Seattle City Council — District 4

Downtown’s success depends, in part, on effective partnerships with Seattle’s elected leaders. While DSA does not endorse candidates for office, we do interview them about important issues facing downtown and the city, and rank them according to our priorities.

Candidates are given an opportunity to answer questions in writing and in person about key issues, including public safety, transportation, homelessness, economic competitiveness, and the urban experience.

Candidates who complete the questionnaire are scored on how closely they align with DSA’s priorities in these areas. All scores are posted below. As a part of our commitment to transparency, we also share all written responses — as we received them — so you have an opportunity to better understand each candidate’s perspective.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Meet the District 4 Candidates

Questionnaire

Click on a question to jump to candidate responses.

  1. Looking at the current City Council, on what issues would you say it has been particularly effective and, in your opinion, where has it been less effective? Why?
  2. More than 52,000 daily transit riders from across all seven City Council districts use Third Avenue daily to get to and from their jobs in downtown Seattle. While Third Avenue acts as a front door to our downtown, it’s also the epicenter of the Seattle’s largest outdoor drug market. A recent report commissioned by DSA and neighborhood district partners has outlined a large amount of criminal activity across the city, including property crime, assaults and robberies, is being perpetrated by a small number of prolific offenders who cycle through the criminal justice system. Have you read the report? If elected to the Seattle City Council, what policies might you pursue to curb property crime and address these issues in downtown in order to make our streets safer for all? How might you work with your elected colleagues to enact these policies?
  3. Homelessness continues to be the top issue facing Seattle, yet we have made little progress toward housing our homeless population. In your estimation, what is the City’s role in addressing this crisis? Where would you spend your energy, leadership and resources to have the greatest impact?
  4. Seattle’s lack of housing options that are affordable to our low- and moderate-income employees is an important issue for DSA and its members. In the wake of MHA passing at Council, what kinds of new policies would you pursue to help expand the availability of affordable housing in Seattle? How might current zoning fit into your thinking? Who would you imagine working with to enact these policies?
  5. Between 2010 to 2018, downtown Seattle added over 85,000 jobs. During this time, we have seen a major shift in how the majority of people get to and around downtown, with percentage of people driving alone to their jobs shrinking to roughly 25%. Still, as the regional transportation and economic hub, downtown street space is at a premium. What steps do we need to take over the next two-to-four years to ensure that people can access downtown and that our streets work well for all users?
  6. DSA currently manages and activates Westlake and Occidental Square Parks through an agreement with the City, which has allowed us to bring furniture, programming, staffing and security into these parks, as we work to make them welcoming for all. We also manage McGraw Square with some of the same types of activities. What is your view of this type of public/private partnership as the City contemplates major new public space opportunities along the waterfront and above Interstate-5?
  7. Downtown Seattle is the economic center of the region, with large and small businesses employing more than 300,000 people. However, economic success for employers and employees are continuously strained by unpredictable and burdensome regulations and taxes being imposed at the city level. How will you work to ensure that there is more predictability and consideration for employers to support growth in jobs, retail, restaurants and investment in downtown?
  8. In 2015, a city report looked at Seattle’s commercial development capacity and determined we could absorb another 115,000 jobs by 2035. Yet, in the last three years alone, we have added over 23,000 jobs, indicating that we are likely to surpass our growth targets much earlier than anticipated. Seattle has limited existing zoning capacity, and inadequate permitting systems in place to accommodate the future demand for commercial development. Where might you look to expand our city’s capacity in this regard?
  9. As the City strives to allocate limited resources to manage and activate our complex urban environment, it has increasingly turned to Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) for support. These BIAs build community capacity and give agency and tools to local communities to address their own priorities. What is your view of these groups and their impact?
  10. Downtown is not only one of the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in the region, but also the jobs center of Seattle. If you are elected to serve on the City Council, how would you go about balancing the needs of your district with the City has a whole? What are the top issues facing your district and how do you see them intersecting with the issues at play in downtown?

1. Looking at the current City Council, on what issues would you say it has been particularly effective and, in your opinion, where has it been less effective? Why?

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Alex Pedersen

Effective: Frankly, I cannot think of a big issue on which the current City Council — as a whole — has been particularly effective, especially as I listen to the concerns of residents and small businesses in District 4. I think that individual Councilmembers have worked hard and have good intent, but the group has not been functioning as well as it should be to benefit most residents, especially with a budget of $6 billion. Ineffective: Big picture, there is a lack of accountability from the current City Council. They are not great at listening to their constituents, being transparent, or getting results that most residents want. Let’s delve into just one example – the one that is top of mind for residents and businesses across our city: Homelessness.

