SeaTac Council approves pioneering locked mailbox program, food trucks

By Jack Mayne

First in the nation, the SeaTac City Council approved on March 27 an ordinance intended to reduce and eventually eliminate mailbox theft in the city by encouraging residents to replace non-locking mailboxes with locking mailboxes. The Council also approved food truck operations in the city but put a two year review in place because of earlier threats by the food truck state association.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said she has done research on the possibility of limiting noisy airplane flights, but her request on whether the city actually can do such a thing has been in limbo with staff since mid-2017 and she wanted to know its status. The city manager said he’d get back to her on that.

The SeaTac City Council began its new schedule of its only official session after deciding at its March 13 meeting that – unless there is a special reason to do so – there will be no future study sessions each Tuesday night the SeaTac City Council meets, just a “regular” City Council meeting. A Council majority decided that with its regular Council committee meetings, scheduled mainly on week days, there was little reason for more study session in combination with the regular session.

City to install locked mailboxes
The city would sell the new locked boxes to residents at cost and would also install the boxes at no cost to the residents. The estimated price to install 200 such mailboxes is $25,000. The SeaTac Police Department would administer the program.

“While difficult to quantify what the cost is to the SeaTac Police Department to investigate mail thefts and the subsequent crimes … staff is confident that when taken in its totality, mail theft is a precursor to a significant amount of crime in SeaTac, and that the costs are millions of dollars each year to city resources and our residents, businesses, visitors, and banks,” the city staff told the Council. “Reducing mail theft the city will free our police resources to address other priorities, and it is recommended that a citywide program be created to make available and install locking mailboxes for SeaTac property owners.”

Police Chief Carl Cole said mail theft is “significantly under reported” but it’s the root cause of many other crimes, such as credit card theft, fraud, bad checks, all creating hundreds of millions in financial losses nationwide, but “if we make it harder for (thieves) to get our mail, then they will go somewhere else to do it.”

Councilmember Clyde Hill asked if this was a revolving or one-time cost and Cole said once the city buys the initial number of locked boxes, then sells them to the residents, the money will then be available from the sale to buy more boxes.

“It should be a revolving fund,” said the chief, but the program is a “declining” one because of sale to citizens will then cost the city the free installation, Scorcio said.

Residents of Burien, Des Moines and other area cities may be able to buy the locked boxes but SeaTac won’t pay to install them. Details of such a process are still being determined.

Food trucks legalized
The Council unanimously approved having food trucks in the city, but set a date for a “sunset review” of the businesses on March 31, 2020.

During comment period, resident Earl Gipson said the industry approached the issue “entirely wrong” and said the Council should pass the measure to allow the food trucks, but should place a two year sunset provision because of the food truck group’s “potential threats” over the issue. “If it is not a problem, everybody’s happy, that it does not cost us more than the money we get back from it, that’s fine. We move on.”

“We don’t have to approve food trucks, they are asking for something,” Gipson said. “I would ask them to apologize for past comments.”

Councilmember Pam Fernald said the problem arose when food truck association representative indicated that “you could be sued” if the Council did not approve the trucks in SeaTac. “I don’t like to be threatened or strong armed so I think that if we don’t have a sunset clause and later decide they are not the best for SeaTac, “we will get a lot of flack just based on how they started out.”

During comment period at the outset of the session, Katie Kuciemba Halse, local government relations manager for the Port of Seattle, said the Port had heard many positive comments on bringing in food trucks to the airport property. The trucks, which some refer to as “mobile food vending vehicles,” are a “very popular option” for visitors to the airport. She said the Port was in favor of the Council approving standards for food trucks in the city along with licenses for the vendors.

Councilmember Peter Kwon said the issue should not have been controversial but the Washington State Food Truck Association made it controversial when it sent “threatening emails” about suing the city if it did not allow the truck to operate in the city.

At the outset of the discussion, Planning Manager Steve Pilcher said the Planning Commission felt there was no need for a sunset provision since the Council can reconsider any issue at any time and most such approvals do no have sunset clauses.

Can city control air traffic?
At Council Comments in the last 10 minutes of the meeting, Councilmember Pam Fernald said that last year, “in total frustration” she contacted the Port of Seattle about the “constant nose to tail, low flying excruciatingly loud aircraft that we on the ground are being subjected to at all hours of the day and night, robbing us of sleep, peace of mind and healthy life. The noise and increased constant low flights seemed like it really got worse starting at the beginning of 2017 and end of 2016.”

She said she lives at the north end of the airport and a couple blocks east of the east runway “which did not exist when we bought our house 40 years ago.”

After her letter, Aviation Director at Sea-Tac International Airport Lance Lyttle called her and spoke of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 and reminded her that the flights are under the control of the Federal Aviation Administration. She looked that up.

The Act says, “Although noise control of aircraft is exclusively a federal function, airport authorities and local governments do have the option to mitigate noise effects through land use control such as building and land use acquisition which the FAA agrees is the exclusive domain of state and local government.”

Fernald said the Washington Administrative Code says nothing prevents the city from “regulating noise as a nuisance.”

Fernald said she sent all of her research to the city staff in June 2017 and asked “if there was a way we could limit airline flights to certain areas and time periods.”

But as of March 2, 2018 her request remains unanswered and Fernald wants to know the status if her request. City Manager Joe Scorcio said he would find the answer and get it to her.

Resident asks for traffic help
During public comment period, Alan Friedman asked the Council for ways to put stop signs on streets in the area of the I-5 construction at the 200th intersection, since “a lot of traffic is being rerouted through our streets in an effort to bypass a signal light at that corner and the massive amount of traffic” at South 198th Street and 32nd Avenue South and south of Angle Lake.

How can we put the wheels in motion for an all-way stop,” Friedman said. Now motorists “speed around the corner and I’ve seen in the last two weeks, no less than 10 near misses. We need to put a stop to it.” He was directed to talk with Public Works Director Will Appleton.

Scorcio introduced new Human Services Coordinator Kim Cooper, who had been the city legal department’s domestic violence advocate. Now the city needs to find a new domestic violence advocate.


One Response to “SeaTac Council approves pioneering locked mailbox program, food trucks”
  1. Lesa Ellis says:

    Correction to the last paragraph. The title is Domestic Violence Victim Advocate.