Councilmember Clark left office on April 14, 2015.
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Bags and boxes…

Yesterday was bookended by what I thought were two great policy events.

Bags and boxes…

First, I joined Council President Richard Conlin, Councilmember Tim Burgess and Mayor Greg Nickels for the announcement of Seattle’s new tax on plastic grocery bags and ban on styrofoam food containers. These are ideas we’ve been developing since getting serious with the Zero Waste strategy we adopted last year. In Seattle alone, we use 360 million throw-away paper and plastic shopping bags annually. To cut that down, we’re going to give you at least one cloth, reusable grocery bag so that you have a way to avoid paying a new 20-cents-per-bag tax starting January 1, 2009. Yes, one bag is insufficient for my own weekly shopping. I’ll buy another couple of bags. For low-income people, I’m committed to getting them as many free bags as they need to make the switch.

The styrofoam ban also starts January 1, 2009, with full conversion to recyclable and compostable substitute packaging by July 1, 2010. My favorite Columbia City neighborhood pizza place, Tutta Bella, participated in the press conference and was the poster child for great composting and recycling. Many of the substitute materials are corn-based, which presents its own set of sustainability issues, but I think it’s a good step.

…Buildings and artists

My last event at City Hall yesterday evening (before heading over to the Southwest District Council meeting) was a passionate, emotional, reasoned, driven forum on preserving the arts and artists in Seattle’s neighborhoods, specifically Capitol Hill and the Pike/Pine area. Many of us have watched as formerly gritty, low-scale, low-rent Pike/Pine has become the “place to be.” Being the “in” place signals to the market that there’s money to be made. Fifteen years ago I knew someone who lived in a Pike/Pine loft, which meant she lived above an auto parts shop in an unfinished space. Now lofts in the area are shiny, new and expensively finished. The recent sale and subsequent rent hikes at the Oddfellows Hall on Capitol Hill sparked a lot of people to get active around affordability for artists, but this is an issue all over town. Speakers last night made a compelling argument that Capitol Hill’s artists “ecosystem” is endangered by new development, rising rents and general displacement forces. The forum was long on passion (Hallie Kuperman from Century Ballroom tearfully recounted how she had just, hours before, signed a new lease keeping the Century Ballroom open at the Oddfellows Hall, but with a 200 percent rent increase), but a little light in specific ideas to make the ecosystem whole and healthy. Councilmembers Licata, Rasmussen, Godden, Harrell and myself attended last night. I think there are some great ideas to look into (property tax breaks, land-banking, density bonuses, development rights to be sold, etc.). Councilmember Licata and I met this morning to hash out how to proceed analyzing possible solutions. I think we’ll be asking a few of the great people who spoke last night to meet as a team, review the problems and possible solutions, and then make recommendations about what might work on Capitol Hill and, maybe, elsewhere.