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#FreshStart on Climate Action Plan

Seattle Needs a #FreshStart on Climate

The climate crisis is no longer something we have the luxury of trying to avoid in the future; it is already upon us. Wildfire smoke chokes our skies and our lungs, torrential rains in the winter flood our homes, and the pollution from dirty energy production ravages the health of people of all ages in our frontline communities.

We can address and prevent an immense amount of tragedy, and every day presents a new chance to make progress in this fight. We can build a more just, equitable, and sustainable city where we all prosper from the investments needed to decarbonize our economy and avert the worst of this crisis. 

But with Seattle’s emissions currently rising, the last ten years of city leadership on this issue represent a real failure that we cannot afford to repeat any longer. Our leaders have received no shortage of credible warnings about these consequences from scientists, community activists, and policy experts.

It’s time for a #FreshStart on Climate and a renewed sense of urgency to enact transformative policies and build the critical infrastructure equal to the scale of the crisis we face. The stakes could not be higher, but we know what it takes to reduce climate emissions: thriving, walkable neighborhoods centered around transit, investments in vulnerable communities who have borne the brunt of the health and economic impacts of a changing climate, clean zero-emission buildings, and a decarbonized energy sector.

As mayor, I’ll provide the leadership necessary to get Seattle back on track to meet our climate goals and put in place policies to reach zero net emissions by 2030. But I will not be able to solve this problem single-handedly – just as this policy agenda was developed in collaboration with community activists and civic leaders, we will need the entire city of Seattle to come together in a shared commitment to decarbonizing our economy. It is my commitment to work collaboratively with the diversity of communities across the city, Tribes, large and small businesses, unions, financial institutions, academia, philanthropies, the nonprofit sector, and regional, state and federal partners to implement this plan.  Our history in this city shows that with a sense of common purpose we can successfully tackle our biggest obstacles. 

The policy agenda outlined below is ambitious, but it is more than simple aspiration — it represents a commitment to enact comprehensive solutions that will actually solve the problems we face. I believe we can accomplish this agenda, because I’ve spent my entire career working on enormous challenges. As Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition, as a state legislator and at Civic Ventures I’ve fought successfully to get in place billions in public investments that will truly allow us to reduce climate emissions – transit, walking, biking and trip reduction, housing around transit, and habitat preservation. 

Let’s dedicate ourselves to meeting our climate goals so that our kids will grow up and live in a world with a climate that still works – where food production is still reliable, weather patterns are reasonably predictable, and major sea level rise is held at bay. We can do this, but more importantly we must do this. Continued failure is simply no longer an option.

Sections of Jessyn’s #FreshStart on Climate Action Plan:

Environmental Justice

Transportation

ST3 for Housing

Building for the Future

Healthy Economy

Climate Resilience

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Environmental Justice

The impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt, and disproportionately so in communities of color. We must ensure that our policy development, strategic goals, and funding are addressing the inherent disproportionality of the climate crisis. Communities of color and tribal representation, and the implementation of racial equity analysis must be more than symbolic. They must have real authority to hold city agencies, departments, the Mayor, and council accountable to our stated objectives. 

This means we need to:

    • Pass a city–level Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act: A real commitment to environmental justice means incorporating it in all the City’s policymaking, which is why we need a city-level version of WA State’s HEAL Act developed by environmental justice advocates. This includes defining environmental justice in city law, requiring all city departments apply the environmental justice definition to avoid disproportionate impacts before taking significant actions, empowering Seattle’s Environmental Justice Committee & Green New Deal Oversight Board to hold departments accountable to environmental justice goals, and expanding the Environmental Justice fund from its $250,000 budget to a $10 million budget so it can better fund community programs.

    • Use the Washington Department of Health’s Environmental Health Disparities Map: We should be maximizing every opportunity to reverse decades of discriminatory exclusion from public investment. To ensure no one is left out of our drive for restorative justice in designing climate policy, the City must develop plans for every neighborhood in Seattle to be rated low risk by 2035. We will also require an environmental justice assessment for all current and historic environmental legislation to ensure they are in compliance with these goals. While these plans will address the need for critical infrastructure investments, we know that when City investments are made in neighborhoods, displacement often follows, so plans will require clear anti-displacement strategies, targets, and dedicated funding.

