Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan commended city employees and residents for their handling of last month’s viaduct closure and major snowstorms that caused stressful commutes and dangerous conditions during her 2019 State of the City address on Tuesday.

“From the Seattle Squeeze to the big freeze, Seattle kept going,” Durkan said. “The state of our city is strong and resilient.”

Durkan gave a lengthy but optimistic address, touting her efforts to provide free college and transportation to Seattle high school students, while also making many promises about future city projects.

Durkan said she is looking to help build the "city of the future" by creating more affordable housing, making meaningful progress on homelessness, opening true economic opportunities for young people and all workers, advancing public safety, justice and equity by dismantling institutional racism, and connecting public spaces and parks to world-class transit.

“We have a generational opportunity to intentionally choose what type of city we want to be 50 years from now,” she said. “We are quite literally under construction, at a turning point. We can build the city we want.”

A large part of her speech addressed the issue of homelessness in the city due to the lack of affordable housing. Durkan described how the city is creating resolutions for mandatory affordable housing and outlined her plans to redevelop Fort Lawton.

Durkan released her plans to redevelopment the old 34-acre former Army base in early February. The plan includes 85 supportive housing units, which will be created by Catholic Housing Services. These units will be used for homeless seniors and veterans who earn at or below 31 percent of the area's median income. Catholic Housing Services will also work with the United Indians of All Tribes to create 100 affordable rental units. The 100 units will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for households earning up to 60 percent of median income.

Another 52 units of affordable ownership housing will be created by Habitat for Humanity. These units will be three-bedroom townhomes and six-unit rowhouses. These units will be available to households with incomes up to 80 percent of AMI. To keep the homes affordable, they will not be available for resale for at least 50 years. Habitat for Humanity will retain ownership of the land, and lease it to homeowners through a 99-year community land trust that is inheritable and renewable. A homeowners association will need to be formed in the future.

“We need more housing for our low-income neighbors,” Durkan said. “More for middle-income Seattleites. Those who raised their kids here but now can’t see those kids living here. We want people who work in Seattle to live in Seattle. The city will double down to pass the Mandatory Housing Affordability (program) and continue to improve it. We will leverage tens of millions of dollars, redeveloping Fort Lawton to create homes for seniors and veterans."

Durkan also promised to work with King County Metro and Sound Transit to help create better commute options, such as expediting Sound Transit’s Ballard and West Seattle light rail extension.

The Ballard Link Extension’s planned opening is 2035. Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason said it seems like 16 years is a long wait for the new stations, but Sound Transit actually moved up the opening date by a few years as requested by voters.

The Ballard Link Extension will include three elevated stations in Ballard, Interbay and Smith Cove. There will be six tunnel stations in Seattle Center, South Lake Union, Denny, Westlake, Midtown and the International District. The extension will cover 7.1 miles.

“These wonderful public spaces have to be connected with a world-class transit system where neighbors can walk and bike,” Durkan said. “It must be affordable and reliable. It makes people’s lives better.”

Durkan also said she is working to provide more free Orca cards to middle school and high school students in the Seattle Public Schools district, to create more red bus lanes, to create a permanent bike-share program and to move forward with plans for a Seattle streetcar.

Durkan also promised a way to improve street congestion while also helping fight climate change in the city. Durkan said she is working on a proposal that would require all newly constructed buildings in the city with off-street parking to provide electric car charging stations.
“We need accessible and equitable available electric charging. Our city of the future must have welcoming public spaces,” Durkan said.

Durkan had a long list of wants and promises, but told the crowd it was the way to create “the city of the future” in a way that would benefit all residents.

“Just imagine for a moment what it might look like in just five years,” she said. “I know together we can keep building the city of the future.”