  • Homelessness: Spending has gone up, but homelessness has not gone down. There is no strategic plan or clear dashboard for the public or stakeholders to see progress toward goals and, until recently, there was a disturbing lack of coordination with King County where the dollars originate for mental health and substance abuse treatment. I have an extensive background in affordable housing and literally worked in division of HUD in Washington D.C. during the Clinton Administration that awarded grants to cities to reduce homelessness. The City Council should fund only data-driven best practices proven to reduce homelessness in other cities. I look forward to rowing in the same direction as the Mayor to get results and improve regional coordination.rve.

2. More than 52,000 daily transit riders from across all seven City Council districts use Third Avenue daily to get to and from their jobs in downtown Seattle. While Third Avenue acts as a front door to our downtown, it’s also the epicenter of the Seattle’s largest outdoor drug market. A recent report commissioned by DSA and neighborhood district partners has outlined a large amount of criminal activity across the city, including property crime, assaults and robberies, is being perpetrated by a small number of prolific offenders who cycle through the criminal justice system. Have you read the report? If elected to the Seattle City Council, what policies might you pursue to curb property crime and address these issues in downtown in order to make our streets safer for all? How might you work with your elected colleagues to enact these policies?

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Alex Pedersen

Yes, I have read the report “System Failure” twice and followed up with its author as well as with the University District BIA in D-4 to learn more and let them know I want to help solve these problems. Thank you for your leadership on this report. It was needed – it’s something the city government should have done.

The report should have been a wake up call to the current City Council. Yet we have not seen action. On the one-month anniversary of that report’s publication, I issued a press release calling on the City Council to use its oversight authority from the City Charter to launch public hearings to hold the criminal justice system accountable by resolving why the worst offenders are continually released back into the community without proper help and supervision.

I will be a voice on City Council that makes public safety a top priority of city government. I will make sure our police officers and fire fighters receive the resources and support they need to keep pace with the challenges arising from our growing population.

  • Hire More Officers to Reduce Response Times
  • Boost Morale of our Police Officers
  • Emphasize Crime Prevention
  • Concentrate Enforcement Efforts on Problem Places and Worst Offenders
  • Enable Police to Patrol the Beats More; Fill Out Paperwork Less
  • Continue to Seek Opportunities for Diversion and Restorative Justice
  • Track How Criminal Cases are Resolved to Improve Our Criminal Justice System
  • Monitor and Maintain Police Reforms
  • Control Police Overtime Costs to Use for Crime Prevention
  • Explore a 3-1-1 Call Center Available 24/7. In addition to giving citizens an easy-to-remember phone number (3-1-1) to call day or night for city services that encourages accountability, a 3-1-1 Call Center will reduce the overload on our 9-1-1 Call Center and the “non-emergency” line that is staffed by the same team as the 9-1-1 Call Center. This has worked well for more than a decade in cities from San Francisco to Chicago to New York. Seattle’s current “Customer Service Bureau” is available ONLY on weekdays. While the “Find It Fix It” technology works for some, a 3-1-1 Call Center open 24/7 will enable residents without access to fancy iPhones to receive the best customer service.

Why I Can Deliver Solutions:

  • I will work with, not against, our police department.
  • I have the experience as a City Council legislative aide for one of the foremost crime prevention experts who chaired the Council’s Public Safety Committee: Tim Burgess, himself a former police officer. I will continually encourage my City Council colleagues to work collaboratively with our Mayor to keep all communities safe by preventing violent crime and reducing property crime.
  • I have the credibility advancing evidence-based, upstream crime prevention programs:

Gun Safety Research: Despite resistance from the National Rifle Association, I led the effort to fund innovative research with the University of Washington to improve gun safety – the first of its kind in the nation.

3. Homelessness continues to be the top issue facing Seattle, yet we have made little progress toward housing our homeless population. In your estimation, what is the City’s role in addressing this crisis? Where would you spend your energy, leadership and resources to have the greatest impact?

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Alex Pedersen

Role: As the chief funder of programs that provide services and create affordable housing, City Hall should be held accountable for reducing homelessness, especially when King County stands ready to coordinate efforts.

Energy: I would spend most of my energy ensuring there is a comprehensive plan to reduce homelessness with relevant performance metrics and outcome goals visible to all so that we can earn the trust of the business and philanthropy communities – they need to trust City Hall to invest their funds effectively to get results.

