Today the Mayors of Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, Canada signed a Memorandum of Cooperation committing to work together in growing their respective cities’ resilience to the challenges of climate change, seismic risks, affordable housing, and aging infrastructure.
The cities of Seattle and Vancouver share many similarities—including geography, economy, and a deep commitment to sustainability. Both cities have also recently been selected to join 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, and will soon be hiring Chief Resilience Officers to lead their efforts to ensure Seattle and Vancouver will be well prepared for the physical, social, and economic challenges of the 21st century.
“The challenges of addressing deeply complex issues like climate change, aging infrastructure, affordable housing, and inequity are better met when working in partnership,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel to come up with solutions, we are partnering to share lessons learned, support one another on our resilience journeys, and solve problems together.”
Vancouver and Seattle are economic leaders built on innovation, diversity, inclusion and a commitment to sustainability,” says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “I’m looking forward to building on our strong partnership with Seattle to deepen our collaboration and drive progress toward stronger resilience, tackling climate change, housing affordability, social connectedness and emergency preparedness. Vancouver and Seattle will be stronger for supporting each other as we build healthy, liveable and sustainable cities.”
With the number of people living in urban areas rapidly increasing, the 100RC Network was established by The Rockefeller Foundation to help cities prepare for the impacts of urbanization, globalization, and climate change. As members of the 100RC Network, Seattle and Vancouver gain access to funding that will allow each city to hire a Chief Resilience Officer to lead their respective resilience building efforts along with additional tools and technical expertise to help them become more resilient to physical, social and economic challenges.
“The regional collaboration forged in this MOU is an impressive step for two of the newest members of the 100 Resilient Cities global network,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities.“We look forward to working with both Mayor Murray and Mayor Robertson — along with their soon-to-be-named Chief Resilience Officers — as the cities forge new approaches to managing risk and opportunity in their cities, and use their work to catalyze a regional commitment to urban resilience.”
On September 7, the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment released the 2014 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. A greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory is an accounting of the climate change pollution generated in the city over a specific period of time. This is Seattle’s fourth GHG report and the second since adopting the Seattle Climate Action Plan in 2013.
“Greenhouse gas inventories are a critical tool to tell us if we are on track to meet our climate goals,” said Jessica Finn Coven, director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment. “This most recent report shows that we can grow our economy while we reduce our climate pollution. That is excellent news.”
Seattle’s climate goals—as identified in the 2013 Seattle Climate Action Plan—are to reduce emissions 58% by 2030 and ultimately become a carbon neutral city by 2050. The Plan lays out a suite of strategies to reduce emissions in the sectors where local government has the most influence—road transportation, building energy, and waste.
While Seattle’s 2014 GHG inventory shows encouraging signs, it also demonstrates that there is more work to do. Changes in emissions between 2008 and 2014 include:
- Total GHGs from Seattle’s core emissions sources declined 6%. During the same time period population grew by 13% and per person emissions decreased 17%.
- Total road transportation emissions declined 2% due to a combination of more fuel-efficient vehicles and fewer miles travelled per resident.
- Total Building energy emissions declined 13% as a result of increased energy efficiency, more multi-family living, and warmer weather that reduced heating needs.
The sobering reality is that while our progress is positive, we are not currently on pace to meet our 2030 climate goals. We know we must scale up the pace of our emissions reductions and we have already taken steps to make that happen.
Seattle has recently launched several initiatives in our transportation and energy sectors aimed at putting us on track towards meeting our climate goals. Those initiatives include:
- Drive Clean Seattle: A comprehensive strategy to transition our transportation sector, including passenger cars, trucks, transit and maritime transportation, from polluting fossil fuels to clean, carbon-neutral electricity.
- Move Seattle: A suite of investments in transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure and service that will continue to reduce the overall vehicle miles traveled in Seattle.
- Building Energy Transparency: Updated Seattle’s existing energy benchmarking law to include public transparency of building energy performance to spur market demand for energy efficiency.
- Building Tune-Ups: Passed legislation phasing in a periodic tune-up requirement for large commercial buildings beginning in 2018. Tune-ups will optimize energy and water performance and encourage active management in Seattle’s commercial buildings.
- 2015 Energy Code: The proposed 2015 Energy Code (commercial) would increase the efficiency of new construction and substantial alternations of existing buildings, and includes a provision that would help drive use of efficient carbon neutral heat pumps instead of natural gas or inefficient electric resistance heating.
“We know more needs to be done to achieve our ambitious climate goals and we are committed to taking the necessary steps,” said Finn Coven.
