Walla Walla

This is an open thread.

65 Replies to “News roundup: bad behavior”

  1. The link makes it sound like it’s a direct tradeoff for Amtrak between a cafe car vs. however many passengers could fit in the space that the cafe car takes up.

    In reality, however, I don’t think that’s actually true. Unless the existing seats are all sold out, replacing the cafe car with additional seats doesn’t actually buy Amtrak any additional revenue. Even if additional capacity is needed, you do the public a much better service by running more frequent trains vs. adding more seating capacity to existing trains. And the length of a train isn’t fixed, anyway, like a bus is – if you can replace a cafe car with a seating car, you can also keep the cafe car in place and add the seating car simply by lengthening the train.

    In can see eliminating cafe cars maybe making sense for short-haul routes – especially if the speeds increase so that a trip like New York to Boston takes 1-2 hours instead of 3-4. But for long-haul routes like the Empire Builder, I don’t see what replacing the cafe car would accomplish – unless the cafe car, itself, is a money loser (e.g. meal prices insufficient to cover the cost of service) – the move could easily be a financial negative.

    1. To quote the opening paragraph of the article:

      Cafe cars waste capacity that could instead be carrying paying passengers. This is the most important on lines with capacity limitations, like the Northeast Corridor, the West Coast Main Line, the LGV Sud-Est, and the ICE spine from the Rhine-Ruhr up to Frankfurt and Mannheim.

      This wasn’t focused on Amtrak. For a typical Amtrak line (essentially an outlier, in that very few people use it) there is nothing wrong with a cafe car, as they are nowhere near capacity.

      1. Got it. Agree, for a commuter line such as Sounder, a cafe car does not make sense. I just read “cafe car” and assumed Amtrak, since that’s the only service in the US that has it, as far as I know.

      2. Alon was speaking more globally, and most of Amtrak (e. g. service through the Great Plains) has so few riders that you might as well have a cafe car, a nightclub car, maybe a petting zoo…

        The few Amtrak lines that resemble those in the rest of the world (e. g. Northeast) have capacity issues.

      3. Not only that but Amtrak cafe car users are definitely paying passengers. I’m sure they make a profit on the cafe car, the one on Cascades was pretty much constantly busy.

      4. When I’ve ridden the Empire Builder a few times, absolutely every seat was filled in North Dakota. It left Seattle a quarter full, started filling up in Spokane and Montana, and from the west end of North Dakota to at least Fargo if not Minneapolis it was completely full. Because there are no east-west buses there; the buses are further south, in Montana 60-90 miles away.

      5. I’ve only ridden the Empire Builder that far once and it was oil workers. There’s no convenient airport or bus up there. I think that’s a short lived spike though.

      6. This was before the oil boom; my last trip was November 2009 I think. On that trip many of the people were related to a high-school band that was going to a competition in another city. Others were middle-aged or older — not oil workers, but people going to Fargo or Minot or Minneapolis for some reason or other.

    2. I want to highlight this line in the post:

      “ Instead of a bistro car, railroads should provide passengers with food options at train stations.”

      We can look at stations as a continuum from mere transfer shelters to major hubs of activity. I prefer the latter. After all, if we expect wide choices in an airport, we should expect the same in train stations. I much prefer my choices at SeaTac than the ones on an Alaska flight. In fact, train stations don’t have security restrictions that airports do — so train riders could be one of many segments of the market for a concessionaire.

      It may even be possible to develop phone apps to order and pay for food that can be quickly boarded onto a train at a station down the track. For dense corridors where trains stop more often than every 30 minutes, this could easily be the best way to provide food and drink.

      For longer distances, a cafe setup probably remains better.

      1. “ Instead of a bistro car, railroads should provide passengers with food options at train stations.”

        Good luck finding a food vendor for low activity stations like Ephrata. Especially those that are served by the train only in the middle of the night.

      2. So let’s look at Epheata!

        Sure the 4:22 am train won’t have any open place nearby — but an on-train cafe would also be closed.

        The 9:42 pm train could easily be met by a delivery service from a restaurant, and there are several within a four block walk. An employee could merely walk it to a warming concession locker — if a pre-ordering system was available.

        The station itself has enough vacant parcels around it that bids could be taken to develop food service on the site — with the stipulation that the occupant business had to have restrooms maintained and food available for pick-up by the train when it comes through.

      3. “Sure the 4:22 am train won’t have any open place nearby — but an on-train cafe would also be closed.”

        I actually ate breakfast once on board the Empire Builder in the Cafe car, as it passed by Ephrata. The train was an hour or two late, so the 4:22 stop actually happened around 6, by which time, the cafe was open.

        But it really doesn’t matter – even if the cafe isn’t open the minute you board, it will be open an hour or so into the trip. Businesses near the station, if they’re closed when you arrive, they’re useless – by the time they open up, the train long gone.

  2. So we’re in the middle of a decades long homeless crisis and a year long pandemic, yet Renton moves to close an ad hoc homeless shelter, making the occupants homeless again and Mercer Island just straight up bans the homeless with threat of (I kid you not) up to 90 days in jail, which is way more expensive than actually housing the homeless.

    Kudos to you Renton and Mercer Island! We’ll have this homeless crisis cleared up in no time thanks to your bravery, compassion and forward thinking!

    1. RapidRider’s comments are as intellectually lazy as the articles in the post. Let’s look at the facts of both.

      MERCER ISLAND ORDINANCE 21C-02

      For decades Mercer Island like every other regional city has banned camping in parks. Below is a link to an agenda item comparing four eastside cities’ current ordinances with 21C-02. Every city makes camping a misdemeanor, because otherwise there is no legal authority to detain and remove a camper who refuses to leave, and to take them to a shelter. All 21C-02 does is extend the ban on camping in parks to other public property like streets.
      https://mccmeetingspublic.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/mercerwa-meet-4a819d6fd25746209ea1d4d2ceae4ac5/ITEM-Attachment-001-d5b36864a26e4adf967fc268b99b92a4.pdf

      The real irony is Seattle’s ban on camping in parks is the harshest in the region, with five times the criminal penalties as 21C-02 (gross misdemeanor with a maximum 364 days in jail and $5000 fine). In fact, as the Mercer Island police chief testified, Mercer Island has not prosecuted a single person for simply camping in the parks in 30 years, and of course Seattle regularly sweeps its parks and streets of homeless campers, but is overwhelmed by homeless campers.

      Seattle’s park ordinance begins at Subchapter 18.12.25

      https://library.municode.com/wa/seattle/codes/municipal_code?nodeId=TIT18PARE_CH18.12PACO_SUBCHAPTER_VIIUSRE_18.12.250CA

      18.12.279 – Trespass in parks—Definition—Punishment

      2. Enters, remains in, or is otherwise present within the premises of a park during hours which the park is not open to the public, unless the person is present within the park to participate in an activity either conducted by the Department or conducted pursuant to the terms of a permit issued by the Department; shall be guilty of trespass in parks, a gross misdemeanor subject to the provisions of Chapters 12A.02 and 12A.04 of the Seattle Municipal Code.

      My suggestion to the Mercer Island council was to simply adopt Seattle’s ordinance banning camping in parks, but our liberal council felt it was too harsh.

      All of this began with the ninth circuit’s decision in Martin v. Boise. The court in Martin held a city (Boise) could not criminalize and prosecute someone for sleeping in public if there were no alternatives, mainly shelters, although the homeless are not obligated to use a shelter. The reasoning behind Martin is simple: cities like Boise use these ordinances to shift the homeless to more generous regions like the Puget Sound region.

      Ordinance 21C-02 includes an annual $10,000 donation to eastside shelters even though Mercer Island almost never uses them in addition to our donations to ARCH, and requires the police to confirm a shelter bed is available before removing a camper in a park, which reversed the legal burden in Martin and is unique among ordinances banning camping in this region. No other regional ordinance — including Seattle’s — does this.

      In fact, State Sen. Fortunato who represents a poor section from Auburn to Sumner that has many of the shelters has submitted a bill to the legislature that requires all counties, and any city over 50,000 residents, to have at least one overnight shelter, and makes camping in parks or on streets a state misdemeanor, because Sen. Fortunato wants to extend the reasoning in Martin to WA’s rural counties and cities that also simply shift their homeless to this region.
      https://www.thenorthernlight.com/stories/mandated-homeless-shelters-draw-criticism-in-state-legislature,15937

      Of course the progressives oppose this.

      I would also note the city of Austin’s council eliminated bans on camping on public property in 2019, and the increases in crime and public sanitation problems resulted in a citizen petition that seeks to restore the bans that will be voted on May 1, 2021.

      https://thehayride.com/2021/02/austin-residents-to-vote-may-1-on-reinstating-citys-homeless-camping-ban/

      https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-sends-letter-to-mayor-adler-regarding-homelessness-crisis-in-austin

      Progressives never ask who is really hurt by the homeless camping in parks? It is the working class who live in multi-family housing — the holy grail for Urbanists — because they don’t have large houses and yards like on Mercer Island, and can’t afford to belong to clubs along the lake or buy summer houses. They and their families are prisoners in their small apartments without parks to play in or streets to safely walk on, but the working class has never provided progressives the self-virtue they crave, or funded a homeless industrial complex.