Sadly, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle increases — despite more spending by our local governments. I will use his extensive background in affordable housing and commitment to accountability to fund only data-driven best practices proven to prevent and reduce homelessness as we have seen in other cities. I will also work collaboratively and persistently to achieve the necessary coordination with King County on mental health, drug dependency, and other key programs so that we have a comprehensive plan and achieve real progress on this regional crisis. Getting results is necessary to provide compassion toward people experiencing homelessness and to support those on the front lines working to reduce homelessness.

4. Seattle’s lack of housing options that are affordable to our low- and moderate-income employees is an important issue for DSA and its members. In the wake of MHA passing at Council, what kinds of new policies would you pursue to help expand the availability of affordable housing in Seattle? How might current zoning fit into your thinking? Who would you imagine working with to enact these policies?

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Alex Pedersen

Affordability:  First, I think City Council should view “affordability” holistically, rather than just in the realm of affordable housing production. Accountability leads to Affordability. City Hall needs to be held accountable for how it raises taxes, increases utility bills, and then spends that money. City Hall can also do more to encourage transit ridership, which can help to make a household’s transportation budget more affordable.

That said, the preservation and creation of affordable housing are still vital factors to expand the availability of affordable housing. I have an extensive background in affordable housing having underwritten the financing of over $2 billion for over 30,000 units across the country and worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in our nation’s capital. I believe I am the only candidate running in my district who is qualified to engage in a meaningful way on this important issue so that all stakeholders feel they are making progress.

Some Key Policies:

  • Land: I think the City government can do a better job obtaining buildable land from the private market and then providing long-term leases of that land and its own “surplus” land to nonprofits for the construction of affordable housing. Nonprofit housing developers are often too busy building or managing projects to have the bandwidth or predevelopment dollars to snatch up land before costs rise.
  • Encouraging Condos: City Council should encourage the creation of more condominiums (including units big enough for families). Condos are a more affordable starting point for homeownership. I look forward to supporting our state legislators in reforming overly restrictive condo laws that have impeded the creation of these affordable homeownership opportunities.
  • Manufactured Housing: Modular housing, which I recently inspected in Vancouver B.C., is built in a factory and assembled on site. It can be attractive and good quality while costing less — and it is constructed much faster than traditional housing so we can get people experiencing homelessness into housing quickly.
  • Zoning: Before making additional dramatic changes to zoning, I believe it would be prudent for our city government to collect and assess the “before and after” data on the impacts of the new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation. This could include the quantity and location of new affordable housing production, the displacement / movement of existing residents and businesses, crime statistics, traffic / transit impacts, protection of historical structures, school capacity, tree canopy quantity/quality, impacts on workers, etc. Many well-meaning people worked hard to develop the various H.A.L.A. proposals and many well-meaning people raised legitimate concerns about the process and some of the key policies. It’s no secret that I thought the details of MHA and the implementation of MHA were not handled well by City Hall policymakers. I shared the concerns of many with the lack of transparency and lack of truly meaningful engagement of impacted communities. It’s also not clear whether policymakers optimized the benefits for low-income housing. Now that the current policymakers enacted MHA, City Hall must implement carefully by keeping track of the data to make sure their policies are generating the hoped for positive outcomes. Once we have some relevant data, we can explore additional affordable housing policies with meaningful community input and an emphasis on creating affordable housing opportunities where there is sufficient infrastructure, including reliable and frequent transit.

Stakeholders: For the good of all, there’s a lot of trust that needs to be re-built and, as a District Councilmember, I would be just one important voice. I look forward to working openly with all stakeholders while staying focused on the requirements of this district position — to listen to, inform, represent, and take care of my constituents.

5. Between 2010 to 2018, downtown Seattle added over 85,000 jobs. During this time, we have seen a major shift in how the majority of people get to and around downtown, with percentage of people driving alone to their jobs shrinking to roughly 25%. Still, as the regional transportation and economic hub, downtown street space is at a premium. What steps do we need to take over the next two-to-four years to ensure that people can access downtown and that our streets work well for all users?

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Alex Pedersen
  • Get more people to ride Sound Transit’s light rail to make the most of those big investments: Our District 4 is unique because we are blessed with three light rail stations: Husky Stadium and then Brooklyn Ave (U  District) and Roosevelt in 2021. To reduce congestion and benefit our environment for everyone, we should focus on making it easier for more people to ride light rail. To make it easier to ride light rail, we need to:
  • Solve the problem of the so-called “first and last mile” by launching and measuring the success/failure of various, low-cost pilot projects. (As you probably know, the “first and last mile” is beginning and end of an individual’s trip from their home to reliable public transit. It is typically the most logistically challenging leg of a journey, especially when it’s raining or dark or you are simply not able to walk one mile each way from your home to the Sound Transit station at Husky Stadium. For many, it’s just easier to drive.) Pilot projects to test “first and last mile” solutions could include:  shuttle vans, smaller/more frequent buses, discounts for those riding Uber/Lyft to a light rail station, providing safe drop-off/pick-up places, combining package delivery with “people delivery,” and other innovations learned from other cities. King County Metro has an “Innovative Mobility” division which is piloting new technologies. Whichever pilot projects move the most people in the most cost-effective manner, City Hall should help to expand.
  • Work with our federal delegation to lobby for federal money to speed up construction of the next stages of our light rail system.