In Seattle’s ongoing commitment to foster energy efficiency, the City passed a Building Tune-Ups ordinance earlier this year. The Building Tune-Ups ordinance phases in a periodic tune-up requirement for commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger, beginning in 2018.
What’s Happening Now
City staff are working to develop a Director’s Rule that will further detail compliance specifications. This week, staff are completing the last of six meetings with a technical working group which is advising on details of a Director’s Rule, The Rule is anticipated to be released for public comment in late September. An Open House to learn about the rule and provide input will be scheduled two weeks after release, in early October.
OSE is hosting a public meeting to seek input for the Director’s Rule on Tuesday, September 13th, 8:30-10 am at the Smart Buildings Center, 1200 12th Avenue S. RSVP to: email@example.com
Simple operational changes can yield big savings, and tune-ups are expected to generate 10-15% energy savings for a building, on average. The Tune-Up legislation is a key piece of Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, our roadmap to achieving carbon-neutrality, by helping ensure buildings don’t use energy and water wastefully. Reducing energy and water waste helps the City save resources and move toward its goals to reduce carbon pollution.
Read our FAQ page for more information on the Building Tune-Up policy.
In June, the Office of Sustainability & Environment launched a new program to align and coordinate place-based efforts and investments in the Duwamish Valley. Seattle’s Duwamish Valley boasts a diversity of cultures and a strong sense of identity but also faces social, racial, health, environmental, and economic challenges at a magnitude far greater than the Seattle community as a whole.
The overarching goals for the Duwamish Valley Program are to advance environmental justice, address racial and neighborhood-level disparities, reduce health inequities, and create stronger economic pathways and opportunities. This program is a key strategy for advancing many of goals and recommendations of the Equity & Environment Agenda, Seattle’s environmental justice action plan.
Internally, the program will work closely with key City departments to deliver coordinated investments that address City and community priorities such as: reducing health impacts from toxics and pollution; infrastructure improvements; increased mobility; increase access to parks and nature, anti-displacement; and greater economic opportunity. Externally, the program will build strong partnerships in the community and with other agencies to support collective action across many partners and sectors.
OSE conducted an extensive search to find the right person to lead this environmental justice work and serve as the Duwamish Valley Advisor. Alberto J. Rodríguez previously worked as the Environmental and Community Health Programs Manager of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/TAG and was previously appointed by Mayor Murray to the Community Partners Steering Committee, which guided the development of the Equity & Environment Agenda. The combination of his skills, experience, passion, and community connections made him the ideal candidate for this position.
Originally from Honduras, Alberto moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2010 after getting his degree in Biology and working on several environmental conservation and research projects in Honduras and Guatemala. In the U.S., his work has focused on community-led environmental conservation and meaningful community engagement, with an emphasis in advancing environmental justice and health equity. His inclusive and unconventional community engagement and environmental conservation work has been featured at several local, national, and international conferences and recognized by the Sustainable Path Foundation, International River Foundation, and International Water Centre Alumni Network. Alberto is a volunteer and member of the Leadership Team of the Seattle Chapter of the Environmental Professionals of Color (EPOC) as well as an Executive Committee member of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Seattle continues to lead the nation in buildings reporting energy use – this year more than 3,250 reported (99% of buildings required). But benchmarking is only the first step. Learning from the data and taking action are critical to energy savings—and a host of other benefits—like tenant satisfaction and marketability that help keep existing buildings profitable in Seattle’s surging real estate market.
These “beyond benchmarking” actions are supported by Seattle’s Benchmarking Transparency Policy to make the collected data publicly available. This summer OSE heard from property owners, managers and vendors via three roundtable meetings. The attendees discussed proposed rule changes and explored data visualization websites from other benchmarking cities like Philadelphia and Chicago. The input will support the development of a draft Director’s Rule that is being prepared this summer.
To further engage office and multifamily building owners and thank them for benchmarking, OSE sends customized reports that show how their building’s energy use compares to similar Seattle buildings. The reports estimate cost savings by reducing the building’s energy use to the Seattle “average” or a “top performer” and feature opportunities like utility rebates, workshops and recognition programs. (View a sample) These reports will be shared again this fall and expanded to more building types. Owners of other building types can see how their building stacks up to others in Seattle using the Energy Benchmarking Dashboard.
As one multifamily manager said last year, “I knew this building was using a lot of energy, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I saw it was ranked one of the worst on the performance profile.” This knowledge validated her recent decision to update a boiler on the property—demonstrating exactly how Seattle is hoping to leverage the benchmarking data from information to action.
Fresh Bucks Rx emphasizes connection between health and diet
The City of Seattle—along with Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, Harborview Medical Center, and Seattle and King County farmers markets and farm stands—has launched Fresh Bucks Rx, a program aimed at improving health outcomes for low-income patients with diet-related disease.
