Tag Archives: Seattle Public Utilities

Tough on crime: Seattle threatens property owners who post signs to deter homeless RV parking

The signs are a “public nuisance.”

From KIRO: Seattle business owners say they are plagued by issues with homeless people living in RVs parked by their businesses and the city is going after them for trying to do something about it.  

KIRO 7 got copies of letters from SDOT to multiple property owners saying the “no-parking” signs posted on their buildings are a “public nuisance.”

“If you can’t laugh at that right now when our city is in an absolute state of crisis,” Ballard property owner Erika Nagy told KIRO 7 on Friday. “And this is the stuff they’re going after, this is the stuff they’re prioritizing.”

Nagy says in the past, it has taken weeks for the city do anything about issues with homeless cars and RVs impacting businesses that lease on her property.

The letters from Seattle DOT came from the Curb Space Management division. They say the property owners must take down the no-parking signs on their building because part of the area where people park is in the city’s right-of-way. The letter cites Seattle Municipal Code, Sections 11.50.520, 11.50.540 and 11.50.560, which say they signs are a “public nuisance.”

Ari Hoffman said he put up the signs at properties he owns in SODO because of trash and crime that come with the RVs, including one that parked there Wednesday.

“We went over to him and said, ‘Move, you’re not parking here, move,’” Hoffman told KIRO 7. “And he said, ‘I make more money selling drugs than you guys will ever see in a lifetime.’”

The warning from SDOT says if the property owners don’t remove the signs, the city will remove them and charge the property owner for any costs.

The city and Seattle Public Utilities launched the RV Trash Remediation Pilot program in May. KIRO 7 has told you how they’ve done more than 25 cleanups in SODO to clear out RVs and clean up their trash.

Property owners told KIRO 7 on Friday they’re still dealing with issues daily, and both Nagy and Hoffman plan to keep their no-parking signs up.

“You want them down, you come down and cite me,” Hoffman said. “And then we’ll file a class-action lawsuit for everything that’s going on around here. If you want to call this a public nuisance, what do you call the RVs, what do you call the drug-dealing, the prostitution, the damage, the vandalism? But this is a public nuisance, this little sign here?”

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Seattle’s new billing system at least $34M over budget, a year late

How progressive.

Tax dollars at work...

Tax dollars at work…

Via Seattle Times: Seattle’s new billing system for its public-utilities customers will launch a year or more behind schedule and cost at least $34 million more than initially projected.
The project to build a new billing and information system for Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities — approved by then-Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council in 2012 — was initially budgeted at $66 million, the utilities said Thursday.
The system was scheduled to launch in October, but changes in the project’s scope led the City Council in November to approve a revised budget of $85 million with an April launch, City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen said. The changes were related to identity protection for customers, regulatory requirements and testing, Thomsen said.
The launch is now being postponed again to allow for even more testing, which will cost an additional $3 million to $4 million per month, Public Utilities spokesman Andy Ryan said.
The updated schedule calls for the system to launch this fall, meaning the price tag for the project will grow to more than $100 million, Ryan said.
The postponement won’t change the current rates for electricity, water and waste-collection customers because City Light and Public Utilities will use savings from their other capital projects to balance their existing budgets, Thomsen and Ryan said Thursday.
But when asked for the maximum the project could cost, they declined to specify. City officials described their decision to conduct more testing as a prudent step, citing problems utilities in other cities had in launching new billing systems.
Billing errors after a 2013 launch have cost Los Angeles’ water utility $181 million, with a state audit blaming the city for implementing it too quickly, City Light and Public Utilities said. “We’ve seen what has happened elsewhere when a billing system is rushed into use,” City Light General Manager Larry Weis said in a statement. “We cannot afford to make that mistake. We’re going to take the time that’s necessary to do this right.”
Councilmember Lisa Herbold said Thursday she wants to work with other council members to create a new oversight and accountability mechanism for the city’s major capital projects. The District 1 representative said she plans to request an “after-action” report on the billing-system project “outlining both lessons learned and best practices.”
The new system will replace 15-year-old technology, City Light and Public Utilities said. It will process about 5.5 million bills and collect about $1.8 billion in revenue each year.