    • Chief Climate and Environmental Justice Officer: I will establish a Chief Climate and Environmental Justice Officer with the rank of Deputy Mayor to drive the execution of our bold climate commitments across the City of Seattle. The position will have the mandate to work across City departments from housing to transportation, public utilities, and economic development to execute policies that will make Seattle the national leader among major urban centers. This role will ensure we achieve net zero and invest in the most impacted communities. The position will report directly to the Mayor and will elevate the mandate of the City’s existing Office of Sustainability and Environment alongside our new environmental justice commitments. I am committed to ensuring the first Chief Climate and Environmental Justice Officer is from a community feeling the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis and has the lived experience to ensure our city is living up to its commitments on race and equity. 

Transportation

Transportation causes 58% of Seattle’s emissions — the largest single contributor to climate change. We need a Seattle transportation system that provides people with safe, reliable, affordable and climate-friendly travel choices. Whether it be by foot, transit, bike, or car, we should spend less time traveling and more time where we want to be. While in recent years Seattle has been successfully reducing vehicle travel, we can do better. We will connect communities to each other and to more opportunities with clean, reliable and convenient buses and trains, and through walking and biking options. This starts with integrating transportation and land-use, recognizing the best and most sustainable transportation system is one where you live close to where you need to get to. 

Transportation is much more than commutes, and the cars people drive. We’re already seeing the electric buses, ferries, and light rail carrying people to work and school in our region. To ensure that the air is clean in all Seattle neighborhoods, we must also ensure that packages people order online are delivered in clean, electric vehicles and the ships at port are plugged-in, to reduce emissions from diesel exhaust in Seattle’s port-adjacent communities. We can also make it easier for those who need to drive for their jobs (like construction workers, delivery truck drivers and domestic workers) to get access to electric vehicles, and make it easier and cheaper for people to explore using e-bikes. We must ensure the climate friendly transportation choices are also the safest, most convenient, most affordable and are inherently the most equitable option for the community. If we do that, these choices can also be the most enjoyable.

This means we need to:

  1. Put Safety First: The most climate-friendly trip is on foot or by bike. However, in the past two years transportation-related injuries and deaths increased even while our miles traveled decreased. Data shows that people with disabilities, and from communities of color are disproportionately injured or killed in pedestrian and biking incidents. No one should die or be seriously injured in a transportation-related crash in our city, especially our children, people with disabilities, and older adults. We must prioritize transportation spending by prioritizing our most vulnerable users. As mayor, I will focus on families with safe routes to every school and park, including sidewalks, safe crossings and protected bicycle investments. We will designate more than 100 miles of Stay Healthy Streets and accelerate completion of the Bike Master Plan.

  2. Center Equity: For too long in our city, the communities and households most impacted by environmental injustice and most burdened by cost have had the least access to safe, convenient transportation choices. We will bring special emphasis to projects in South Seattle around MLK, Rainier Ave, and Beacon Ave where communities of color have been asking for safe transportation routes due to disproportionately high fatalities and injuriesAs we look to become a global leader in reducing carbon–emissions we must center communities that have been traditionally left out of the conversation. This starts by asserting that what is good for BIPOC communities, people with disabilities, and other disproportionately impacted communities IS what is good for the climate and everyone in our city. I will ensure everyone has access to fresh food within a 20-minute walk, bike ride, or transit ride, and I will ensure no household has to spend more than 40 percent of their income on housing and mobility. I will expand upon the Race and Social Justice Initiative and Transportation Equity work to center equity in every investment decision.

  3. Expand Car-Less Options: We will reduce our personal carbon footprints and expand transportation equity by creating more options to travel carbon-free.  As mayor I will build a transit system that connects our communities with frequent, reliable bus and rail service. We will build-out a network of 100 miles of bus-only lanes and we’ll partner to accelerate light rail expansion in our city.  More than 25% of all trips are less than a mile and we will ensure these trips are easy, safe and enjoyable with non-vehicle travel, and that housing is affordable near transit. And to help ensure this is done equitably, I’ll convene a community-wide group to create recommendations for solutions such as Free Transit service.

  4. Lead the Transition to Zero-Emission Vehicles: We know we need to increase the use of electric bikes, cars, trucks, buses and trains to meet our climate goals. As mayor I will help accelerate this transition to EVs with initiatives such as carbon-free delivery zones and incentives for Lyft, Uber and Taxi vehicles. I will ensure everyone in Seattle has convenient and affordable access to an electric bike or scooter, and we will leverage federal EV investments to move toward a vision of public vehicle charging within ¼ of our homes. We will make owning an EV affordable for those who need them most.

