The Olympia City Council approved the proposed 2024 work plans for the Land Use and Environment Committee, Community Livability and Public Safety Committee, and Finance Committee yesterday, February 6.
Some key issues and initiatives outlined in the work plans included continued discussion and policy development around housing, tenant protections, childcare, public safety, and long-term budget sustainability.
Councilmember Dani Madrone, who sits as Land Use Committee chair, provided an overview of the work plan around housing, planning, and development issues the committee will tackle this year.
Some of the key items on the agenda include reviewing the city's parking strategy. Madrone suggested a briefing for the full council before the committee dives into the issue. She noted that most current councilmembers, including herself, were not in the council yet when the city's parking strategy was adopted. "I think it would be good for all of us to get grounded in the parking strategy, and maybe there's some fresh feedback on it that the Land Use Committee needs to consider. But I'd like us to do that before we take it up as a committee."
To streamline discussions, Madrone proposed removing duplicate items, such as housing and homelessness services updates, from the Land Use and CLPS committee work plans and bringing the annual updates directly to the full council.
"This is probably something all seven of us are interested in. I propose to take it off both work plans and bring that update to the full council. We will save a little bit of time that way, and all of us will get information that we all want to have," Madrone suggested.
The committee is scheduled to tackle the city's middle housing ordinances. Madrone said this will involve harmonizing recent legislation with the city's policies.
The work plan on sidewalk policy is listed under "to be scheduled." Madrone explained that the city will be assessing sidewalk conditions throughout Olympia in 2024.
The Land Use chair added that it would likely be brought to the committee for discussion in early 2025 after all sidewalks' inventory results and evaluation are completed.
In January, the Land Use Committee reviewed potential updates on rental housing policies. The discussion revolved around proposals on relocation assistance, limiting 'junk fees', allowing tenants to install air conditioner units, and breaking leases after a significant rent increase.
At the city council meeting, Mayor Dontae Payne expressed concern about the timing of addressing new tenant protection policies as he noted that the city has just implemented the rental housing registry.
"My concern is that as we implement a rental housing registry, we're just getting that off the ground. I know many community members have questions about that, particularly landlords. I'm a bit worried that we're potentially adding more to their load when they're just understanding this rental housing registry," the mayor commented.
Madrone explained that some of the policies, such as tenant relocation assistance, were directly related to properly implementing aspects of the rental registry program.
Madrone wanted these tenant protection measures to be in place as landlords begin registering properties and potential issues are uncovered through inspection. She added that the goal was to have a coordinated set of policies to support renters as the details of the rental registry program are worked out.
Mayor Pro Tem Yen Huynh presented the 2024 work plan for the CLPS, which she said strikes a good balance between community livability and public safety issues.
One of the topics in the work plan is assessing the current state of childcare in Olympia. She said it had been a long-standing concern in the community.
Payne welcomed the city taking on this issue. He noted that from his involvement with the South Sound Military Communities Partnership working group, childcare continues to be an issue for military families in the region. He said the partnership explores how local governments can better support childcare as it is a significant need.
Councilmember Lisa Parshley cited that it had been one of the concerns in Olympia Strong surveys. "We need to help this. It is crippling families, especially single parents."
Some new initiatives have been added to the CLPS work plan, including assessing Parks, Arts, and Recreation programs that support community livability. The committee will also examine community discrimination findings and updates to the city's equity framework.
According to Huynh, who also chairs the CLPS, the committee will incorporate regular briefings from the city's fire and police departments.
The committee will also have education on the state of human trafficking and how that can be prevented in the Olympia community.
An evaluation of the police staffing study and recommendations for community oversight of law enforcement are also on the agenda.
According to Pashley, the 2024 Finance Committee work plan will focus on ensuring long-term budget sustainability.
The committee will also examine the city's largest budget items and funding gaps. That includes facilities plans, moving the community court, implementing the climate action plan, and funding new fire apparatus.
Starting in August/September, the committee will transition into the regular budget process. They aim to identify long-term budget deficits and how to address them.
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