Diaz Almost Permanent Chief; Sawant Wants Impact Fees; Another Residential Treatment Center Shuts Down

1. Members of the city council’s public safety committee, which voted unanimously to appoint interim police chief Adrian Diaz to the permanent police chief position on Tuesday, were mostly effusive about Diaz’ performance at the final public hearing on his appointment, praising him for his efforts to recruit new officers, reinstate the community service officer program, and work collaboratively with the council. Council members did have a few pointed questions, though, about Diaz’ commitment to replacing police with civilian responders.

Like many other cities across the country, Seattle committed to creating new community-based alternatives to traditional policing amid protests against police violence in 2020; since then, other cities have moved forward with new strategies while Seattle has bogged down in process.

“Around the same time that members of this council were talking about creating a third public safety department and civilian alternatives to police, Albuquerque also started their journey. The difference between them and us is that we have two years of resolutions, workgroups, promises, talking, [and] misrepresentations [from the previous administration].”—Councilmember Andrew Lewis

“Around the same time that members of this council were talking about creating a third public safety department and civilian alternatives to police, Albuquerque also started their journey,” Councilmember Andrew Lewis said. Albuquerque, Lewis noted, has a similar budget to Seattle’s and has also seen its police department shrink from around 1,400 to fewer than 1,000 officers.

“The difference between them and us is that we have two years of resolutions, workgroups, promises, talking, [and] misrepresentations” from the previous mayoral administration, while Albuquerque stood up its new public safety department in 2021 and has diverted thousands of calls from the police department.

As we’ve reported, SPD is still in the middle of a lengthy risk analysis that is supposed to determine which kind of 911 calls are safe enough for a civilian response. That process is expected to stretch into 2024. Meanwhile, according to SPD’s latest hiring projections, the department will only grow by 18 fully trained officers in the next two years.

While transferring some low-risk work to trained civilian responders would be one way to free up SPD officers for police work and investigations, another option could be reducing the amount of overtime police burn through directing traffic and providing security for sports events, which added up to more than 91,000 hours through October of this year. Diaz didn’t seem particularly open to this suggestion, either, noting that there is always a risk of violence at large events, such as someone trying to drive through a barricade.

2.  Also on Tuesday, the city council voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to exempt many affordable housing projects from the design review process for another year—effectively signing off on the once-controversial view that design review leads to unnecessary delays that makes housing more expensive.

However, one of those “yes” votes, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, voted “no” on a separate package of amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan because they did not include “developer impact fees,” which some cities levy on housing developers to offset the toll new residents create on urban infrastructure like roads and sewers. One reason such fees are controversial is that they imply that new housing has a negative impact on the city, without considering the positive impacts (such as reduced traffic congestion, less sprawl, and more customers for local businesses) of dense, vibrant neighborhoods.

Since the city can’t pass developer impact fees until they’re included in the comprehensive plan, Sawant said, the vote to approve the amendments “means that we need to wait another year to make big developers pay for the impacts they have on our city infrastructure and for the profits they make without paying even this minimum of compensation for the city’s working people.” During the 2020 budget deliberations, Sawant joined her colleague Councilmember Alex Pedersen in seeking $350,000 for a study of impact fees; although Pedersen is generally far to the right of socialist Sawant, a shared opposition to most development frequently puts them on the same side of housing-related issues.

Low-income people and people experiencing homelessness often have to wait weeks or months before getting into residential treatment—a fact that flies in the face of calls to force more people in crisis into treatment under the state’s involuntary treatment law.

3. Pioneer Human Services, which offers treatment to low-income people with substance use disorder, is closing its 50-bed Pioneer Center North facility in Skagit County next month amid an acute regional shortage of residential treatment beds for low-income people and people seeking treatment during or after serving time in jail.

According to agency spokeswoman Nanette Sorich, there were a number of reasons for the “difficult decision,” including the fact that “the building has been operating on a short-term lease and the facility is past its useful life. Additionally, like many behavioral health providers, we have faced significant challenges with staffing and these labor force shortages have become more acute over time,” Sorich said.

The Sedro-Wooley inpatient clinic had 77 beds before the pandemic. Pioneer Human Services will now refer potential clients to its other clinics in Everett and Spokane, Sorich said.

Low-income people and people experiencing homelessness often have to wait weeks or months before getting into residential treatment—a fact that flies in the face of calls to force more people in crisis into treatment under the state’s involuntary treatment law. Since 2018, King County has lost more than 110 residential treatment beds and is now down to 244 beds countywide. A countywide levy, on the ballot next April, would restore the number of residential beds in King County to 2018 levels; the bulk of the $1.25 billion proposal would go toward five new walk-in crisis stabilization centers across the county.

10 thoughts on “Diaz <i>Almost</i> Permanent Chief; Sawant Wants Impact Fees; Another Residential Treatment Center Shuts Down”

  1. Regarding shuttering of the 50-bed treatment center run by Pioneer Human Services, investigative and public interest types should consider filing public records requests and looking up authentic single audit reviews (the full reviews), including when there 2022 fiscal year report will be due (not until fall 2023 if their FYE is 12/31/2022.

    I see signs that they lost grant funds for problematic self-caused reasons not directly related to covid.