Fresh Bucks Rx builds on Seattle’s successful Fresh Bucks food access program which provides a dollar-for-dollar match—up to $10 per day—of SNAP (food stamp) benefits spent at participating farmers markets. The Rx refers to the fact that participating health care providers can “prescribe” fruits and vegetables to their patients and give them a voucher to redeem at farmers markets or farm stands.
“The success and growth of the Fresh Bucks program has clearly demonstrated that healthy, local food is important to our residents with low-incomes,” said Jessica Finn Coven, Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. “We continue to look for ways to foster better health outcomes in our community and are pleased to pursue another opportunity to achieve this goal.”
Recognizing that food insecurity and lack of access to healthy food is a key factor in diet-related diseases, but that food isn’t currently covered as “medicine” in our health care system, Fresh Bucks Rx helps build healthy food access into health care visits. It provides an entrance point for medical providers to talk with patients about nutrition and food insecurity, along with actual support for families to buy healthy food—in the form of Fresh Bucks vouchers.
“As physicians, our job is to help people get healthier. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the key actions a person can take to improve their physical and mental health,” said Dr. Ben Danielson, Medical Director, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. “As a doctor, I am thrilled that I can now prescribe better nutrition and feel confident I am giving my patients an avenue to achieve that.”
Food insecurity is a real and growing problem for many in Seattle and affects many communities of color disproportionately. Data released last year showed that that Hispanic adults were impacted almost three times more than white or Asian adults; multiracial, black and Native American/Alaska Native adults also experienced food hardship at disproportionate rates. Studies have also shown that people living in food insecure households reduce, skip, delay or use lower-cost medications to compensate for lack of household resources to purchase food.
“The Fresh Bucks Rx program addresses such a critical need in our community,” said Lottie Cross, Director of Clean Greens Farm and Market. “Not only does it help keep individuals healthy, it helps keep our community healthy by supporting local farmers and organizations. We’re so happy to be able to serve people through this program.”
The Fresh Bucks Rx program is funded by a federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-70018-23357. The Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment is the King County lead for this 4-year, statewide grant that was awarded to Washington State Department of Health in 2015.
As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to cut energy waste in the nation’s buildings and double energy productivity by 2030, the Energy Department recently announced $14 million to dramatically increase the efficiency of our nation’s homes and buildings. The City of Seattle was one of six award recipients.
The Department of Energy will provide $1.3 million to the City to develop and implement a three year program to support the roll-out of the City’s mandatory tune-up requirement. The Office of Sustainability & Environment, with Seattle City Light, the Smart Buildings Center, UW’s Integrated Design Lab, and the Pacific Northwest National Labs will engage with building owners, managers and vendors to develop market expertise and accelerate the voluntary implementation of energy efficiency improvements in Seattle’s small and medium commercial building stock – buildings that will be subject to mandatory tune-ups beginning in 2020. The partners are providing $2.4 million in matching funds over the three years, with Seattle City Light contributing the majority of that for building audit and conservation incentives, for a total program budget of $3.8 million.
Seattle’s was recently selected into a global network of cities building urban resilience as part of the 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC). Through the partnership, Seattle will soon hire its first-ever Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), to lead the city’s efforts to build a citywide Resilience Strategy – with support from 100RC on its creation and implementation.
Selection for the 100RC Network was highly competitive. Seattle was one of only 37 cities chosen from more than 325 applicants on the basis of their willingness, ability, and need to prepare for future challenges.
“We are honored to be selected to join this important network of cities from across the globe and we look forward to partnering with 100 Resilient Cities to develop creative solutions to some of our biggest challenges including natural disasters, climate change, and inequity,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “This funding, partnership, and global network will help us address the disproportionate risks for Seattle’s communities of color and residents with lower incomes, a key action of our Equity & Environmental Initiative.”
Last July we started a citywide conversation about housing affordability and livability in our city. There has already been much progress to advance the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). We’ve turned surplus property into more affordable housing, renewed and expanded the multifamily property tax exemption for affordable housing, and strengthened tenant relocation assistance. Seattle’s City Council is currently considering legislation on several important policies to expand tenant protections and require that new commercial and multifamily development contribute to affordable housing through a mandatory housing affordability program (MHA).
We need to hear from you! On Tuesday June 21 City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee (9:30 am) will hold a public hearing on the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) proposal—one of the newest ideas to come out of HALA. For the first time, MHA would require new affordable units with development and enable our community to harness growth to produce more affordable housing.
For HALA updates, visit http://www.seattle.gov/hala.
Be sure to check out HALA Consider It, where you can share thoughts on key HALA policies.