Ceis Gets Another $30,000 from City, Poll Tests Anti-Andrew Lewis Messages, Burien Site May be Too Loud for Shelter

1. Tim Ceis, the consultant who received a no-bid, $280,000 city contract to work on issues related to Sound Transit’s Ballard-to-West Seattle light rail alignment earlier this year, received a $30,000 contract extension this month, bringing his total city contract to $310,000.

Ceis’ contract involves meeting with neighborhood advocacy groups and other stakeholders to build “community consensus” around the mayor’s priorities for the light rail extension, strategizing, and advancing Harrell’s views to the Sound Transit board.

PubliCola broke the story about Ceis’ initial contract in March.

At the time, Harrell was pushing a proposal to eliminate a station in the Chinatown International District (CID) neighborhood and replace it with a second Pioneer Square Station across from City Hall, roughly where the King County Administration Building currently stands. King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed creating a towering new residential neighborhood and new civic center in the area. Sound Transit board adopted this proposal as its preferred alternative in March, but left one potential CID option on the table in response to protests from residents and businesses.

The plan to skip over the CID would add a new light rail station near Lumen Field and an existing Salvation Army shelter, amid a broad swath of land owned by developer Greg Smith. As far back as 2022, Smith’s company Urban Visions had mocked up a proposal to move the planned CID station south into SoDo, suggesting the area could turn into a new destination like Chelsea Market in New York or the food and event center in the revamped Seattle Center Armory.

Documents obtained through records requests show that Ceis, along with the city’s designated liaison to Sound Transit, has met with Smith “to discuss potential partnerships related to the proposed CID south station” on Smith’s property. He has also met with attorney Jack McCullough, who represents the developer that owns the development rights around the proposed second Pioneer Street station.

The newly amended contract says that “due to delayed Sound Transit board action,” Ceis’ work will continue through November. The board spent several weeks this summer debating whether to eliminate a promised station on Denny Way or build it on Westlake as planned; Harrell, who initially seemed to support eliminating the long-planned station on Denny, ultimately got behind a station north of the original proposed site on Westlake that will cause less disruption to Amazon and the South Lake Union developer Vulcan.

Public records show that Ceis communicates regularly with Vulcan, and facilitated a meeting between Harrell and Vulcan VP Ada Healey, who told Ceis that the original plan for a station on Westlake would “put [the city’s] economic engines at risk and “sacrific[e] our downtown neighborhoods.” A spokesman for the mayor’s office said the scope for Ceis’ $250-an-hour contract remains unchanged.

2. There’s a new poll in the field testing positive and negative messages about District 7 City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, along with positive messages about his opponent Bob Kettle—a former Navy officer who received 31.5 percent of the vote to Lewis’ 43.5 percent.

The poll, which only tests positive messages about Kettle, appears to be from the Kettle campaign. For one thing, it mischaracterizes several of Lewis’ key positions in odd ways—saying, for example, that Lewis is “working…to bring rent control to Seattle” (in fact, he voted against a rent control “trigger” law earlier this month). For another, it describes Lewis’ views in a way that no human working on his campaign would be likely to phrase them—like a question that says Lewis “believes we can make progress… if we center the work and meet the moment with the urgency it requires,” or another that talks about “electrify[ing] houses.”

The real meat of the poll—the messages voters should prepare to hear from Kettle as he runs against Lewis from the right—is more or less what you’d expect from a guy with campaign signs all over the top of Magnolia and Queen Anne: Kettle will represent District 7 neighborhoods outside downtown Seattle, crack down on “open drug use and dealing from Downtown to our neighborhoods,” and “clean up our public spaces” by removing encampments now that “we’ve finally built-up enough shelter space to offer housing to everyone.”

Quick fact check on that last point: There are currently around 6,000 shelter and transitional housing beds in all of King County—a fraction of what’s needed to serve a homeless population that could be as high as 48,000. Even under the most conservative estimates, we have not “built up enough shelter space,” much less housing, “for everyone.”

3. A potential site for a Pallet shelter in Burien could be disqualified because of extreme noise levels from nearby SeaTac Airport. The property—an empty lot next to the Boulevard Park branch of the King County Library—sits inside a “35 decibel reduction zone,” in which all “living and working areas” must be soundproofed to reduce inside noise by 35 decibels.

Pallet shelters, which are thin-walled temporary structures ventilated to the outdoors, can’t be soundproofed—a fact the Port of Seattle brought up in rejecting a proposal from the city to site the shelter inside the Port’s Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA). In both locations, the average noise level is between 60 and 70 decibels, a level SeaTac Airport’s director of environment and sustainability said was “not conducive to residential purposes, especially when it is highly unlikely that any temporary housing structures (let alone permanent structures) could be modified to attain the City of Burien’s stringent noise mitigation code.”

A spokesperson for the city of Burien did not immediately respond to questions about noise levels at the potential shelter location and how the site, which has been vacant for many years, first came to the attention of the city.

9 thoughts on “Ceis Gets Another $30,000 from City, Poll Tests Anti-Andrew Lewis Messages, Burien Site May be Too Loud for Shelter”

  1. So Tim Ceis gets another $30,000 of taxpayers’ money, thus proving once more that Mayor Harrell’s ideas have no merit on their own. It they did, his fellow Sound Transit board members and community groups wouldn’t need to be lobbied to his point of view. Thanks, ProPublica, for exposing these backroom deals!

  2. The fact is the majority of shelter beds are empty every night because homeless refuse to accept them. They use excuses like their stuff will get stolen even though many shelters offer locking storage and their homeless tents get stuff stolen too. We need to get tough. Offer shelter seven times and keep track of who it’s offered to with by name list. If not taken after 7 times you are trespassed from camping anywhere in Seattle. Your stuff will be immediately removed and not stored – RV immediately towed and not stored and if you don’t leave you go to jail. Your given another chance in jail to accept treatment, live with a family member in a home after treatment is proven to court. Don’t accept it’s at least 6 months in jail.

  3. Lewis has flip flopped on so many issues and been unresponsive to emails from the community. Not even acknowledging receiving it with a canned response and the drug dealing and open air use brings crimes like assaults, shootings, robberies. All of which are up in Belltown and Downtown and what’s Lewis done nothing. He lost my vote I hope he is a one term council member.

  4. Why put up those Pallet plastic boxes that cost $7 or $8K when you can get tiny houses for about $4.5K built in SODO by volunteers? The homes are fully insulated and are quiet inside. Last I spoke with Sound Foundations NW, they had a bunch of them sitting in a yard and have capacity to build more starting today for anyone in Puget Sound who needs them.

    1. Exactly – save taxpayers some dough. Also require noore tiny home villages or homeless housing is built until homeless social workers start offering congregate shelter again. It should count as shelter and be filled each night.

  5. The “48,000 potential homeless” number is a Marc Dones fallacy based on projections and guesses, not actual people who are homeless. In that projection, Dones extrapolated all those who *might* be sleeping on the couches of friends, and those currently IN shelters, supported living apartments, and tiny homes. The number of UNSHELTERED homeless – those in tents and sleeping in doorways – is much closer to the 6,000 number. And while the unsheltered homeless numbers have gone up since the beginning of the pandemic, they have not risen, by percentage, much more than the total population of Seattle has increased.

    @ Tim Ceis, once again, it’s all about what developers want. Greg Smith has been sucking at the teat of government for decades, with his promises to do good things (remember the maintenance garage for the old Waterfront street cars?) that simply don’t pan out. At least Vulcan is aware that the Harrell Administration’s plans for the north part of downtown could cause great harm. Whoda thought?

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