      RENTON SHELTER

      The closure of the Renton shelter has more to do with the division between east and west King Co. over the direction of the new county housing authority that is designed to reduce and coordinate the over 100 local agencies dealing with homelessness, and to hopefully tie funding to objective results. As the departing dir. of Seattle’s homeless authority recently stated, the region is spending enough money, but not getting adequate results for the money.

      https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/we-have-to-stop-all-this-infighting-seattles-former-homelessness-director-on-why-we-spend-so-much-without-a-fix/

      The state recently allowed counties to raise their sales tax (a very regressive tax) 1/10th of one percent for emergency housing. R.C.W. 82.14.530. If the counties did not adopt the tax by Sept. 30 cities could opt out and adopt their own 1/10th of one percent sales tax increase for their city’s housing funds.

      For some reason King Co. failed to adopt the tax by Sept. 30, and nearly every eastside city (although not Mercer Island) opted out of the county tax because they think the county’s oversight of the $1 billion/year the region spends on this issue has been tragic, and burdened by ideology and virtue signaling..

      West King Co.’s (Dow Constantine’s which is simply Seattle’s plan) plan was to buy distressed hotels and move the homeless there, untreated, and without funding for the local cities to deal with health and crime. The goal was to get a move on removing homeless camping on Seattle’s streets before tourist season, considering King Co. just loaned the convention center $100 million to complete its remodel.

      Not surprisingly King Co. picked Renton, and moved 200 untreated homeless to a hotel in Renton. Not surprisingly drugs and crime followed that stressed Renton’s social and police services and affected local businesses, and so the Renton council passed ordinances that will effectively shut down the pilot program by June, and every other city that King Co. has identified as housing homeless in distressed hotels has balked.

      Seattle’s main grievance is it attracts most of the homeless and campers, but the eastside believes Seattle attracts them, and has never taken the shelter paradigm seriously: shelter mat or cot, sobriety, enhanced shelter room, work, subsidized affordable housing finally to non-subsidized housing.

      Seattle and West King Co. think such a holistic approach to heal the person takes too long and is unrealistic, and housing must come before treatment (ideally not in Seattle), and make the point probably 80% of homeless camping on the street have zero residual wage earning capacity even if sober, and will never be able to compete for and obtain gainful employment even if treated. That means affordable housing with a zero AMI, which is just Medicaid.

      On the other hand east King Co. thinks it is simply unaffordable to provide a free room forever to every homeless person who comes here, and the Renton pilot was a disaster because it exposed King Co.’s real goal: shift the homeless someplace else, because in 2019 tourism generated over $7 billion for the Seattle area, and without that revenue everything including transit takes a huge hit.

      Let’s be realistic: if the homeless camping on public property prefer Seattle because of the drugs or policies or access to begging the eastside won’t object, and don’t plan on opening up their parks after seeing the situation in Seattle. Seattle is going to have to solve its own homeless issue. The region will contribute, but until Seattle policies get serious to address this issue, or funding for things like transit and other progressive goals continue to drop due to loss tax revenue, Seattle will get the homeless campers and the costs.

      Personally I think this may be the issue that results in a split between east and west King Co., and certainly more strict subarea taxation for things like Metro and homelessness. The eastside thinks Seattle’s council is a very bad partner, and is hurting the region. I will be interested to see if in the next Seattle mayoral race Seattle goes all in on its brand of progressiveness that believes taxation is limitless, or elects their own Giuliani like NY had to in the 1990’s.

      1. The closure of the Renton shelter has more to do with the division between east and west King Co. over the direction of the new county housing authority that is designed to reduce and coordinate the over 100 local agencies dealing with homelessness, and to hopefully tie funding to objective results.

        No, the controversy in Renton had everything to do with NIMBYism. Just look at the legislation. Erica Barnett has been reporting on it for some time. To quote that first article:

        Essentially, the legislation would create a temporary “COVID deintensification shelter” zoning designation for the Red Lion, which would expire in June, when the hotel’s 230 residents would be forced to leave the premises. At the same time, it creates new restrictions on all facilities serving homeless residents—including a 100-bed maximum and a requirement that appears to make providers responsible for the behavior or homeless people in public spaces—that homeless service providers say are impossible to meet.

        [Different Article]

        The new law, which was passed as “emergency” legislation, also creates a special zoning designation for homeless services, and imposes restrictions on service providers that will, advocates and providers say, have the effect of banning all homeless services from the city. Among other new regulations—imposed, supporters on the council said, because the city needs to have some way to restrict land uses with negative impacts—the law bars any homeless service provider from helping more than 100 people, imposes a half-mile buffer between any two homeless service providers, and requires service providers to monitor and regulate the behavior of their guests.

        There is nothing in their plans that looks at the cost effectiveness of the county approach. This will clearly make things more expensive and less effective. It runs counter to the spirit, if not the law, when the county decided to give more cities independent control over the issue. Essentially, Renton is trying to opt out. They won’t be housing the homeless, and they won’t allow the county to house the homeless in their city. It is heartless and despicable.

      2. Daniel: your defense of Mercer Island’s making homelessness a crime may have held a tiny bit of water, except for this little snippet:

        The Mercer Island proposal gets around Boise by saying that police who encounter unsheltered people may direct them to shelter outside Mercer Island but on the Eastside, since Mercer Island does not have any homeless shelters.

        So Mercer Island doesn’t want homeless on their affluent little paradise, but they also don’t want to implement any facilities that would reduce or solve homelessness, because that would require homeless people on their affluent little paradise, so they “direct” them elsewhere. Do they not even offer them a ride before threatening the homeless with jail time?

        Also, you compare to Seattle (whataboutism!), but Seattle has nearly 30 times the population, is the financial center of the Pacific Northwest and has to cope with other cities like Mercer Island dumping their homeless at the city limits.

        The camping ordinances may be similar, but at least Seattle offers shelter and services, however inadequate they may be, but it’s something. Mercer Island has nothing. This bill is just a piss poor attempt to get around Martin v. Boise and frankly Mercer Island comes off as evil as Boise. That’s not a desirable comparison.

        Ordinance 21C-02 includes an annual $10,000 donation to eastside shelters even though Mercer Island almost never uses them in addition to our donations to ARCH…

        So Mercer Island doesn’t deserve criticism because it’ll give a pittance to shelters, enough to house one homeless person for a few months. I wonder how many they will send to the Eastside a year? I hope it’s less than a quarter of a homeless person!

        …and requires the police to confirm a shelter bed is available before removing a camper in a park, which reversed the legal burden in Martin and is unique among ordinances banning camping in this region.

        And when there’s no room or the available shelters are not compatible, does the friendly Mercer Island officer just say “gee golly Mr. Homeless Guy, you can stay put here for now!”?

        It’s always pleasure to read your defense of Mercer Island’s spoiled toddler attitude (how’s that Sound Transit lawsuit to keep mainlanders out of YOUR light rail station going?), and this was no different!

        I think RossB nailed the Renton argument, so I don’t have anything to add to that.

      3. Seattle stopped enforcing its tent ban because it was found unconstitutional when there aren’t enough shelter beds, and now Mercer Island is in the same situation. During covid the number of homeless seems to have doubled: I recall 5,000 in earlier articles but 11,000 a couple days ago. So both of these are reasons why there are so many tents in Pioneer Square and at Ravenna & U Way, 15th & John, and trailers on Industrial Way S.

        What bothers me about Mercer Island is not that it’s banning camping in pubic spaces but that it won’t open a shelter and is telling homeless people to go to Eastside cities. Not on my island. Probably most of them are Mercer Island residents, as most of the ones in the Eastside were Eastsiders before they became homeless.

        The county set up a structure for addressing homelessness but it allowed cities to opt out, and unfortunately most of them did. That was a loophole that shouldn’t have been allowed, because it basically allows cities to be parochial and not address the regional need that the county commission was set up to address.

      4. “Progressives never ask who is really hurt by the homeless camping in parks? It is the working class who live in multi-family housing — the holy grail for Urbanists — because they don’t have large houses and yards like on Mercer Island, and can’t afford to belong to clubs along the lake or buy summer houses.”

        That’s just flat out wrong, thank you for playing, and enjoy a copy of our home game. Who is really hurt by the homeless camping in parks? The homeless. This is why a shelter first policy makes the most sense.

      5. “a shelter first policy makes the most sense.”

        What we need is both shelters and permanent housing. Ideally the housing would be already built and an opening is always available, then homeless people could be moved directly into it. But we don’t have the housing, and the reason we don’t is we didn’t build it over the past thirty years when we had the chance. It could have gotten some of that real-estate bubble money in the 2000s, the way Lynnwood’s and Federal Way’s downtowns could have but they didn’t pursue it then. Since we now don’t have enough low-income housing and there’s an inevitable wait for an opening, we need shelters to bridge the gap. But we’ve turned shelters and tents from a temporary stopgap into long-term shelter because there’s nothing beyond them to move into. The existing low-income housing has waiting lists thousands of names long.

      6. Homelessness is a situation, not a demographic. It affects a wide variety of people — from teen aged runaways to good people in unfortunate short-term circumstances to battered women escaping abuse to long-term belligerent vagrants to drug addicts in grave decline.

        Because the situations are so varied, solutions have to be too. I’m happy not opining on a solutions and leaving professionals in the field to advise on solutions.