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Seattle bans throwing food and food waste in trash

I’m a recycler since my undergraduate student days, long before curbside recycling pickups were instituted. In every city I’d lived in, I would haul my paper, metal, and plastic to for-profit recycling businesses in the grungy industrial part of town.
But I would never support a mandatory and punitive recycling policy as Seattle’s because I fear an expansive all-powerful government more.
green Nazis
Elizabeth Harrington reports for the Washington Examiner, Jan. 6, 2014:
Seattle residents can no longer throw food away in their garbage due to a new law that went into effect Jan. 1.
Families can be fined $1 on their garbage bill for putting “food-contaminated cardboard” in their trashcan, as a result of the compost mandate.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal to throw food and food waste in the trash in Seattle, when a new ban takes effect to increase recycling and composting in the city.
Currently, Seattle residents are allowed to throw food and food waste – pizza boxes, dirty napkins, soiled paper towels – in the garbage. Residents are required to have a food and yard waste collection service, but they don’t have to use it for food. (Backyard composters are exempt from that requirement.)
Similarly, multi-family building owners are required to provide a compost collection service for residents, but residents don’t have to use it.
But on Jan. 1, Seattle will ban food and food waste in trash.

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will begin issuing $1 fines when enforcement begins in July if more than 10% of a family’s trash is food. Property managers and businesses will face $50 fines.
The “composting requirement ordinance” will not just prohibit food from the garbage, but also “food-contaminated cardboard, paper napkins, and paper towels.”
The city joined Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco, and New York City, which already have food waste laws.
Seattle residents are on board with the nanny state as 74% supported the measure, and only 11% opposed.

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Seattle OKs $1 fine for adding too much food to garbage bins

Seattle Times: The Seattle City Council passed a new ordinance Monday that could mean $1 fines for people who toss too many table scraps into the trash.
Under current Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) rules, people living in single-family homes are encouraged but not required to dispose of food waste and compostable paper products in compost bins. Apartment buildings must have compost bins available, but residents of apartment buildings aren’t required to use them. And businesses aren’t subject to any composting requirements.
Under the new rules, collectors can take a cursory look each time they dump trash into a garbage truck. If they see compostable items make up 10 percent or more of the trash, they’ll enter the violation into a computer system their trucks already carry, and will leave a ticket on the garbage bin that says to expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.
Apartment buildings and businesses will be subject to the same 10 percent threshold but will get two warnings before they are fined. A third violation will result in a $50 fine. Dumpsters there will be checked by inspectors on a random basis.
Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins and dumpsters with educational tickets starting Jan. 1 when they find violations. But fines won’t start until July 1. SPU doesn’t expect to collect many fines, says Tim Croll, the agency’s solid-waste director.
The city outlawed recyclable items from the trash nine years ago, but SPU has collected less than $2,000 in fines since then, Croll says. “The point isn’t to raise revenue,” he said. “We care more about reminding people to separate their materials.”
SPU asked the council to consider the new ordinance because the agency is falling short of its recycling and composting goals. Seattle’s recycling rate for 2013 was 56 percent, a slight improvement over 2012 but not on pace to meet SPU’s goal of 60 percent for 2015.



“Our growth rate for recycling has stalled,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who sponsored the legislation. “It’s surprising, but we still send 300,000 tons of garbage every year to a landfill in eastern Oregon. I think we can do a lot better than that,” Bagshaw said.
SPU estimates the new law will generate 38,000 tons in additional compost annually.
Collectors already check garbage bins at single-family homes for recyclable items. When they find too many glass or plastic items, they leave the bins with a tag asking the resident to remove the items.
The council vote to pass the new composting measure was a unanimous 9-to-0. No public hearing was required.
Just how do they plan to enforce this? Are they going to tear open all of the trash bags to see if there is too much food in them? How will the collectors accurately calculate the 10%?  What will stop people from putting the compostables at the bottom of the bin and covering them up with non-compostables?
If someone challenges the fine, how does the city prove its case?  Will garbage collectors be taking photos and writing up reports about violators?   If so, at what cost?
Sounds like garbage collectors are about to get a lot busier.

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