  5. Get Serious about the Data: We can spend our time setting “targets” or we can get real about implementing policy. Seattle should know exactly how much of a carbon reduction we would get from red-bus-only lanes on major arterials, and how much carbon reduction would come from a fully built out bicycle network, and what benefit we would see from densifying near transit. Understanding the baseline, we should implement the policies, knowing that there is not one silver-bullet to reducing greenhouse gases in transportation. After the policies are implemented, we should continue measuring the results and seek new innovations until the standing targets are met.

  6. Zero–Emission Districts: Zero–Emission Districts reduce noise pollution and create more space for people to enjoy neighborhood businesses and connect with their community. They are a critical step to creating a city that is accessible to everyone.  By implementing 100 miles of permanent Stay Healthy Streets and establishing new Zero–Emission Districts, Seattle will be a national model for reducing climate emissions from transportation.  

ST3 for Housing

A history of segregation and displacement has led to disparities in access to education, living wage employment, affordable housing, and transportation, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. This history means that White family wealth is nearly ten times that of Black family wealth. Over time these factors have put pressure on, marginalized, and displaced many from these same communities. Relatedly, the failure to make adequate provision for low-income and middle-income housing pushes many families and individuals to seek housing further away from work, which leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Providing for more low-income and middle-income housing around transit and near job centers is a crucial strategy in attaining our climate emissions reduction goals.

To truly make this a city where people and families can afford to live, rectify the racial injustices of the past, and reduce climate emissions we need ST3 for Housing. This is a scaled, regional approach to land use decisions, infrastructure, and financial mechanisms built on the idea that housing stability is a necessity for a thriving, prosperous, climate-conscious community with a crucial priority to aggressively and intentionally close the racial wealth gap.

Seattle will lead and model this new approach while actively working with partner jurisdictions around the region and the legislature to develop and implement a scaled regional strategy. We will commit to building 70,000 new units of diverse housing types with a robust mix of affordability.

This means we need to:

  1. Identify a Community Vision and Implement Transit Station-Area planning: We will work with communities to identify a vision around transit stations and centers that includes specific strategies connected to funding to minimize displacement of low-income and historically marginalized communities. Those strategies will take inventory of available land and set ownership goals for historically marginalized communities and specific programs to foster homeownership (such as community land trusts, equitable co-ops and affordability financing mechanisms). The plan will include strategies to build a robust mix of affordable and market rate housing within walking distance of public transportation and a variety of housing types ranging from mixed-use buildings with apartments and condominiums to townhouses, Accessory Dwelling Units, and options for family friendly units. We’ll reform design review, streamline permitting, and focus regulations on our shared values of affordability, equity and environmental stewardship — and that means ending exclusionary zoning.

  2. Speed Up Housing Production: Working closely with community, nonprofit and for-profit developers and community land trusts, we will coordinate public and private financing and access Federal, State and local dollars to fund to implement community vision and transit station area plans. The City has a role to play by acquiring, assembling, leasing or landbanking parcels to be developed into affordable housing. As mayor, I’ll work with private and public sector partners to offer financing and subsidies for affordable housing development and access to infrastructure funds to assist with infrastructure costs. We will also develop a local program that offers homeowners a combination of financing, design, permitting, or construction support to build accessory dwelling units, conditioned on a requirement to provide the unit for affordable home ownership.

  3. Create Complete Communities: None of this will be possible unless we use progressive revenue to fund infrastructure investments to create complete communities with walkable streets, open spaces, child care facilities and other amenities. As mayor, I’ll make sure the City provides and encourages development of employment opportunities near transit stations and work to enhance transit station access to reduce car dependency. Throughout this process, we’ll provide supports for existing small, and locally-owned businesses to operate through access closures and infrastructure development. Finally, the City will connect residents to job training and other workforce development opportunities via transit and active transportation. 

Building for the Future

Buildings and construction account for 37% of carbon emissions. As Seattle leads the nation in new downtown construction nearly every year, we have an opportunity to set the national standard for sustainable building and cut down on substantial climate impacts. Our focus is not just on the energy efficiency of buildings, but the phasing out of fossil fuels, and ensuring economic benefits are equitably accrued by Black, Indigenous and other people of color communities.  