        While homeless people are transit users, they aren’t a large percentage. It may sound a bit selfish, but transit should keep their primary goal of clean, reliable, productive, accessible and frequent service as the most important objectives — and not being the de facto homeless shelter. If cities depend on transit agency resources like land or vehicles or staff, the agency should be compensated. Transit funding is limited enough without dedicating resources to ease homeless situations.

      7. “While homeless people are transit users, they aren’t a large percentage.”

        “…transit should keep their primary goal of clean, reliable, productive, accessible and frequent service as the most important objectives — and not being the de facto homeless shelter. ”

        Okay. But by your very own words, transit is not being the de facto homeless shelter.

        “If cities depend on transit agency resources like land or vehicles or staff, the agency should be compensated. Transit funding is limited enough without dedicating resources to ease homeless situations.”

        But you just said transit funding isn’t dedicating resources to ease homeless situations, didn’t you? So why should cities be compensated for something that isn’t happening?

      8. A Joy, I don’t get your beef with my statements. Please don’t interpret my shades of gray comments in black and white conclusions.

        Transit agencies are agencies created for a specific primary purpose. Cities are created to promote the general health and welfare of all those in one’s jurisdiction. They aren’t comparable.

      9. “not being the de facto homeless shelter”

        Transit shouln’t be a de facto homeless shelter just like parks and libraries shouldn’t be. Bot we’ve given them no place else to go, so they go to the existing public spaces. The ultimate problem is inequality and poverty: we tolerate having a shockingly low minimum wage, insufficient low-income housing, and deny the problem exists or blame it on the poor for making bad moral choices, rather than recognizing we’re putting them in an impossible situation, and the net result is that homeless people hang out on buses and parks and libraries. If they had even tiny houses, most of that would disappear. It’s only 3% of the homeless who refuse shelters or housing with no-drug restrictions.

    1. NIMBYISM is a term people use when they want others to do what they think is correct and benefits them but not the other party, even if it is just virtue seeking. Why should Renton give a damn about what a blogger from Pinehurst or Mercer Island, or Erica Barnett, think is best for Renton? Renton doesn’t. Renton isn’t choosing to not house homeless; it is choosing to not house Seattle’s homeless, which was the entire point of Constantine’s distressed hotel scheme that had nothing to do with rehabilitating the homeless.

      Renton is a working class town. It isn’t effete Seattle. Renton understands how the game works. It doesn’t get rail, but it gets the pilot homeless program from Dow that shifts 200 Seattle homeless to a Renton hotel with no treatment, or funding for health and police services, because it is … drum roll … Renton. Total disaster by Constantine that has stopped his entire disingenuous program in its tracks.

      The County didn’t “decide” to give local cities more control over their 1/10th of one percent sales tax increase. King Co.’s failure to enact its own tax by Sept. 30 was one of the biggest fuckups in history. No one has less credibility on “cost effectiveness” when dealing with the homeless than Seattle and King Co.

      A more accurate term for NIMBYISM is zoning. A community deciding what its citizens want it to be, not what others think it should be based on their ideology, or can’t afford to live there. I don’t tell others how Pinehurst should zone, or Renton.

      Worry about your own neighborhood and your own city, and Seattle has plenty to worry about. There are plenty of homeless in Seattle to focus on, so focus on them rather than shift them to other cities with their own tax dollars.

      1. How do you determine that the homeless are “Seattle’s Homeless”? Or “Renton’s Homeless”?

        Are you actually claiming that all homeless are from Seattle? That none of the homeless come from Renton, Mercer Island, or anywhere else? You should probably provide evidence to back up your claim.

        Effete Seattle? Dude, you’re a lawyer – can you make an argument without tossing in such garbage or is that too hard for you?

      2. NIMBYISM is a term people use when they want others to do what they think is correct and benefits them but not the other party, even if it is just virtue seeking.

        Not its not. First of all, that is a run-on sentence. I’m not even sure what that last clause means (“even if it just virtue seeking”). As for the rest of your definition, it is at least clear, even if it is incorrect.

        The Oxford English Dictionary defines “NIMBY” as “a person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or hazardous in the area where they live, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere.”

        Got it? A classic example would be a sewage plant. A NIMBY doesn’t want the sewer plant “in their back yard”, but of course they don’t mind sewage plants in general.

        That is clearly the case here. Renton is offering up no solution to homelessness. They aren’t willing to house them, or even allow the county or private charities to house them. They aren’t arguing against housing the poor, mind you, they simply don’t want them to be housed in their town. Housing the poor in this manner happens all over the region (with lots of homeless shelters in Seattle — including very low income areas). I want Renton to continue to allow charities to house the homeless (instead of kicking them out to the street) because I have compassion. I don’t believe that people should suffer in this manner. If that constitutes “personal benefit” than OK, guilty as charged. But other than that, I get nothing out of it either way. And frankly, it is rude of you to suggest that.

        Renton is a working class town.

        So your point is that rich cities should house a higher proportion of the homeless? Is that what you are saying? Does that mean Mercer Island will have a big homeless shelter soon?

        No one has less credibility on “cost effectiveness” when dealing with the homeless than Seattle and King Co.

        Yet Renton is making it worse! You don’t seem to get that. These people were housed by a private charity (DESC). Many of them probably came from Renton. Now they will be on the street. You are making bullshit excuses for what is clearly a selfish approach by a city.

        A community deciding what its citizens want it to be, not what others think it should be based on their ideology, or can’t afford to live there. I don’t tell others how Pinehurst should zone, or Renton.

        Right, which is why you probably have no problem with redlining. After all, if a community — which made much of its money from exploiting those of other races — decides it doesn’t want to live with those other races, than who are we to tell them they should, right? Right?

        Worry about your own neighborhood and your own city

        That is a pretty selfish attitude for a guy who lives in one of the richest places in the world. I guess you just expect me to ignore suffering, unless it happens right down the street. Sorry, dude, not gonna happen. I will continue to speak out against injustice, no matter where it happens. This is clearly unjust, and many will suffer as a result.

      3. “The specific issue isn’t homelessness, it is camping on public property.”

        Where do you expect people to stay if there’s no place else to go? There’s only a limited number of friends’ sofas or backyards they can stay in, and many people don’t know anybody who can offer them such, especially long-term.

        “Seattle, despite having the harshest anti-camping ordinance … allows camping in public areas”

        It can’t legally block it as long as there are insufficient shelter beds or low-income housing. Just today there was an article saying Seattle is paying a $10,000 settlement for kicking somebody out of Cal Anderson park.

        Building more housing and shelter spaces and buying hotels requires MONEY. But you and the Seattle Times editorial board and other conservatives keep arguing against the taxes that could fund this.

    2. RapidRider, it would really help if you did some homework.

      First read Martin v. Boise. Granted it is over 70 pages single space but you can’t really comment intelligently until you,ve read it, and no Erica Barnett is not very knowledgeable on the issue. The court in Boise made it explicitly clear shelters were much preferred housing over camping in a park or on a street. Martin was not designed to allow camping in parks, but to require cities and counties to provide shelter space, indoors. Smaller cities with virtually no homegrown homeless population are much better partnering with regional shelters — which is why we have King Co.

      Second here is staff’s report on 21C-02 https://mccmeetingspublic.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/mercerwa-meet-4a819d6fd25746209ea1d4d2ceae4ac5/ITEM-Attachment-001-a6f9bfcc3899416c9d09689178e2a7dd.pdf

      https://www.seattlepi.com/local/seattlenews/article/judge-denies-stop-to-sweep-cal-anderson-park-15811506.php

      Here is a link to Seattle police sweeping Cal Anderson Park. Where is your outrage over that? Those homeless were not even taken to shelters, they were just told to leave.

      The fact is Mercer Island Police usually take no campers or homeless to eastside shelters each year, the city donates to ARCH as part of its interlocal agreement, and its sky high property taxes fund much of King Co., much more than each citizen receives in return.

      What do you donate? In taxes or charitable contributions?

      1. Mercer Island’s ordinance 21C-02 requires that the police confirm a shelter bed is available before forcibly removing someone from a park. There are shelter beds available, at least on the eastside. Creating thousands of affordable housing units for homeless persons who have a zero AMI sober or not forever is very, very expensive, in the billions (which we spent on light rail).

        The $10,000 fine Seattle agreed to pay was acknowledged by even the attorney representing the homeless person as nuisance money. The lawsuit wasn’t about shelter availability, or Seattle’s right to remove campers from parks. It arose over a process used by many cities — including Seattle and Boise — to convert the removal from a park for violation of a misdemeanor (that is never prosecuted) into civil forfeiture. I have posted before about how this was invented by Rudi Giuliani to stop the squeegee windshield washers in NY.

        What happens is the city detains someone under a criminal ordinance — camping in parks in this case — and seizes their belongings, but does not prosecute. The person then has the burden of reclaiming their belongings, which are often lost, and may be all the homeless person owns, although they are filthy or useless, or just a keepsake. At the same time most shelters don’t allow the homeless to bring all their filthy belongings into the shelter.

        Most cities, like Seattle in this case, give notice to vacate. In this case it was 48 hours to vacate the park. The complaint wasn’t that there were no shelter beds, it was they didn’t want to move, and so hadn’t when the police showed up, who again gave them an opportunity to gather their belongings and move someplace else, or go to a shelter, which they refused to do.

