Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell unveiled the first phase of his eagerly anticipated downtown activation program on Monday.
The changes range from small ones, such as waiving street use permits, to attract food-truck operators to the downtown area, to larger land-use changes that allow for more housing, hotels, and restaurants to be built in adjacent neighborhoods, like South of Pioneer Square, in the Stadium District.
Harrell issued an executive directive to address the impacts on public health and safety of the fentanyl epidemic. The executive order includes a new unit for overdose response.
EMTs are often seen responding to medical emergencies. The Downtown Seattle Association reported on Monday that its ambassadors had administered Naloxone fourteen times in the past week.
Andrew Lewis, City Councilmember for the Central Business District, said that the plan is about evolving downtown in order to adapt to the new post-Covid reality.
A press release issued by the Mayor's Office states that the core of the plan is to ensure downtown "is safe" and "feels safe".
In the next few weeks, additional policies, actions and legislation will be announced.
The Executive Order directs that the Police Department prioritize the disruption of the distribution and sales of narcotics, in conjunction with other law-enforcement partners.
The city has launched an overdose response unit and is also piloting a drug-abatement program based on research, known as "contingency Management", to encourage people with substance abuse disorders to accept treatment by offering incentives such as low-dollar gift certificates.
The 12-week program rewards substance addicts for abstinence. In what the city describes as a novel approach to treatment, it is administered in people's homes instead of medical clinics.
The action plan includes:
Increase the number of Metropolitan Improvement District Ambassadors to help keep downtown streets safe and clean for all. Improve street and sidewalk lighting where crime and disorder is concentrated.