By Jack Mayne
The City Council-proposed moratorium on homeless shelters was considered by the Council that “temporarily prevents the application” for this type of facility and to give city time to ensure applicable development regulations are appropriate with the county. It also is to ensure sufficient programs and services are available.
Council was told at the Tuesday (Dec. 8, 2020) night meeting that using the powers of the health officer, the state has authorized additional sales and use taxes for creating and operating such facilities created for “persons with behavioral disabilities.”
At the virtual meeting, City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo and City Clerk Kristina Gregg read citizen letters to the Council.
Several letter writers told the Council about the problems of housing of homeless people at the Quality Inn, across South 192nd from the City Hall. Complaints were about graffiti, and that it results in wanderers in the area, drinking and urinating in public and other misbehaviors.
The proposed Council ordinance says that during the 2020 spring, the county established “temporary de-intensification shelters to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.” They did this under the broad powers of health officers. One was The Quality Inn motel at 2900 S 192nd Street, across the street from SeaTac City Hall.
The King County ordinance authorized an additional sales and use tax creating a “Health Through Housing” fund with at least 60 percent of the money to be used to acquire new affordable housing which could include units such as the within an existing structure, such as the motel and to construct mental health and behavioral health facilities and to operate and maintain then.
Quality Inn shelter moratorium
In a public hearing on the interim moratorium on applications for permanent overnight shelters and transitional housing, approved Nov. 10 by the Council, several letters were read to the Council, read because of a state rule requiring public comments be on the record.
A writer suggested any motel or hotel who has housed homeless in the past should advise any nightly guests of that fact. Another suggest using a motel or hotel for a homeless shelter is “a recipe for disaster.” Letters came from nearby businesses and residents complaining that the homeless are causing problems in he area, including for health and sanitation as well as for physical safety of citizens living or working nearby.
“Please make our city and community even better without the homeless motel,” the letter writer told the Council. “How much longer does my family have to suffer more hardships and tragedy?”
Others suggested that, as time goes on, there will be more people losing housing and needing shelter. “This is a time to worry more about people in crisis, not less,” writer wrote.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Renton Chamber of Commerce Diane Dobson told the Council via Zoom connection that she wanted to share “our experiences” concerning government paid shelters in local communities. She said she hoped that SeaTac would “bear the burden of the accusations that are being made of being heartless or less than compassionate for people experiencing homelessness.”
She added it was positive that COVID-19 was being reduced but Renton has unfortunately gotten the reputation of being “unwilling to work with the parties working on housing the homeless.” Dobson said Renton has made requests “and is pleading with (King County) to work” with Renton to solve the problems of housing for homeless that works for all sides. Costs to trying to work on solving the problems of the impact of the new county shelters have cost businesses thousands of dollars.
“Between our city and our businesses, we are up around $500,000 in impact, documented costs, tangible impact” of accommodating the homeless “and we are up to $62,000 a month documented cost, tangible impact. The County Council, Dobson said has a mitigation fund of “up to $50,000.”
Human Services Finance
The Council approved 2021 and 2022 human service grants during the Dec. 8 session.
Parks, Community Programs and Services Director Lawrence Ellis ask Councilmembers to approve $772,872 in budgeted grants.
Various human service agencies provide rental assistance, operate food banks and provide medical care to the needy, including support shelters for the homeless, and “offer other important services to SeaTac residents.”
These allocations are recommended by the Community Services Advisory Committee and the Parks and Recreation Committee. Every two years, SeaTac – along with 17 other cities in King County – take applications for various human service agencies. SeaTac allocates 1.5 percent of its general fund each biennium to fund those human service agencies to provide services to SeaTac residents.
The city received 59 applications requesting a total of $581,626 which were reviewed by the Community Services Advisory Committee.
The Community Service Advisory Committee recommended financing 33 out of the 59 applications for a total of $386,436 for each of the two years of the biennium, for a total of $772,872 for the biennium.
The largest portion, $160,861, was for urgent basic needs of residents. Basic long term needs was allocated $129,120 with $91,455 for education, training and workforce development, $91,455.
When the Council began going through individual budget requests, Deputy Mayor Peter Kwon moved to remove a $20,000 grant to One America, considered “the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in the state, organizing with and advocating for diverse communities.” Kwon said his research found One America to be redundant, with other agencies providing English language training.
However, Councilmember Senayet Negusse (pictured, left) said she supported retaining the English language training, as did Councilmember Takele Gobena, but the Council voted 5 to 2 to eliminate the $20,000 to One America.
Kwon wanted to increase the amount to Partners in Employment from $74,000 to the original requested amount of $110,000 because the group has participated on efforts by the city to clean up the city as well as other actions and have participated in bringing in donations from outside to the City of SeaTac. The Council unanimously agreed.
Councilmember Negusse moved to fund Bridge Disability Memberships Guardianships to $2,500. The motion failed 5 to 2.
Negusse then moved to grant Bridge Disability Ministries $2,000 and the motion failed 5 to 2.
The council also voted to not approve only half of a $30,000 award to Navos Children and Family Services. The cut to $15,000 was proposed by Councilmember Negusse but Council rejected it on a 5 t0 2 voice vote.
Public Works Maintenance Administrative Assistant 2 Jonica Strongman was introduced as a new city employee. She has a background in operations and administration gained while working for neighborhood farmers markets, and botanical gardens at the University of Washington.
Three persons were appointed by the Council to the Southside Tourism Bureau. They are Maureen Huffman, general manager of Embassy Suites; Josh Ewing, Hilton properties, and Meredith Mara of Cedarbrook Lodge and Hotel.