    I interviewed for an internal control position with Pioneer Human Services in 2022 and this was also after my whistleblower termination from the City of Seattle. The job at PHS was not a rejection – it was removed – and some rando finance jobs were posted only, but not the full hybrid position of finance, budget, oversight. I’ve been in this sector a long time. The City hired me as a smokescreen to get right with the feds after a series of ever-worsening federal reviews – it was in trouble. I would learn later it also had no intention to get right with the feds. I supplied the Seattle Times in Dec 2019 with the federal subpoena to the City of Seattle. I worked in good faith for over 4 years with the City, County and state before reporting to a US OIG Office and the investigation was still active in 2022 (it began around May 2019 and was official in a fraud office and an audit office of an OIG by fall 2019).

    Learning how the hybrid governmental work in WA State works, I imagine it’s hard for them (Pioneer Human Services) not to get caught up in the same corruption. For one these types of centers have contracts with the regional municipal governments. The Mayor’s office was making us put WMBE’s on everything, including federal projects that prohibited that as part of the DBE program and as part of a violation of the Commerce Clause, and I had a project manager who constantly talked about hand shake agreements – out in the open. I can only imagine what these folks put sub-recipients and contract holders like PHS through.

  2. We need imPact fees now! Plus we need a detailed inventory of how many party, townhomes, single fam homes we have in greater Seattle and how many rentals are vacant so we dont upzones more than we have to.

    Many questions about cahoots like program but the data cited from other cities shows only a small percent of calls can be handled by them. Priority right now should be to staff up police.

  3. From the article above….

    “Like many other cities across the country, Seattle committed to creating new community-based alternatives to traditional policing amid protests against police violence in 2020; since then, other cities have moved forward with new strategies while Seattle has bogged down in process.”

    And
    “While transferring some low-risk work to trained civilian responders would be one way to free up SPD officers for police work and investigations”

    And
    “Pioneer Human Services, which offers treatment to low-income people with substance use disorder, is closing its 50-bed Pioneer Center North facility in Skagit County next month amid an acute regional shortage of residential treatment beds for low-income people and people seeking treatment during or after serving time in jail.”

    Let’s start living in reality here. First, nobody wants to join some stupid “trained civilian responder” team. Shit job nobody wants, so why even dream about it? Pioneer Human Services can’t hire drug councilors, and that’s a way better job working with the same violent, drug addled population.

    Once again, Seattle just doesn’t plan to pay for shit. Want drug treatment? Community mental health care? A working mental hospital? Move away from the Emerald City, because in the 40 years I’ve been fallowing politics there, it’s all Liberal talk with absolutely no plan to pay for it.

      1. Ah, CAHOOTS isn’t successful in Eugene. That town is completely overrun with homeless and drug fueled mental illness, worse than Seattle per capita. What do you think this “trained civilian responder” team would do? Tell people to take their meds? Ask men to quit slapping around their wives and kids? They could honestly direct traffic at Mariner’s games, but dealing with 911 calls? Hand out popsicles? Ask people to quit shoplifting?

        Unless this “trained civilian responder” team has the power to commit people to a mental ward or grant beds at a drug treatment facility, why even have them? Here’s a question for you. What is the different between the Mayor’s “Unified Care Team” that does outreach before homeless camps are bulldozed and this new “trained civilian responder” team? Different name…. still no real power to change anything…. with no underlying social service net to catch people in.

        Real change would cost billions… in housing, healthcare (starting with mental illness) and addiction treatment. It’s completely possible Seattle has a change of heart and funds these things. But after living in Seattle for decades it is more likely the government will try to slide out on the cheap. Stupid ideas like “trained civilian responders” play well to voters who want change…. but don’t want to pay for it. Seattle Socialism on the Cheap!

      2. Denver STAR progta, 2022 mid year report:

        Between January 1st, 2022 and July 1st, 2022, STAR has responded to 2,837 calls for service. The team has never had to call for back up due to a safety issue. These calls would have otherwise been dispatched to police or EMS and were more appropriately handled by a civilian team who were able to provide resource connection or crisis intervention.

        The graph shows STAR calls for service by
        problem type. The three most common calls for the
        STAR team are Welfare Check, Trespass/Unwanted
        Party, and Assist. “Assist” is a nature code that
        indicates an individual is calling 9-1-1 Communications
        requesting some type of assistance. This may be
        resource information, a courtesy ride, or other
        services.

        Between January 1st, 2022 and July 1st
        , 2022, Denver Department of Safety identified 5,891 calls that could have been handled by a fully expanded STAR Program. This data point highlights the need for further expansion and can help inform future budget requests for additional expansion as the program
        grows. STAR stakeholders will continue to use a data driven approach to inform future expansion and program operations.

    1. “First, nobody wants to join some stupid “trained civilian responder” team. Shit job nobody wants, so why even dream about it?”

      I would love this job, honestly. Deescalation and conflict resolution? Sign me up.

  4. The Growth Management Act allows impact fees for only four types of infrastructure: schools, parks, new streets and fire equipment. These are impacts of a new suburban development, not necessarily what Seattle needs (new sewers!). More than 60 municipalities surrounding Seattle use impact fees. They would be illegal under last session’s Missing Middle Housing bill which would have forbidden developer fees on new housing. Banned developer fees would apply to Seattle’s Multifamily Housing Affordability ordinance. Instead of the House Local Government Committee, the revised Missing Middle Housing bill will be assigned to new Housing committees in both the House and Senate, dominated by suburban legislators.

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