        The attorney threatened further litigation over this issue. My guess is it would boil down to Martin v. Boise, whether a shelter bed was available. Of course the police could also just find alternative grounds for a misdemeanor arrest, like possession of drugs or alcohol in a park, which if you have a teenager you might be familiar with.

      2. Here is a link to Seattle police sweeping Cal Anderson Park. Where is your outrage over that?

        There was a lot of outrage, including from myself. All that did was disperse the homeless to other public places.

        In the end, my guess is Seattle will have to house its homeless within its city borders…

        But not Mercer Island, because their homeless are clearly from other cities. Got it.

        The fact is Mercer Island Police usually take no campers or homeless to eastside shelters each year, the city donates to ARCH as part of its interlocal agreement, and its sky high property taxes fund much of King Co., much more than each citizen receives in return.

        Oh geez. “Our property taxes are too high, so we shouldn’t have to do anything, so be grateful for this $10,000 pittance from one of the wealthiest city in King County!”

        What do you donate? In taxes or charitable contributions?

        You got me! My personal charitable contributions don’t match the bigly generous $10,000 donation from a very wealthy city of 25,000 people.

        You sure are going through a LOT of mental gymnastics to justify and defend that Mercer Island neither wants to see the homeless nor actually do anything to solve the problem besides shipping the homeless elsewhere (something you continually criticize Seattle for doing).

        Currently, a fifth of the 40 posts on this thread are your walls of text that attempts to legally justify Mercer Island’s ethically void response to the homeless crisis within their city limits. You’re not going to get a lot of sympathy on this blog.

      3. “…and its sky high property taxes fund much of King Co.,..”

        Adding to RapidRider’s comment above…

        While the intent of the assertion made by commenter DT is pretty obvious (when taken into context with the remainder of his post), the assertion itself is not even factually valid. The last I checked, Mercer Island property owners paid a total levy rate of about $8.00 per $1,000
        of assessed value, which is one of the lowest levy rates in the region. There are many communities in King and Snohomish Counties wherein property owners pay levy rates 40-50% higher than the one universal rate paid across MI. Also, the claim that MI funds much of King County expenditures via property tax collections is simply false.

    3. The specific issue isn’t homelessness, it is camping on public property. Regional cities have homeless, they just don’t allow camping in parks or on streets. You can’t make someone use a shelter, or begin a process to rehabilitate themselves, but you can prohibit them from camping on public property if the shelter bed was available.

      The difference is Seattle, despite having the harshest anti-camping ordinance (gross misdemeanor with up to 364 days in jail and $5000 fine) allows camping in public areas (although it sporadically sweeps its parks and streets). Is it any wonder then that those who refuse to use a shelter choose to camp in Seattle?

      After the Renton debacle (which of course was a King Co. sponsored plan, well advertised, because no private charity has the funding for 230 hotel rooms) I think plans to reseed Seattle’s homeless to surrounding cities are dead. You may call that NIMBYism, and if so may want to write a letter to the Renton City Council, and speak to the council about your views, noting of course you live in Seattle if you do. Be aware, however, that Renton is not a city wracked with privilege guilt.

      In the end, my guess is Seattle will have to house its homeless within its city borders (with regional financial help), but Seattle is a very large city geographically with many different neighborhoods, although my guess is Seattle’s neighborhoods will object to housing the homeless in any significant numbers (Seattle NIMBYism). I doubt a 230 bed hotel/shelter in any one neighborhood is a good idea, especially if the homeless are untreated, although maybe a distressed downtown Seattle hotel or office building post-pandemic could work if the commuters don’t return.

      There is a very interesting article on page 1 of today’s Seattle Times, that is both good and bad news for Seattle.

      The good news is a private developer has decided to sell a brand new 76 unit development at East Howell and Belmont to the city for affordable housing for $18.2 million, because the units won’t sell to private buyers. This is an incredibly low per unit cost of $238,000, and suggests the housing boom in Seattle is coming to an end, because this is a pretty desirable location for city living for a new building. This suggests lower housing costs in Seattle, at least multi-family housing, and should make housing the homeless more manageable in Seattle.

      The bad news is this signals the deurbanization of the wealthy in Seattle post-pandemic, and this developer saw the writing on the wall and was willing to sell out at a loss. This means a decline in general fund tax revenue, which is the basis for Metro’s and ST’s recent funding and service cuts for the N. King Co. subarea.

      Population levels, and increases and declines, always come with plusses and minuses: more citizens means higher housing costs, while fewer citizens (and commuters) means less tax revenue.

      1. I am not sure TISGWM understands levy rates.

        https://dor.wa.gov/get-form-or-publication/publications-subject/tax-topics/property-tax-how-one-percent-property-tax-levy-limit-works

        When the state legislature adopted the 1% cap (after the Supreme Court struck down the initiative that passed it) a city’s “levy” — which is simply the amount of property tax collected, or RATE times total assessed value — was “capped”. After that a city could not raise its levy (property tax) more than 1%/year (new construction is exempt). The state constitution limits property tax to 1% of a property’s assessed value, which we are approaching.

        Property value is assessed every year. If the assessed value of all the property within a city increases more than 1%/year then the RATE has to be reduced to not exceed the levy + 1% annual increase. Some areas like Mercer Island have seen assessed values increase more than 10%/year, so the levy rate has to decline to avoid exceeding the levy + 1% annual increase.

        A good comparison is between Mercer Island and SeaTac. Assuming each levies the same total property tax (levy), but Mercer Island’s assessed property value has increased more over the years, Mercer Island will have a much lower tax RATE although each city is collecting the same amount of total property taxes, and if you look at the property levy rates that is what you will see. Higher assessed cities will always have much lower tax RATES even though total city property taxes collected might be the same.

        Some complain about this cap during periods when property values are increasing, but the point is it costs a city the same to run whether assessed values are increasing or decreasing, and the levy formula protects city services and revenues when values decrease, like 2009–2014. The real issue is a 1% annual increase is much less than the average 3% annual inflation, although a city can increase the levy by a vote, up to 6 years and 6%/year.

        The levy cap however does not apply to state or county property taxes, or specific levies that increase as property values increase, because they are simply a function of levy rate X assessed value.

        So let’s look at my recent tax bill to see where the property tax revenue is going and the total tax collected:

        1. State: $3,380.29 $1.3 B
        2. State McCleary surcharge for education: $1,807.93 $703 m
        3. Local School levy: $2,877.46 $1.7B
        4. County $2,094.76 $1B all
        5. City $1,549.60

        As you can see the state takes the lion share, then the county, then the city which is capped. As a result, cities have turned to other tax forms like the utility tax, which most cities have now maxed out and is the most regressive, and new construction which often saddles cities with long term infrastructure costs, because inflation is closer to 3% and the levy is capped at 1% without a vote.

        Then you get to specific voted upon levies, which are mostly county based, both my share and the total tax:

        1. Port $201.33 $72 million
        2. KCLS (Library) $600.31 $140 million
        3. Emergency Med. Serv. $445.19
        4. Sound Transit $331.12 $1.18B
        5. Flood Control $149.67

        Total $13,454.94

        When it comes to whether a city or its citizens benefit from county taxes depends on property values as those levies rise with increased assessed value, and the amount of county services the city uses:

        For example, Mercer Island pays over $7.5 million in vehicle license fees each year but receives almost no intra-Island transit and gets back a $36,000 grant for intermodal transportation.

        Mercer Island pays $2.68 million/year towards the country parks levy, which will rise with increased assessed value, but gets back $238,000/year.

        And to get a real idea of how country levies grow over decades due to increased assed values Mercer Island pays $6 million/year after 20 years to the KCLS levy for a small library in a single family home that costs $1.2 million to run, even with county efficiency. For 20 years Mercer Island has subsidized the building of libraries throughout the county. My property tax just for the KCLS levy is close to 40% of my tax for all of the city’s property tax to run the entire city.

        On the hand Mercer Island uses almost no county services. We rarely if ever have a felony that needs prosecution, the sheriff never visits Mercer Island, we get almost no transit, and we spend several million dollars on Youth and Family Services, the local social service provider including rent assistance. The number of citizens who go homeless while living on Mercer Island is tiny because of rent assistance. Our utilities for county sewage are billed separately as utility charges, which legally are not taxes.

        Seattle is a wealthy city, except it chooses to not fund affordable or emergency housing even though it has the majority of homeless. Instead the citizens fund Move Seattle which could have built thousands of affordable units, and HB 1304 which could build billions of affordable housing, plus a new waterfront park and convention center remodel. The homeless camping on streets and parks in Seattle are simply a reflection of choices Seattle residents make, which is why Seattle wants the country to fund affordable housing in Seattle even though Seattle has the revenue to build affordable housing, if it wanted to.

      2. You can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. The poor need both housing and transit. Otherwise it’s like saying, “Here’s your apartment but there’s no water.” Housing is the most acute need, but transit is close behind it.

        The waterfront park doesn’t cost that much, and it fills a major hole in the city’s amenities.

        Seattle does not control the Convention Center expansion and is not paying for it directly. It’s a King County project funded by King County taxes.

      3. When Seattle has tried to fund more affordable housing through new taxes like the Amazon tax, you opposed it. It can’t fix it through existing general fund revenue; that’s all allocated to other necessities. Seattle deserves some blame for not addressing homeless more, but all the suburbs are doing worse at it.