6. DSA currently manages and activates Westlake and Occidental Square Parks through an agreement with the City, which has allowed us to bring furniture, programming, staffing and security into these parks, as we work to make them welcoming for all. We also manage McGraw Square with some of the same types of activities. What is your view of this type of public/private partnership as the City contemplates major new public space opportunities along the waterfront and above Interstate-5?

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Alex Pedersen

First, thank you for doing this. For the past few years, I have enjoyed the vitality and safety of Westlake ever since DSA made this a special place again. Obviously the city government had failed to do it, so DSA stepped up with a positive outcome. In other cases, I’m not sure the private sector should be doing such work unless there is a direct impact to the private sector and the city is failing to do it. For example, I do NOT think the private sector should take over the operation of the city’s community centers. I look forward to delving deeper into the various options for managing the waterfront and lidding I-5 with a focus on public benefits. I understand that DSA has studied various models from other cities and would be open to exploring partnerships if they are best for optimizing public benefits.

7. Downtown Seattle is the economic center of the region, with large and small businesses employing more than 300,000 people. However, economic success for employers and employees are continuously strained by unpredictable and burdensome regulations and taxes being imposed at the city level. How will you work to ensure that there is more predictability and consideration for employers to support growth in jobs, retail, restaurants and investment in downtown?

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Alex Pedersen
  • Recognizing the Risks and Challenges of Starting and Expanding a Business: In addition to my public service, I bring substantial private sector experience to the table. The Seattle City Council – too often without seeking or incorporating meaningful feedback from the business community – has been imposing what seems like a constant stream of new costs and regulations. These can have a negative, cumulative impact on restaurants, hotels, and other businesses within the hospitality industry. When combining these costs and regulations with an increase in property taxes that are passed through to business owners with a triple net lease and SDOT projects that tear up streets for too long or remove customer parking, we see businesses struggling to stay in the city they love. Yet these same businesses provide jobs and add to the tapestry of our city’s character and vitality. I believe it is possible to provide what the labor community needs while also providing what the business community needs – in fact, that balance is the policymaker’s objective so that we have a sustainable system in which we thrive together. While the Seattle City Council policies may be laudable, the substantial extent and quick pace of those policies have many concerned that the Council too often uses the Seattle business community as a guinea pig for social policies — without meaningful consultation and without a full understanding of the impacts and implementation headaches.
  • Increasing Public Safety by Reforming the Criminal Justice System: Business districts across our city recently commissioned an important report to collect and analyze arrest and court records. Published in February 2019 and titled “System Failure,” the report demonstrates that we need much better results from our criminal justice system to deal with repeat criminal offenders. I called on our current City Council to launch public hearings to hold the criminal justice system accountable by resolving why the worst offenders are continually released back into the community without proper help and supervision. As evidence of the need for positive action, the CEO of Bartell Drugs recently announced she will not open any more stores in downtown Seattle due to violent assaults in her stores. [The press release can be found at this web address:  https://electalexpedersen.org/media/

8. In 2015, a city report looked at Seattle’s commercial development capacity and determined we could absorb another 115,000 jobs by 2035. Yet, in the last three years alone, we have added over 23,000 jobs, indicating that we are likely to surpass our growth targets much earlier than anticipated. Seattle has limited existing zoning capacity, and inadequate permitting systems in place to accommodate the future demand for commercial development. Where might you look to expand our city’s capacity in this regard?

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Alex Pedersen

Just so I understand the math:

  • 2035 minus 2015 = 20 years
  • 23,000 jobs / 3 years x 20 years = 153,333 jobs by 2035 vs. 115,000 current estimate, if the pace of the past 3 years continues.

There is likely to be at least one economic recession impacting the Seattle metro area over the next 20 years, so it’s hard to predict whether the job growth capacity estimate would be exceeded. I would like to make decisions based on data and will certainly keep an eye on this trend.