This means we need to:

  1. Build Inter–Generational Wealth: White owned businesses have nearly 11x the net value of black owned businesses. As Mayor, I will fight to legalize affirmative action and ensure new city projects hire Black, Indigenous, and other people of color owned businesses for construction contracts relating to green buildings. In addition, I will propose a Youth Jobs Guarantee based on the expansion of apprenticeships, internships, and technical sector jobs related to new infrastructure and retrofitting buildings to expand community capacity and expertise in this sector.

  2. Set rigorous building standards for commercial buildings and expand to residential: Update Seattle’s Building Code to follow international standards for reducing total life cycle carbon emissions for new developments. These standards include not just energy efficient commercial buildings, but low–carbon materials and construction. We will require existing buildings, when applying for renovation permits or at time of sale, to undergo an energy audit and complete all energy improvements to meet these new standards. I will advocate for expanding Seattle’s authority to include residential codes as well, which accounts for 20% of emissions in Seattle.

  3. Phase Out Use of Fossil Fuels: The simple reality is that fossil fuels are dangerous not just to our planet, but to our health. Children that live in homes with indoor gas appliances experience a 42% higher risk of developing childhood asthma. Ending our reliance on fossil fuels is essential. We must ensure that all new buildings in Seattle are built 100% clean from day one, by relying on our affordable, abundant and carbon neutral electricity for space and water heating. Similarly, we must accelerate Seattle’s heating oil plan to reach zero by 2025, by increasing the heating oil distributor charge annually and increasing incentives. For both programs, I’ll ensure that BIPOC communities and communities with health disparities are first in line for assistance and low-cost clean appliances.

  4. Maximize Funding Opportunities for Energy Efficient Buildings: In partnership with King County, we will roll out PACE funding for commercial buildings. PACE programs allow building owners to take on low-risk and low-interest loans through partnerships between local governments and lenders. Owners can repay energy loans slowly, through the energy savings, and the balance of the loan travels with the property if it is sold. PACE increases access to capital for building owners regardless of their credit history, financial means, or capacity to take on risk, increasing equitable access to energy upgrades.

Healthy Economy

We can no longer allow our actions in the fight against climate change be dominated by the false choice between sustainability and economic growth that fossil fuel interests have promoted for decades. The transition to a sustainable economy will require massive public investment, and we cannot expect working families to bear the brunt of that cost. We must design programs so that the vast majority of working families see cost reductions by making environmentally sustainable choices.

For those whose jobs may be impacted by the transition to clean energy fuel sources, we will guarantee that their valuable skills and training will be put to use in building our new sustainable City without losing the dignity that a family-wage job provides. While we provide transition assistance to workers, our first priority must always be to create new job opportunities within the same skill and craft–workers, their families and their unions have invested in their trade and we must do everything possible to preserve those skills in our city. 

Finally, we must recognize that many families will need direct economic assistance to afford the renovations or efficiency upgrades that will allow us to meet our climate goals as a city. That’s especially true in historically marginalized communities who have been excluded from public investment for decades, and our priorities for investment must reflect the need to reverse that injustice.

This means we need to:

  1. Build a resilient electric grid: As mayor, I’ll lead the charge to make sure that we electrify all of the end uses currently rely on gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil, and that we do so with completely carbon-free power. We’ll also make massive investments in our grid and its resilience – including transmission and distribution system, substations, and other essential infrastructure to ensure that our publicly owned system is ready for its new demands. Seattleites have a right to count on their utility withstanding wildfires and other extreme weather brought by climate change.

  2. Expand what we mean by a green economy and green jobs: The Green Economy of course means jobs in the green infrastructure sector that means investments in stormwater infrastructure, renewable energy, electric cars, trucks and buses, and more. But we should also start investing in jobs in those fields that are inherently low-carbon. Health care workers, child care providers, teachers, and artists are all Green Workers. We should be prioritizing economic stability for workers in these fields through a Green Jobs Bill of Rights.

