Advocacy Update – February 2021

This month in advocacy: federal advocacy on green infrastructure; an update on the state legislative session; Seattle passes its energy code update; Seattle Public Schools votes on a fossil fuel free future; and more!

NATIONAL NEWS

Green Infrastructure Investments
During AIA National’s virtual Grassroots conference this week, AIA members from across the country met with their U.S. senators and representatives to discuss Congressional investments in green building infrastructure that can address public health and housing needs related to COVID, the pandemic-related economic recession, and our ongoing climate crisis. Attendees from Washington met with the offices of Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Marilyn Strickland to discuss the climate impact of buildings and the importance of green infrastructure investments.


STATE NEWS

State Legislative Session
The state’s first online legislative session has been progressing smoothly. Bills needed to pass out of their policy committees by Feb. 15 to remain alive, and bills that have moved on to fiscal committees must pass out of those by Feb. 22. The virtual format means that architects have been able to testify directly to legislators on bills that impact the professionthank you to all those who have done so over the last several weeks! You can read AIA Washington Council’s January legislative report here; look for an updated version after the fiscal committee cut-off next week. You can also follow along at AIA|WA’s Legislative Center. Highlights for AIA thus far include:

  • Practice: alternative project delivery reauthorization for state contracting is moving quickly through the process. A group of occupational licensing bills which AIA opposed because they impacted architect licenses failed to pass out of committee. One bill which AIA does support, to allow individuals with prior criminal convictions to petition a licensing body to become licensed, did pass out of committee.
  • Climate: bills to address building electrification; embodied carbon requirements for state contracts; reducing emissions from HFCs; water quality standards for greywater systems; and environmental justice all passed out of their policy committees and are pending before fiscal committees this week.
  • School construction: a bill to amend Washington’s constitution to lower the threshold to 55 percent for voters to pass school bonds remains alive; but, because a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses, it will be difficult to pass.
  • Tax: the big tax bills that have gained media attention – the wealth tax, the capital gains tax, and the high value assets tax – all have extra time to pass out of their fiscal committees. The Senate version of the capital gains tax was heard this week and amended to include higher thresholds and a lower tax rate.
  • Growth management: legislation to add climate, equity, and more robust housing elements to the existing planning requirements under the Growth Management Act remain alive and pending before the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Housing: a slew of bills related to facilitating more housing; preventing eviction; and providing affordable housing funding mechanisms for local governments remain alive. We will have a better sense of which bills have traction after the Feb. 22 fiscal committee cut-off.
  • Social justice: similarly, AIA|WA is tracking a large number of bills on renter’s rights, criminal justice, legal reforms, and additional equity-related measures. Next week’s fiscal committee cut-off will give us a clearer picture of the areas legislators are prioritizing.

For more information, contact Kirsten.


LOCAL NEWS

State and Local Codes
A reminder that last month Governor Inslee reversed a decision by the State Building Code Council to further delay the implementation date of the 2018 state building codes, which means they went into effect on February 1.

The Seattle City Council approved the Seattle Construction Codes this month (except for the Fire Code, which is pending), and they take effect on March 15. As of February 1, SDCI will accept permit applications using either the 2015 or 2018 codes. After March 15, SDCI will only accept permit applications that use the 2018 codes.

Seattle Energy Code: on Feb. 1, the City Council approved the Seattle Energy Code updates by a vote of 9-0. This code was the subject of AIA Seattle’s Climate Advocacy Week in December, when members met with city councilmembers to discuss the importance of strengthening the city’s energy code requirements. Thank you to all AIA members who participated in outreach to the Council – your efforts made a difference! Special thanks to Mike Fowler AIA, Chris Hellstern AIA, and Nathaniel Gundersen Assoc. AIA for representing architects and AIA Seattle by providing testimony at Council hearings. And particular kudos to Duane Jonlin FAIA of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections, who shepherded this code through the long technical and political processes.

Seattle Schools Chart Path to Fossil Fuel Free
In February, Seattle Public Schools became the first school district in Washington to pass a resolution to transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2040 by eliminating all use of fossil fuels in district electricity, heating, cooling, cooking, and transportation. The school board also resolved to halt constructing new buildings with fossil fuel infrastructure immediately, to choose electric and other clean appliances for any major renovations and replacements, and to prioritize zero-emission vehicles where feasible for any new vehicle purchases. AIA Seattle sent the School Board a letter in support of the resolution.


OPPORTUNITIES

Applicants Sought for the Seattle Women’s Commission
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights is currently recruiting to fill seven vacancies on the Seattle Women’s Commission. The Commission seeks candidates with diverse backgrounds in women’s rights, community engagement, law, public policy, advocacy, social services, education, and business and who are committed to racial equity. The Seattle Women’s Commission advises the Mayor, City Council, and city departments on matters that relate to women’s issues. The deadline to apply is March 8. More info here.


EVENTS

AIA Seattle Committee Meetings

  • AIA Seattle’s Housing Task Force continues to meet monthly on the second Thursday of each month at noon via Zoom.
  • AIA Seattle’s Transportation Task Force meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 5:30-6:30 pm via Zoom.

For info on how to access either meeting, contact Kirsten.

We’d love to hear from you! To comment or for more information on these or any other topics, please contact:

Kirsten Smith
Manager of Policy & Advocacy
AIA Seattle & AIA Washington Council
206-957-1926 | kirstens@aiaseattle.org

@AIASeattle

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