated the Green New Deal Oversight Board by cutting the staff position deemed necessary for it, and suggested the Office of Sustainability's Environmental Justice Committee instead. There is no sign that city departments are working with these groups on climate related activities.

  • The City to establish a Green New Deal City Team coordinated by OSE to identify actions that achieve the goals of the GND for Seattle. Here are except's from the order:

The Team shall collectively engage in advancing high-impact climate actions, including but not limited to building performance standards for decarbonizing existing and future buildings; dense, inclusive land use with access to green space; affordable, high-occupancy, electrified transportation; pricing for equitable mobility; and a fossil-free zone in Seattle.

The Team shall develop priority City actions to align with community-wide, regional, state, federal, and other actions critical to advance an equitable transition away from fossil fuels and deliver on the goals of a Green New Deal for Seattle.

The Team shall issue a brief report identifying the top 10 actions the City could take in order to achieve marked and expeditious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The report shall outline the various actions, impacts and costs of those actions, and an RSJI analysis of those actions by June 1, 2020.

The Team shall study the feasibility of the City of Seattle purchasing renewable natural gas (RNG) for use in buildings and the transportation fleet as they transition to the exclusive use of electricity.

The Team shall engage with local businesses, workforce development organizations, and the labor community to identify and strengthen pathways to economic opportunity for those workers most impacted by the transition to a clean economy and to ensure workers are well matched to jobs created by emerging clean industries.

Green New Deal for Seattle actions shall be included in department work plans and shall be reflected in Department Director annual Accountability Agreements when applicable.

The Office of Sustainability & Environment shall facilitate semi-annual engagements with the Green New Deal Oversight Board, and other stakeholders as needed, to deepen collaboration and partnership around Green New Deal actions and outcomes.

The Team shall work with the City Budget Office to prepare a Green New Deal budget memo for consideration in City’s budget process by June 1, 2020 and thereafter annually.

Update: We believe that the group was convened, but operations were suspended with the onset of the coronavirus in March, and that no further work has been done. We do not any formal announcement of what the plans are going forward. The City has been working on plans to decarbonizing future (new) buildings, and that is going forward as part of the revisions to the City's commercial and multi-family building codes. The City is conducting studies on "15 minute communities" which may eventually lead to land use changes to increase density and inclusiveness. Affordable, high occupancy electrified transportation is not happening - transit budgets are slashed and much of the SDOT funding is going to the West Seattle bridge repair or replacement. We have heard nothing about a fossil-free zone in Seattle. Since Metro has not been collecting fares for months, it is reasonable to say that "pricing for equitable mobility" has been advanced.

  • The city will conduct outreach to the community on how best to achieve the GND goals. OSE shall work with Office of Intergovernmental Relations and the Mayor’s Office to engage stakeholders on collaborative efforts to develop additional City policies, inform and support necessary funding and investments, and advance opportunities for partnership on actions that achieve the goals of the Green New Deal. These entities may include, but are not limited to, the philanthropic community, business community, labor community, non-governmental organizations, health care community, county and state agencies, state legislators, and tribes. Update: No update available.

  • The city will draw up a plan for electrifying all municipal buildings. The Electrification Strategy for any new municipal buildings or municipal buildings with planned substantial alterations during the 2021 or 2022 budgets shall be completed by June 1, 2020. The Electrification Strategy for all other municipal buildings, projects in permitting or previously approved agreements shall be completed by January 1, 2021. Update: We believe that the budget has largely preserved funding for planning electrification, but retrofits on existing buildings are suspended due to coronavirus impacts. We don't know if the Electrification Strategy scheduled for June 2020 was completed, or if not, whether it has been canceled or postponed. Nor do we know when to expect the Electrification Strategy for all other municipal buildings.

  • The city will develop a GHG dashboard by Sept 30, 2020, that will contain key indicators so we will have more rapid feedback on the change in GHG emissions.

  • The city will add regular reviews to its schedule to review progress on climate initiatives. The City Team shall report to the Mayor’s Capital and Climate and Environment Subcabinets and solicit input from the subcabinets on the workplan and progress measures. The City Team shall report annually to the Mayor’s Cabinet on carbon pollution reductions and progress toward advancing a Green New Deal for Seattle, including the climate dashboard and biennial update of the citywide greenhouse gas inventory. The City Team will report to the City Council by July 1, 2020 and provide annual reports through 2030 on Seattle’s progress on eliminating climate pollution and advancing a Green New Deal for Seattle. Update: the City Team appears to be suspended or disbanded.

Climate Action Plan

Seattle's Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2018, calls for the city to do the following:

  • Address congestion and transportation emissions through pricing, coupled with investments in expanded transit and electrification in underserved communities. Update: SDOT has been studying a downtown congestion pricing plan, more discussion here.

  • Pass a new electric vehicle readiness ordinance in 2018, which will ensure new construction or renovation of parking structures is built with electric vehicle infrastructure. Update: ordinance was passed in Feb 2019.

  • Vehicle charging station network map & strategy. Update: Pilot project underway, and Seattle City Light Transportation Electrification Plan will define it further..

  • Ride share and taxi fleet electrification. No update available.

  • Create a new Green Fleet Action Plan, by the end of 2018, to accelerate the electrification of the municipal fleet and phase out fossil fuel use in municipal vehicles. Update: Plan was updated in 2019.

  • Issue an Executive Order directing City departments to assess the GHG emissions impact of City plans, policies, and major investments. Update: order was issued in 2018. Impact of this unknown.

  • Adopt a tiered state residential energy code that can be adopted by cities. Update: this requires a change to state law which has been up before the legislature but has not passed.

  • Create pilot program offering additional height and floor area incentives for significant upgrades in energy and water use, and transportation efficiency. Update: established a Green Priority Expedited plan that offers faster permitting in exchange for meeting a green building rating.

  • Incentive-driven 2030 performance standards for commercial and multifamily buildings. Update: Washington passed the Clean Buildings Law, which offers incentives for 2021-2026, after which the requirements become mandatory.

  • City Light Whole Building Pay for Performance (P4P) Programs. Update: Seattle City Light incentive program offering payments for verified energy savings.

  • Double existing budget allocation for reducing energy in municipal buildings from 2012-2015, with a goal of reducing energy use by 40 percent. Update: ?

  • Propose recommendations to mayor to convert 18,000 homes from heating oil to an electric heat pump. Update: Passed an Oil Heating Law that offers rebates for conversion to electricity for people currently heating with oil, as well as a tax on heating oil. The tax has been delayed one year to Sept. 2021 due to Covid-19.

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