      4. Lol. That’s a rich retort. Sorry, dude, but as a property owner and taxpayer here in WA, as well as in two other states, I already understand levy rates and the whole real property assessment and tax collection and distribution process quite well. With all of that said, I see nothing in the multitude of irrelevant paragraphs you posted in your reply that refutes my counter claims to your earlier BS assertions. Thus I’ll simply restate my earlier comments which I stand by, but this time include a source where you can verify these statements for yourself.

        1. Mercer Island’s levy rate is presently around $8.00 per $1,000 of assessed value. Compared to other communities around King and Snohomish Counties, this universal rate across MI is on the low end. This is just a fact.
        2. Mercer Island does NOT contribute a substantial amount, by any comparison, in property tax collections for King County levy-paid expenditures. Seattle is far and away the largest contributor; MI is way down the list.

        FWIW…
        The total King County levy broke down as follows in 2020, per the official annual report:

        KING COUNTY:
        (Levy Rate)Tax Amount

        Current Expense- ($0.5939900)$366,161,303
        Veterans’ Relief- ($0.0050000)$3,082,942
        Mental Health-
        ($0.0112200)$6,917,685
        Inter-County River Improvement-
        ($0.0000700)$43,268
        Automated Fingerprint I.D. System-
        ($0.0340300)$20,977,513
        Parks-
        ($0.1832000)$112,583,048
        Regional Health/Human Srvs (Vets)-
        ($0.0930700)$57,194,669
        Children/Family Justice Center-
        ($0.0415900)$25,637,080
        Best Start for Kids-
        ($0.1132500)$69,812,359
        Radio Communications-
        ($0.0524300)$32,319,488
        Transportation-
        ($0.0472000)$29,095,922
        Marine Operating (Ferry District)-
        ($0.0098300)$6,060,411
        Conservation Futures-
        ($0.0000000)$0
        Conservation Futures C.I.P-
        ($0.0333000)$20,528,596

        TOTAL (Within Statutory Limits)-
        ($1.2181800)$750,414,284
        G.O. Bonds (Voter Approved)-
        ($0.0213500)$13,121,209
        TOTAL COUNTY-
        ($1.2395300)$763,535,493

        Again, these are countywide figures. MI’s contribution is just one small piece of the total collected and far from being a major contributor as you asserted originally.

        Here are the links. As a bare minimum, I suggest at least taking a look at the city comparison report titled “2020 vs. 2021 Property Tax Bills and Residential Median Values by City”.
        https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Reports/annual-reports/2020.aspx
        https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Reports/statistical-reports/2020.aspx

  3. Not where the homeless originate, which is hard to determine as they can move, where they currently reside, which doesn’t take a lot of esoteric proof. Look where their tent is pitched.

    In Renton’s case, the homeless were transferred from Seattle to Renton, and of course Renton has its own homeless (and Mercer Island has around 12 regular homeless). If they reside in Seattle they are Seattle’s homeless, like a homeowner in Seattle is a Seattle resident. If they reside in LA they are LA’s homeless.

    Residence is usually determined by where one lives. A good question is why the homeless choose to live in certain cities (although Seattle seems quite intent on giving its homeless to other cities, so I wouldn’t get too righteous).

    NY and LA are the number one and two largest cities by population, and have the number one and two largest homeless populations respectively. Last I saw Seattle was the 18th largest city by population, but had the third highest homeless population. https://komonews.com/news/local/report-seattle-has-nations-largest-homeless-population-outside-of-new-york-los-angeles

    So figure that one out.

    Compared to Renton, yes I think Seattle is effete, at least much of it. So of course is Mercer Island, compared to Renton.

    1. Residence is usually determined by where one lives. A good question is why the homeless choose to live in certain cities (although Seattle seems quite intent on giving its homeless to other cities, so I wouldn’t get too righteous).

      Yet Mercer Island shipping their homeless to other cities is acceptable.

    2. “A good question is why the homeless choose to live in certain cities”

      The short answer is high rent. Most of the homeless in Seattle were paying rent in Seattle for a long time before they became homeless. Rent went up, but their wages didn’t. Or maybe they were always living paycheck to paycheck until something happened (a medical bill, car repair, etc.). Next thing you know, the parents and kids are “on the street”. Of course many aren’t actually on the street, but living in their car. Mercer Island just wants to make sure that that car isn’t parked on their beloved little wealthy enclave. Oh, and they want to make sure that home values stay really high, thus compounding the problem.

      1. Most of the homeless in Seattle were paying rent in Seattle for a long time before they became homeless.

        Any citations to back up that claim. And don’t try the last declared address post office box sham. Were they drug addicts when they were paying rent? Maybe if that money went into the rent check instead of a needle they wouldn’t be homeless.

    3. “Last I saw Seattle was the 18th largest city by population, but had the third highest homeless population.”

      What else does Seattle have? High housing prices! The number of homeless here pretty closely tracks changes in housing prices. I’m surprised the San Francisco and San Jose don’t have more homeless than Seattle since they have higher housing prices, but it’s probably a quirk. It may be related to the fact that Seattle’s housing situation changed so suddenly in the past ten years and it discombobulated things.

      And your support of severe zoning restrictions is why housing prices are so high, because the housing supply isn’t keeping up with the population growth.

      During covid some of these have gone in paradoxical directions, as Seattle’s homeless has risen while rents have fallen in some neighborhoods, but covid has thrown everything off-kilter. In any case, a decrease from $2500 to $2000 rent is irrelevant to people who can pay only $600 or less. You can’t get a $600 apartment in Auburn anymore, nor in Tacoma or Spokane or Bellingham or Wenatchee. But you could get one in Seattle all the way up until 2012.

      1. “Last I saw Seattle was the 18th largest city by population, but had the third highest homeless population.”

        What else does Seattle have?

        Easy, a well funded homeless industrial complex that has a built in feedback mechanism to keep growing it’s budget.

    4. Seattle traditionally has the most homeless because until recently Eastside and other suburban cities had absolutely no homeless services, so it wasn’t feasible to live there. Homeless people need shelters and free food and medical clinics and counseling services, and those were only available in Pioneer Square and First Hill. The homeless were in Seattle because suburban cities shirked their responsibility. They denied they had homeless or that they should do anything about it. That became untenable as the cities grew and they could no longer be in denial that they had “big city problems”. Now they acknowledge it but their services are still lagging. Bellevue tried to open a shelter near Factoria but failed because of nimbys.

      The housing crisis exacerbated it. In the 80s, 90s, and 00s it was pretty easy to find some kind of apartment on minimum wage, but later these dried up. So people who had a sudden loss of income after a job loss, divorce, major medical bill, or eviction used to be able to move to a 1950s-60s garden apartment somewhere but then they couldn’t anymore and became homeless.

      1. Seattle traditionally has the most homeless because until recently Eastside and other suburban cities had absolutely no homeless services, so it wasn’t feasible to live there.

        Mike,
        That makes no sense. There are tents on freeway ramps in Seattle simply because Seattle doesn’t enforce the law. When Seattle does sweep “homeless” camps they are offered shelters but the vast majority decline because they have to adhere to social norms like not using drugs. How is it all the “homeless” can’t afford rent but all have smart phones? Seattle, wake up and smell the pepper spray!

    5. The thing about homeless policy is that, as long as each city acts independently, the incentives are all wrong. After all, the cheapest way for any given city to “solve” its own homeless problem is to be as inhospitable as possible, so their homeless go sleep on somebody else’s streets and/or take up space in somebody else’s shelters. When a city tries to do the right thing and offer service, they get “punished” for their generosity by being flooded with homeless from the neighboring (less generous) cities, trying to take advantage.

      The only way to get out of this mess of a regional authority to divide up the services everywhere, so every city has to chip in.

      1. That sounds good but IMHO Seattle has not dealt in good faith but rather incentivized the “homeless crises”. The bigger it gets the more tax money they need. When you stop enforcing laws, like sleeping in parks, you become an attractive nuisance. That escalates when you have a City Council that promotes not only free injection sites but free (Federally illegal) drugs. Surrounding cities have to react to Seattle’s policy.

      2. Yet there’s no evidence Seattle has become an attractive nuisance, with most homeless there from Seattle and the vast majority from King County (who effectively had no choice since services were being centralized up until recently). Surrounding cities do have to react, by adding shelters for the problems within their own borders rather than crossing their fingers and praying their least fortunate ship themselves to the big city.

  4. If you want to identify some residents of Mercer Island who became homeless while living on Mercer Island I am sure we would take care of them back on the Island if they are now living in Seattle. I doubt Mercer Island gives many homeless to other cities. King Co.’s pilot program in Renton was specifically designed to move homeless out of Seattle and into Renton. The pilot was so poorly implemented, and so abusive to Renton, I can’t blame the Renton council for pulling the plug, Maybe next time Dow can choose Laurelhurst for his shelter.

    Mercer Island just held its annual breakfast for Youth and Family Services, which serves the poorer Islanders, and raised $440,000. The city also funds and runs the Thrift Store that contributes $2 million gross to YFS, and the city pays for the school counselors through YFS which run around $669,000 per year. No other eastside city does this. One of the programs for YFS is rent assistance, to prevent distressed residents from becoming homeless in the first place. Not everyone on Mercer Island is rich, but the rest of us help out our fellow citizens.