  3. Enact a Green Jobs Bill of Rights: As we make massive public investments in our sustainable economy, we should leverage those investments to correct historical and racial inequities within our labor protections. These jobs should have prevailing wages higher than the minimum wages, portable benefits in the case of gig or part–time work, apprenticeship utilization, preferred community hire, contracting with women-, minority-, veteran-owned businesses and protections against abuse and discrimination regardless of immigration status. These protections should be available across sectors and should be recognized as the baseline of what working people should expect.

  4. Care infrastructure is sustainable infrastructure: There is growing recognition that high-quality, affordable childcare is the infrastructure that makes it possible for parents to work. To support working families, we must invest in childcare as we transition to a Green Economy. That’s why I am committed to providing free, universal birth–to–5 childcare in the City of Seattle. Not only will this cut family costs, it will provide new living wage jobs for childcare providers and ensure parents can participate in the Green Economy. 

Climate Resilience 

After decades of delays, our leaders have failed to take meaningful action to combat climate change. This has disproportionately affected low-income and BIPOC communities. Our existing infrastructure must be strengthened in preparation for a climate it was never designed to tolerate. As mayor I’ll make sure that Seattle makes the investments necessary to keep everyone safe, especially those historically marginalized communities who have borne the brunt of the harm from the pollution causing the climate crisis.

This means we need to:

  1. Increase resilience to climate disasters in vulnerable communities: The negative health effects caused by an increase in wildfire carbon pollution need immediate investment. The pandemic exacerbated the systemic neglect of public health infrastructure in our most vulnerable communities. I’ll work with community organizations to identify where that investment is most needed and ensure the City provides funding equal to the scale of that need.

  2. Lean into Natural Solutions: We will achieve a net increase of 5% tree cover by 2025 by prioritizing green spaces and planting in health pollution disparity areas. We will also rely on green stormwater infrastructure to mitigate wetter storms and lower the temperature at the street level.

  3. Create a more resilient cityscape by lidding I-5: I will leverage state, regional, and city financing to maximize public use of the I-5 lid. In addition, I will commission feasibility studies to research lidding I–5 beyond the immediate downtown core and throughout the entire corridor. The most recent feasibility study showed lidding I–5 will cut back on carbon–emissions by reducing traffic downtown, creating 4,500 units of affordable housing, protecting against stormwater pollution, and increasing access to green space and tree coverage with 10 new area public parks. Furthermore, the project would create an additional 2 to 5 million square feet of commercial or office space, to support energy efficient buildings and new jobs.

Community Leaders Support Jessyn’s Bold Vision on Climate:

“Jessyn is a dynamic and fearless leader. She’s about action, not talk. She knows how to bring people together, build a plan, and get things done. Our city faces great challenges. But that also means there are great opportunities ahead. Jessyn is uniquely ready to seize this moment and deliver bold, transformative change. I have known Jessyn for a long-time and know how deeply she cares about the people of our great city. She will work tirelessly to bring us together and build a Seattle that lifts up all of us and leaves no one behind. We need Jessyn to be our next Mayor.”Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands

“Jessyn knows how to move projects, policy and people forward. She understands a sustainable Seattle is built on a foundation of economic justice, social justice AND environmental justice. She’s the right leader for this time and our city.”Gene Duvernoy, Retired CEO Emeritus of Forterra and Chair of Earth Day Northwest 2020

“Jessyn is a visionary leader who listens and gets things done, deftly drawing people in to learn and work together. I’ve seen this firsthand in her leadership in advocating for affordable housing and complete communities, especially for BIPOC communities and low-income families, around transit stations. The people of Seattle, particularly those who are most marginalized, must be heard and have their needs met in order for the city to become more equitable, sustainable, and vibrant. Jessyn will get us there.” Emily Ho, Program Manager of Sound Communities

“Jessyn couples a deep understanding of the opportunities for urban climate leadership with a rare skill at mobilizing government, business, labor, advocacy groups, and community leaders to work together. Under Jessyn’s leadership, I know Seattle will lead the nation in creating polices equal to the scale of the climate crisis we face. She understands that climate policy intersects with everything the City does, and her ability to deliver meaningful results on everything from transit to housing is needed now more than ever.”Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and a lead organizer of the first Earth Day

“I served with Jessyn in Olympia and I’ve seen her bridge divides to make progress on tough issues. She has the vision and experience to chart the path for a more equitable, inclusive city that leads the way in tackling the climate crisis.” Brady Walkinshaw, CEO of Grist and former State Legislator

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