To answer your question, I would favor expansions near the light rail stations in Urban Centers and future light rail stations — with meaningful input from the impacted communities and as long as vital and viable affordable housing is not removed. The goal would be to encourage increased commercial capacity where there is frequent and reliable transit, so as to not exacerbate commutes/traffic.

9. As the city strives to allocate limited resources to manage and activate our complex urban environment, it has increasingly turned to Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) for support. These BIAs build community capacity and give agency and tools to local communities to address their own priorities. What is your view of these groups and their impact?

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Alex Pedersen

I fully support the model of Business Improvement Areas as allowed under state law:  after a fair vote, allow a fair tax of the immediate areas that will truly benefit from the additional services needed such as enhanced safety and cleaning – as long as there is accountability for proper use of the funds. As with all issues, City Hall should embrace transparency and truly engage the impacted communities while avoiding over-reaching – to prevent backlashes that could hurt the goals of each BIA, especially when renewal is needed. As a legislative aide, I worked on BIA renewals and, as a City Councilmember, I would help to facilitate reasonable renewals, especially in my district. A successful BIA in one district can help to justify BIA renewals throughout the city.

10. Downtown is not only one of the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in the region, but also the jobs center of Seattle. If you are elected to serve on the City Council, how would you go about balancing the needs of your district with the City has a whole? What are the top issues facing your district and how do you see them intersecting with the issues at play in downtown?

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Alex Pedersen

Balance: I worked hard for an at-large Councilmember who chaired the Budget Committee and served as President of the City Council (Tim Burgess). I attended community meetings on his behalf across the entire city. Therefore, I am wired to view the city – and the region — holistically. Moreover, I recognize that many of my constituents work or rely on downtown. The groundswell of support of my candidacy from fellow community leaders does not limit or narrow my perspective. In fact, my unique credibility with neighborhoods is exactly why I am the right candidate most capable of garnering additional support for urgent downtown priorities that impact the whole city.

Top Issues: The top issues in my district are the same or connected to the top issues in downtown. The unifying theme is the need for more accountability from City Hall. Accountability means listening, transparency, and results. I can deliver that accountability due to my compelling combination of public service and private sector expertise.

  • Reducing Homelessness: Sadly, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle increases — despite more spending by our local governments. I will use my extensive background in affordable housing and my commitment to accountability to fund only data-driven best practices proven to prevent and reduce homelessness as we have seen in other cities. I will also work collaboratively and persistently to achieve the necessary coordination with King County on mental health, drug dependency, and other key programs so that we have a comprehensive plan and achieve real progress on this regional crisis. Getting results is necessary to provide compassion toward people experiencing homelessness and to support those on the front lines working to reduce homelessness.
  • Increasing Public Safety: Public Safety should be a top priority of city government. Our police officers and fire fighters need resources and support from city leaders to keep pace with the challenges arising from our growing population. Firefighters report that they feel increasingly unsafe as the number of dangerous incidents increases. The City Council should work collaboratively with our Mayor to keep all communities safe by preventing violent crime and reducing property crime. The City Council should also use its oversight authority under the City Charter to gather data and hold the criminal justice system accountable, so that the most prolific offenders are not continually released back into communities without proper help and supervision.
  • Improving Transportation: All people — including seniors and families with children — need to be mobile to work, shop, play, and thrive in our city. But our city’s traffic and roads are a mess. With meaningful input from residents, City Hall must focus its limited resources to ensure we have reliable roads, transit (see above), and sidewalks to safely move the most people — while

The top needs of my district are housing affordability, completing transit projects and improving E-W routes for light rail access across district four, and the affordability of childcare and early learning programs. Improving housing affordability and access to the soon-to-be completed light rail stations in NE Seattle will help people get to work in Downtown and to have more access to family homes. Additionally, our planning of higher density urban villages around the new light rail stations, as well as improved bus, bicycle, and pedestrian access to these neighborhoods will be a model for other parts of the city as light rail grows into the next decade. The hope is that by making the transit system work efficiently in NE Seattle, less people will drive into downtown, reducing congestion and improving quality of life for all. Finally, childcare affordability is a city-wide problem that is extremely top-of-mind for many of the young families in my district. Expanding access to childcare facilities will also help with congestion and traffic problems, because families often have to drive around the city to drop of kids and then get to work. Further, business owner will benefit from their employees having stable, affordable access to childcare. Although property crime and homelessness do not affect district four to the same extent as downtown, our University District does have a microcosm of the same individuals cycling through law enforcement and related public safety and public health issues. I believe that a robust response to homelessness will improve outcomes for the entire city.

Candidates recently answered questions on local issues from The Seattle Times. You can read their answers here.