    If we could get out of our abusive contract with King Co. Library Services that has cost us $6 million/year for 20 years for a tiny library that costs $1.2 million to run each year, and has funded libraries throughout the county, we would have even more money for social services.

    Camping ordinances are a sad way to deal with homelessness. As I noted every city in the region prohibits camping in public parks, and Seattle’s penalties are by far the harshest in the region, but RapidRider forgets to mention that. No one prosecutes their camping ordinances, and they are not the reason Seattle has all the homeless in the region.

    1. “King Co.’s pilot program in Renton was specifically designed to move homeless out of Seattle and into Renton.”

      It was designed to move homeless people to hotels, and that one hotel happened to be in Renton. There are supposed to eventually be other hotels all over the county. It wasn’t dumping all homeless people onto Renton; it was just one hotel. And as a pilot it’s the first one by definition, the way Via ridershare was piloted in Rainier Valley and Tukwila. The idea that cities within a metropolitan area should be able to exclude people and shirk addressing universal problems is just, so 1950s. Zoning is one manifestation of it, as most zoning has always been about excluding working-class and poor people from the better neighborhoods or self-designated entitled cities.

    2. King Co.’s pilot program in Renton was specifically designed to move homeless out of Seattle and into Renton.

      Bullshit. Jesus, dude, read the fucking articles. It wasn’t even the county, dipshit, it was a private charity (DESC). I wrote that up above — if you weren’t so busy trying to defend your extreme right wing position and just did a little reading, you would realize that. The charity, by the way, has an outstanding record in terms of not only providing emergency shelter, but getting people back on their feet. They have won several awards, including a national one for service innovation. Holy shit, man, did you even look them up? Here, let me show you their website: https://www.desc.org/.

      Instead of ignorantly writing bullshit about a topic you know little about while spouting reactionary talking points (“the gubmint just wastes their money on this”) you should do a little research.

  5. The King County plan to put homeless people in hotels seems good to me. It seems obvious that cities should not be able to interfere with this. I’m sure that each and every one of the cities will do whatever they can to shift the homeless somewhere else.

    In the long run we need to look at consolidating all of the portion of King County that is within the urban growth boundary into one city. Each little city setting their own housing policy is not the best way forward.

    1. The most cost-effective way to put the homeless into housing is to buy 1960s-era lowrise garden apartments and hotels, because they are the cheapest. But there are only a limited number of them, and they’re rapidly being replaced by more expensive taller buildings. Also, you have to go where the existing buildings are, and one of them is in Renton. Bellevue saved one low-income community by buying its garden apartments from a developer who was going to replace it. Things like that are a start but they’re not enough to fix the low-income housing gap or homeless gap. That conversion protected only a few dozen existing tenants; it didn’t add capacity for additional tenants. And lowrise buildings intrinsically have low capacity. So they can only be a complete solution if they have sufficient capacity for all the cost-burdened and homeless. It’s unclear whether the county’s existing lowrise multifamily stock is enough to house all the cost-burdened and homeless, especially as it can’t all be converted to that. We still need developers to replace some of them with taller market-rate buildings to increase the total housing capacity, and some of them are already full of people who need them for affordability (so replacing N units with subsidized housing would make all the former tenants need subsidized housing, making the net benefit zero).

      Also, garden apartments are often in transit-poor areas with few needs within walking distance. Like the ones on Renton MLK for instance, or in Boulevard Park. We can’t solve the complete problem by just housing poor people anwhere, we have to ensure they have walkable destinations and frequent transit available. And only a limited percent of existing garden apartments are in such places.

      Another strategy — tiny house villages — is also not a complete solution. It can help a few people, but one-story detached houses have only a small capacity per lot. It would take a lot of space to house 150,000 people in tiny-house clusters; it would be sprawl. (150,000 = 11,000 homeless + workforce housing for teachers and lower-wage workers + housing for everyone who can’t get a market-rate apartment at 33% of their income).

      1. “It’s unclear whether the county’s existing lowrise multifamily stock is enough to house all the cost-burdened and homeless,…”

        Is there any insight into this contained within the last update to the county’s GMA-mandated comp plan (the housing component)? I haven’t looked at it in a while and frankly I pay more attention to my own county’s (Snohomish) updates.

      2. I haven’t counted the existing lowrise units or evaluated how many are appropriate to conversion or close enough to retail districts; I’m just guessing it may not be enough. it’s the cities’ responsibility to determine whether this is a problem or not, find revenue for it, or come up with a different solution.

        I’m not aware that the GMA-mandated comp plans address subsidized housing at all. The GMA is mostly about ensuring a sufficient amount of infill zoning to match population increases, not about people who can’t afford existing prices.

      3. You’re correct in that conclusion (about what the GMA mandates do and don’t require cities and counties to report on in their comp plans). It’s been a glaring deficiency for a while now. I was actually alluding to things like the Buildable Lands Report (BLR) and what we have here in Snohomish County, their Growth Monitoring Reports. They are both excellent reports (though I feel the BLR should be updated more frequently) in terms of giving policymakers a snapshot of the projected housing needs throughout the county and where things presently stand. Where they fall short is on the issue of housing affordability, since apparently there seems to be an implicit private marketplace bias built into many of the underlying assumptions. Anyway, I was just wondering if King County had anything to offer from their own similar long-term planning group that might provide some additional information.

        https://snohomishcountywa.gov/1349/Demographics

  6. Tisgwm, you still don’t understand how levies work. The levy RATE is simply a function of the levy cap and the increase in assessed property value for cities.

    For King Co.’s share of the tax, here is the link to Seattle for 2021-21: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Reports/~/media/depts/assessor/documents/propertytaxes/CityTaxComparison/2021CouncilDist-Median-AVChg-SEATTLE.ashx

    Seattle’s average assessed value is $690,000. The total tax rate is $8.29/$1000 assessed value. Assessed value declined 2.3% overall, and the RATE went up 12.4%. Average homeowner property tax: $5,642.29.

    Here is a link to Mercer Island: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Reports/~/media/depts/assessor/documents/propertytaxes/CityTaxComparison/2021CouncilDist-Median-AVChg-MERCERISLAND.ashx

    Average assessed value: $1,393,000. Tax rate: $7.51/$1000. Average tax per assessed parcel: $10,160.30. Increase in assessed value: 0.1%. Increase in total property tax: 6.5%, much of that due to education. https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/2020Taxes.aspx

    Here is a link to Bellevue, which is in the middle, but skewed for eastside cities by the value of its commercial properties. https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Reports/~/media/depts/assessor/documents/propertytaxes/CityTaxComparison/2021CouncilDist-Median-AVChg-BELLEVUE.ashx

    If you want a breakdown of residential rates and assessed values for Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Is. you will see base rates are just a function of the levy cap and increase in assessed property value over the years
    https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Reports/annual-reports/~/media/depts/assessor/documents/annualreports/2020/20AVByCity.ashx?la=en

    When you remove the different city taxes and special assessments a property owner in Seattle and Mercer Island pay basically the same county property tax rate.

    To argue Seattle pays more to King Co. overall misses the critical point Seattle’s population is 730,400 as of 2019. Seattle also receives the most funding from King Co. due to its population.

    The real critical issue is the differential between what cities (and individual citizens) pay in country and state taxes and what they receive back. If east King Co. cities formed their own county they would be much better off financially, although taxation is about equaling wealth and income, although ideally the tax revenue is spent efficiently.

    When talking about the homeless you can’t conflate emergency housing with affordable housing. Affordable housing is designed for those with some residual wage earning capacity, based on average median income (or it is just Medicaid if you qualify). Most affordable housing is based on 30%, 50%, and 80% AMI, because housing costs exceed regional AMI, even though Seattle has the highest minimum wage in the country.

    But untreated homeless have zero AMI. Building any kind of public housing for those with zero AMI is very expensive.

    It is like a tiger chasing its tail. Seattle could prioritize emergency housing and build a unit for every homeless person on the street, but it would be very expensive, and then every homeless person would come to Seattle for a free home without sobriety or treatment.

    At the same time it is very difficult to treat someone living in a tent, but a city cannot force someone into a shelter or to undergo treatment. Those living in 30% to 80% AMI affordable housing don’t want untreated homeless moved to their building.

    The reality is probably 75% of all homeless will always have a zero residual earning capacity, even if sober or treated. The eastside believe in a migration from shelter cot to sobriety to affordable housing to identify those who can contribute to their housing and live among the 30% to 80% AMI, except that takes a long time, it requires voluntary commitment from the homeless (just like movie stars seek commitment to battle addiction), and still probably 75% won’t have a residual wage earning capacity at the end of treatment.

    According to the link I provide in my earlier post the outgoing director of Seattle’s homeless authority fees the region spends enough money on this issue, but not in a very effective manner. For many reasons the homeless prefer to camp in Seattle, and that is where the majority are. I doubt King Co.’s plan to reseed large blocks of untreated homeless to the cities, or even Seattle’s residential neighborhoods, will be acceptable politically, and I don’t see regional cities opening up their parks and streets to homeless camping like Seattle has.

    So where do you go from there? My suggestion: make HB1304 a housing levy and not transit, and have the rest of the county match HB1304, because HB1304 even at $2 billion will accomplish almost nothing, but $2 billion could really make a dent in both affordable and emergency housing.

