By Mellow DeTray

Here’s our recap of the regular Des Moines City Council meeting held on Thursday, May 4, 2023:

Blake Decision: City Ordinance on Hold

In a recent legislative session, state lawmakers failed to come to agreement on how to deal with illegal drug use. Without a new law, the current “Blake Fix” will expire on July 1, effectively making all drugs legal in the state. However, lawmakers are back in a special session to come up with a more permanent fix to the Blake decision. 

Meanwhile, local jurisdictions are coming up with their own ordinances around drug possession and use, in case the state can’t reach agreement. The details of the city ordinance will be discussed in a future meeting, and is being shaped in order to be on par with surrounding jurisdictions, where possible.

Passenger Ferry: Second Year Passes

Council voted 5–2 to fund another season of running the popular passenger ferry from the marina to downtown Seattle. The boat is currently making its way to Puget Sound from San Francisco, and the ferry is expected to begin running on May 23, 2023. Fares will increase from last year’s $10, to $13 each way for adults, with lower rates for seniors and children. The ferry will operate for 20 weeks, and cost the city nearly $700,000. 

Councilmember JC Harrris argued that it’s an irresponsible use of public funds, and will only send more locals to Seattle to spend money in another city. Deputy Mayor Traci Buxton said that the city is getting a better deal on this project than last year, and that it’s an obvious economic driver for the community. Mayor Matt Mahoney said everywhere he goes he is met with enthusiastic support for the ferry from community members, and local business owners reported greater earnings during the ferry’s first year.

Housing Action Plan Presentation

In 2022, Des Moines was one of 66 cities across the state to be awarded a Housing Action Plan and Implementation Grant. The first part of implementing this plan is the Housing Needs Assessment, which has been underway and the findings were presented at this meeting.

The median home price in Des Moines has risen by 257%, out of pace with the rest of the county in the past decade. Des Moines is poised to lose one quarter of its income-restricted housing stock in the next 10 years. The city is home to people earning a wide range of incomes, including low and very low income. 

According to the survey, which had over 200 responses, people want more cottage housing and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The goals of the Housing Action Plan will be to increase affordable housing options, and prevent displacement of residents by preserving existing housing. On June 1st & June 8th there will be public hearings regarding this plan.

Public Comments

One speaker asked council to support her in being allowed to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on her property, to increase the supply of affordable housing in the area. 

Another speaker brought an informal petition, containing 1100 signatures including 800 residents, to make the north marina parking area into a public park. She said the petition aims to preserve the space for public use in perpetuity. 

New Business

Councilmember Jeremy Nutting read a statement on recent vandalism of downtown businesses, and asked for support in creating a small grant program to help business owners repair their establishments. This money, which would come from existing ARPA funds, could also be used as the deductible on their insurance claims, if the damage is excessive. Council was very supportive of this idea.

Nutting also received support from other councilmembers for the idea of creating a charging station on city property for electric buses. E-buses don’t run as far without charging as traditional buses can, so they are in need of large charging stations. This could help to create a fully electric bus service to city, which would be quieter and cleaner.

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Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.