    The Seattle Times has a good front page article today about whether Seattle’s downtown core will recover post pandemic. In another article in the NW section Gates predicts a 30% to 50% decline in business travel and office working, and McKinsey puts the declines at closer to 20%.

    The problem as the Times notes is Seattle’s downtown business core was declining before the pandemic. 173 businesses have closed. Nordstrom just had all its windows smashed during the one day onsite security was absent.

    This is/was the revenue that funded ST in the N, King Co. subarea and Metro, and why Rogoff is predicting a $11.5 billion shortfall for ST 3. HB1304 can never make up for a decline in general fund tax revenue in Seattle. If the street scene does not improve both business and tourist revenue will decline, and business revenue is already going to decline from working from home.

    1. Most homeless aren’t drug addicts, and would prefer to live in permanent housing and work. There are jobs targeted to them like at Goodwill, but there aren’t enough such jobs and they don’t pay enough for market-rate housing. So they’ll need subsidized housing long-term. But many of them would work and pay a sliding-scale rent if they had the opportunity to. Some homeless are too mentally ill or badly behaved to hold down jobs, but many aren’t. If we provide a path to stable housing, that would fix most of the problem of people living in tents in public spaces and bothering others.

      Other cities should do the same of course. I’ve heard Salt Lake City eliminated their homeless problem by building enough housing. And when DP was on STB, he said Massachusset’s constitution and some other northeastern states have a right to housing, so the government has been building enough housing for a long time. This is what Seattle needs to do, AND the suburbs and other cities. Then homeless people wouldn’t be migrating to Seattle. But don’t overstate the number of people doing that. King County is one housing region, and it’s appropriate for Seattle to take some people from the suburbs. But the suburbs need to take responsibility for the regional problem too and their own homeless residents (people who lived in the burb before they were homeless). They’ll have fewer spaces and services than Seattle because they’re smaller cities with less resources, but they should at least make a robust contribution proportional to their size. They’re far below that now.

      1. I don’t disagree with what Mike has posted, although we could debate the number of homeless camping in parks or on streets who can move to gainful employment and don’t have addiction or mental health issues. Seattle’ minimum wage of $16.69/hour right now makes it very hard to find employment for someone looking for basic entry level work and has few skills or work history.

        The big question is how to determine those homeless who want to rehabilitate and work from those who don’t (even if they are unlikely to be able to compete for and obtain gainful employment), and what to do with those who don’t want to rehabilitate and work? If you get a free home either way why not choose to not rehabilitate and work?

        The eastside still believes in the original paradigm that you migrate from shelter cot to shelter enhanced room to subsidized housing, based on sobriety and work along the way, to determine those who can move into 30% to 80% subsidized housing. But it isn’t easy or quick.

        Seattle and King Co. want something quicker to move the homeless off the streets, but then you need zero AMI public housing, and no city or neighborhood, including Seattle, wants what is essentially permanent emergency, zero AMI, untreated housing. In fact that is exactly what they are complaining about with the broken motorhomes and tents in their neighborhoods.

        Seattle could declare housing is an enforceable legal right, but then HB1304 would have to be converted into a housing levy, and all the regional homeless would flock to Seattle for a free home.

    2. @DT,

      Again, you respond with a whole slew of unnecessary paragraphs that DO NOT support your original BS assertions nor refute my original counter claims. Trust me, dude, I absolutely do understand how levy rates work here in Washington, as well as the two other states in which I own property. You on the other hand, as per your commenting style, have gone on this long expository crusade attempting to rewrite your original two points that I called attention to in my first reply.

      Point #1
      Implying that one’s property taxes are high because the underlying property is highly valued (and assessed accordingly) is similar to arguing that the sales tax one paid on the purchase of his new Ferrari 488 was an awful lot of money. It’s a ridiculous argument of course. All that matters here is the underlying levy rate, and in the case of Mercer Island, due to its property tax base, the budget needs of the various taxing jurisdictions, as well as the statutory limits imposed by the state, the mathematical result is that MI property owners get to enjoy one of the lowest levy rates in the county. That is just an indisputable fact. Simply because one pays an annual property tax bill of $10k, or $15k, or $25k, or more for their tax parcel doesn’t necessarily equate to the conclusion that such tax obligations are “high”, which was indeed your original assertion. Without understanding the levy rate in effect for such considerations, the actual amount paid by the taxpayer doesn’t really tell us much, comparatively speaking.

      Point #2
      This was the second part of your false claim: “…and its sky high property taxes fund much of King Co.,..”. Again, nothing in your unnecessarily long third reply supports this assertion that Mercer Island property taxpayers “fund much of King County”. I’m not at all surprised though, since it’s just a demonstrably false claim. You’ve provided no evidence to the contrary, obviously because it simply doesn’t exist. All one needs to do is peruse through the last ten year’s worth of King County’s CAFRs and the King County Tax Assessor’s annual and statistical reports to ascertain how baseless this assertion is. When it comes to its property tax contributions to King County, MI just isn’t the financial juggernaut you seem to think it is.

      Btw, you also made some additional false statements in one of your other lengthy replies about how caps on property taxes work here in our state with regard to the various taxing jurisdictions, but I don’t have any inclination at this moment to correct those inaccuracies as well. I will suggest that you might want to take some time to read the WA DOR’s Property Tax Levies Operations Manual, last updated Sep 2020, when you get a chance so you can correct your misunderstandings.

      1. Tisgwm, whenever someone resorts to personal insults or sophomoric terms like “dude” that my teenage son uses for something as dry as a debate over property levies, caps and rates I worry some other emotion is affecting them.

        One last time:

        1. My point was when it comes to city property taxes (levies) the levy rate is simply a function of the levy cap and assessed values. If assessed values rise 10% across the board levy rates drop 10% so the cap is not exceeded. Individual properties within a city are taxed based on assessed value, but that only means that if your neighbor’s assessed value goes up and yours does not you will effectively pay a lower rate because the overall rate drops so the cap stays the same. One city’s levy, and levy rate, has no effect on another city.

        2. When it comes to other taxes like county property taxes (or vehicle taxes or sales tax) the amount of the tax is the value of the thing being taxed X the tax rate. For county property the rate is uniform.

        So if you have a higher assessed house you pay more in county and state property taxes. The concept is someone with a higher assessed house has a higher income and is able to pay more in property taxes (i.e. progressive taxation), but with the steep increases in property valuations throughout the region many property owners — especially the elderly who have owned their home for a long time and purchased it for a modest price — are house poor, and the property tax is a real burden often forcing them to sell. As a result some progressives favor a different tax form like an income tax that taxes income, and not just property, but that is different argument for another day.

        So your original argument that levy RATES are indicative of how much a city or citizen contributes, or their generosity, is not correct. Rates are uniform.

        Someone with a higher assessed house will pay more in county taxes. Same for sales taxes for someone who purchases a Ferrari (the analogy of which suggests your emotion over the issue has a lot to do with wealth disparities).

        3. The final piece of the puzzle is the amount of county or state (or vehicle or sales) taxes a certain city or citizen receives back compared to what they paid in. This is what I was driving at.

        This is the real measure of what a person or city contributes net. It is also one of the reasons given for why east King Co. should form its own county, because the amount it contributes to the county in different taxes and the amount it receives back overall would result in more services for the eastside for the same taxes, or lower taxes. Basically subarea taxation for all county taxes, not just ST. I doubt Snohomish Co. would be amenable to merging with King Co.

        However, there is an argument that more wealthy jurisdictions should pay more, and I think that is a good point, although the fact they pay more does not make them bad people as you suggest. The rub today is the increasing amount the eastside pays in taxes and the amount of benefits received back (or allocated anywhere) leads these cities to demand greater efficacy and less ideology from King Co., whose budgets have risen dramatically. https://www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/budget

        I probably should have referenced all of east King Co. in my point about being a net tax “juggernaut” when it comes to regional taxes so the comparison of overall population between Seattle and the eastside is closer, except Mercer Island like other small eastside cities like Medina and Hunts Point are extreme examples because of the high assessed property values and very few county services they receive in return.

        You seemed more aggrieved that someone can afford to buy a Ferrari than the total taxes paid for the purchase of the Ferrari, although the Ferrari owner doesn’t use more transportation services because they drive a Ferrari . https://www.salestaxhandbook.com/washington/sales-tax-vehicles. I see it as progressive taxation, which benefits everyone. If the rich person did not buy the Ferrari, (which is a purely voluntary decision unlike rising property values for existing home owners) and instead bought a Yugo, the state and county and city would lose a lot of tax revenue, although I get the idea you feel aggrieved at the idea someone can purchase a Ferrari when there are wealth disparities in our society, and I can understand that emotion. I can’t afford to buy a Ferrari but that is reality, and the taxes from the purchase of the Ferrari hopefully offsets everyone’s tax burden.

      2. “Tisgwm, whenever someone resorts to personal insults or sophomoric terms like “dude” that my teenage son uses for something as dry as a debate over property levies, caps and rates I worry some other emotion is affecting them.”

        Lol. Well, isn’t that a nice case of the pot calling the kettle black. Dude, dude, dude, save your worry.

        Now let’s go through your needlessly long reply, section by section, even though it’s all obviously meant to distract from the fact that you still can’t support your initial two false claims.

        “1. My point was when it comes to city property taxes (levies) the levy rate is simply a function of the levy cap and assessed values.”

        Your original point was about the “sky high” level of taxes and how so much funding King County receives from MI property taxpayers. It wasn’t about city property taxes at all.

        “If assessed values rise 10% across the board levy rates drop 10% so the cap is not exceeded.”

        Nope, that’s just not how it works. It’s much more complicated than that. There’s the 101% statutory limitation, new tax parcels, construction in progress, banked levy capacity, voted lid lifts and a number of other factors that come into play.

        “Individual properties within a city are taxed based on assessed value, but that only means that if your neighbor’s assessed value goes up and yours does not you will effectively pay a lower rate because the overall rate drops so the cap stays the same.”

        It may or may not for the reasons previously cited.

        “One city’s levy, and levy rate, has no effect on another city.”

        Of course. What’s your point here? I will note that many cities and certainly unincorporated areas have multiple levy rates due to varying taxing jurisdictions. This is made abundantly clear to anyone who has even casually perused the annual and statistical reports published on the county assessor’s site.

        “2. When it comes to other taxes like county property taxes (or vehicle taxes or sales tax) the amount of the tax is the value of the thing being taxed X the tax rate. For county property the rate is uniform.”

        For the purpose of this discussion, I’m just going to set aside the comments about vehicle taxes and sales taxes, as the focus here is on real property taxes. In regard to the uniformity issue, this extends to ALL taxing districts. The Washington State Constitution requires all taxes on real estate to be uniform within a taxing
        district. As alluded to previously, the overlapping (and underlapping for that matter) of taxing districts is what causes varying levy rates across a county’s multitude of communities. All that matters is that the levy rate is uniform within any given taxing jurisdiction.

        “So if you have a higher assessed house you pay more in county and state property taxes.”

        No one is disputing this, i.e., that a property with a higher assessment value will have a higher tax liability than a property with a lower assessed value when both properties are subject to the same levy rates. That’s obviously something that’s universally understood, so again I’m not really sure what your point is here.

        “The concept is someone with a higher assessed house has a higher income and is able to pay more in property taxes (i.e. progressive taxation), but with the steep increases in property valuations throughout the region many property owners — especially the elderly who have owned their home for a long time and purchased it for a modest price — are house poor, and the property tax is a real burden often forcing them to sell. As a result some progressives favor a different tax form like an income tax that taxes income, and not just property, but that is different argument for another day.”

        Though this section also isn’t particularly germane to our larger discussion, I will note that I happen to be in agreement with your points here. My only quibble is that I believe the expression that describes older residents who bought a modest house decades ago and have seen their property’s assessment increase dramatically over the last several years is “house rich, cash poor”. I know several folks who find themselves in this very situation and I’ve commented about this subject matter in the past on this very blog.

        “So your original argument that levy RATES are indicative of how much a city or citizen contributes, or their generosity, is not correct. Rates are uniform.”

        Nope. Nice try, but I never posited such an argument. I suggest you go back an reread what I ACTUALLY did say in my earlier comments.

        “Someone with a higher assessed house will pay more in county taxes.”

        This is redundant and was covered above. Next.

        “Same for sales taxes for someone who purchases a Ferrari (the analogy of which suggests your emotion over the issue has a lot to do with wealth disparities).”

        Apparently, based on this silly response, you completely missed the point here. Again (setting aside your ridiculous psychoanalysis), the point was that the total tax paid on the item of value, i.e, the property being held or the car being purchased, while obviously dependent upon said property’s assessment in the case of the former and the selling price in the case of the latter, doesn’t force the conclusion that the taxes involved (property taxes in the first case, excise taxes in the second) are indeed high. One needs to consider the actual rate involved to make such an evaluation. It goes without saying that if the property is assessed at a higher value than other properties in the same taxing districts, then the property tax bill is going to be higher as well. The same holds true with the purchase of a vehicle and its associated charged sales tax.

        “3. The final piece of the puzzle is the amount of county or state (or vehicle or sales) taxes a certain city or citizen receives back compared to what they paid in. This is what I was driving at.”

        I never commented on this aspect of your original post. I was very careful to limit my
        response to just the two BS claims as I’ve explained several times now.

        “This is the real measure of what a person or city contributes net. It is also one of the reasons given for why east King Co. should form its own county, because the amount it contributes to the county in different taxes and the amount it receives back overall would result in more services for the eastside for the same taxes, or lower taxes. Basically subarea taxation for all county taxes, not just ST. I doubt Snohomish Co. would be amenable to merging with King Co.”

        This is just a continuation of the narrative begun in the previous paragraph. As such, I have nothing further to say about it for the same reason that I just asserted, i.e., it’s outside the scope of the two original points I had replied to way up on this thread.

        “However, there is an argument that more wealthy jurisdictions should pay more, and I think that is a good point, although the fact they pay more does not make them bad people as you suggest. The rub today is the increasing amount the eastside pays in taxes and the amount of benefits received back (or allocated anywhere) leads these cities to demand greater efficacy and less ideology from King Co., whose budgets have risen dramatically.”

        This is just a continuation of the same point in your previous paragraph. I’m only highlighting it here because of this ridiculous statement:
        “…although the fact they pay more does not make them bad people as you suggest.”
        I made NO such suggestion. That’s, at best, a really poor inference on your part and, at worst, simply a boldfaced lie.

        “I probably should have referenced all of east King Co. in my point about being a net tax “juggernaut” when it comes to regional taxes so the comparison of overall population between Seattle and the eastside is closer, except Mercer Island like other small eastside cities like Medina and Hunts Point are extreme examples because of the high assessed property values and very few county services they receive in return.”

        Your original statement was quite clear in its meaning and it only concerned Mercer Island’s property tax contributions to King County’s coffers. If you now want to totally retract that claim, I’m all ears.

        “You seemed more aggrieved that someone can afford to buy a Ferrari than the total taxes paid for the purchase of the Ferrari, although the Ferrari owner doesn’t use more transportation services because they drive a Ferrari. I see it as progressive taxation, which benefits everyone. If the rich person did not buy the Ferrari, (which is a purely voluntary decision unlike rising property values for existing home owners) and instead bought a Yugo, the state and county and city would lose a lot of tax revenue, although I get the idea you feel aggrieved at the idea someone can purchase a Ferrari when there are wealth disparities in our society, and I can understand that emotion. I can’t afford to buy a Ferrari but that is reality, and the taxes from the purchase of the Ferrari hopefully offsets everyone’s tax burden.”

        Again, save your psychoanalytcal nonsense. I have no such grievances. Fwiw, I’m not even a car person, nor have I ever been one. I grew in NYC and never even owned a car until I worked in the NYS Legislature after law school. For the first fifteen years that I lived in Seattle I made do without a vehicle. It wasn’t until I moved to Snohomish County that I again purchased a vehicle. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what sort of car a person has or drives. If a person wants to spend a ton of money on a vehicle and has the resources to do so, then more power to him/her, as the saying goes. It’s just not my thing.

        So, in conclusion, again we have this long reply from you and nowhere among the many paragraphs you’ve posted in all of these comments, most of which are off on tangential matters, does one find anything that actually refutes my original two counter claims (to your BS assertions):
        1. MI’s property tax levy rate is among the lowest in the county.
        2. MI’s property tax contribution to King County’s overall property tax receipts is not a significant portion.

  7. Tisgwn, there is no reason to resort to personal insults or calling someone “dude”, like my teenage son, over a dry debate about levies, caps and rates (unless of course you are a teenager). I think your emotion over wealth disparities is affecting your comments.

    My point was your original assertion that tax RATES somehow evidence a city or citizen’s generosity or tax burden was not true. For city property taxes (levy) the rate is simply a function of assessed value and the cap. If assessed values for all properties in a city go up 10% the levy rate goes down 10% so the cap is not exceeded. One city’s property tax does not affect another’s, except to the degree that city deals with its own social costs.

    For county property taxes (and vehicle and sales taxes) the rate is uniform. The driving factor there is the assessed value of the real or personal property. Someone with a higher assessed house will pay more just like someone buying a Ferrari pays more. In the end that theoretically offsets the tax burden on everyone else, and is a good thing.

    So tax “rates” mean very little, even though rates were the basis for your argument that somehow Mercer Island does not pay its share, or more than its share.

    The final point is how much a citizen or city receives back for the taxes its citizens pays. This is the point I was getting at, and why some think east King Co. should form its own county, like ST subarea equity, because the amount of services the region receives back compared to what it pays is significant. (I doubt Snohomish Co. would be open to merging with King Co. either; here is a link to the growth in King Co. budgets over the last ten years .https://www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/budget).

    I probably should have referred to the entire eastside and not just Mercer Island in making this point, but small eastside cities like Mercer Island, Medina and Hunts Point are extreme examples because of their assessed property values, sales and vehicle taxes paid, and how little county services they receive back.

    It is called progressive taxation, and I am not opposed to it, but tax rates have nothing to do with it, and the wealthy person voluntarily buying a Ferrari pays a very high sales tax despite using no more county or road services than someone buying a Yugo. Ideally the Ferrari purchase offsets everyone else’s tax burden, although I get the idea you are aggrieved someone can afford a Ferrari when our society has wealth disparities, and I think that is a fair emotion, but the purchase of the Ferrari is a good thing tax wise, including tax equity.

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