UPDATE: On Oct. 18, Redistricting Commissioners listened, and adopted an amendment that keeps Fremont in Districts 4 and 6, as we are now. Thanks to everyone who asked the Commission to make this change. Stay tuned–maps will be finalized between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8.
As part of the follow-up to the recent 10-year census, Seattle’s City Council districts must be adjusted so that they are equivalent in population, or nearly so. The redistricting map recently released, just as members of the Redistricting Commission and staff were meeting with FNC on September 26, splits Fremont among Districts 4, 6, and 7. The FNC Board objects to this three-way split, and sent the following letter to the commission on September 30. More about redistricting here.
An image from the Seattle Times of the current districts and the proposed map appears above. The jagged boundary on Fremont’s NW corner actually keeps a small part of Fremont in District 6. East Fremont would stay in District 4. Most of Fremont would move to District 7.
Letter to the Seattle Redistricting Commission from The Fremont Neighborhood Council Board:
September 30, 2022
To: Patience Malaba, Commission Chair
Seattle Redistricting Commissioners
Seattle Redistricting Commission
700 5th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98124
Re: City of Seattle Council Districts for Fremont—Concerns and a Proposal
Dear Commission Chair Malaba and Commissioners:
The Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC) and the residents we represent are deeply troubled by the Commission’s latest proposal to divide the neighborhood into three Council districts (4, 6 and 7). We reached out to the Commission on July 1 explaining the neighborhood was not happy being divided into two parts when Council districts were first established in 2013, however, we were willing to remain in two districts (4 and 6) as a compromise and in the interest of supporting the challenging work before the Commission. The current proposal to divide Fremont into three districts so that other neighborhoods can remain in one district appears to be selective and inequitable.
We appreciate having a representative from the Commission meet with us on September 26. We have several issues and concerns that are still to be resolved.
The plan presented at our FNC Board meeting Monday evening, divides Fremont into three districts, this is particularly concerning as the proposal is inconsistent with the Redistricting Commission’s charter:
“District boundaries shall be drawn to produce compact and contiguous districts that are not gerrymandered. The population of the largest district shall exceed the population of the smallest by no more than one percent. To the extent practical, district boundaries shall follow existing District boundaries, recognized waterways and geographic boundaries, and Seattle communities and neighborhoods. In drawing the plan, neither the Commission nor the districting master shall consider the residence of any person.”
Our specific concerns with this solution are:
1)Placing 1/3 of Fremont (“central Fremont”) in District 7 with Queen Anne, Belltown, South Lake Union, and Downtown means that central Fremont will be a small portion of District 7. This portion of Fremont therefore will likely fail to receive adequate representation, because it would be the smallest voice in District 7 and because of its geographic relationship to the rest of its proposed district since Fremont is located north of the Ship Canal. In this proposal, central Fremont, and the Fremont neighborhood, as a whole will not be able to compete with the challenges, stakeholders, and resources of the larger communities in the District.
2)All of Fremont now falls within the North Precinct. The plan as it is currently drawn, however, moves a portion of the neighborhood to Council representation that falls in the West Precinct, splitting some Fremont residents and businesses from what have been productive public safety relationships for years, and compromising our continued work on numerous issues.
Public safety has been a major issue in Fremont for the last 20 years and our whole neighborhood has worked in partnership with SPD, the City Attorney, and City Council to successfully address some major issues including resolving drug trafficking and prostitution associated with the Aurora motels. The neighborhood founded Fremont Aurora Wallingford Neighbors (F.A.W.N.) a neighborhood block watch and advocacy group that worked collaboratively with the City to successfully address these issues that span central and east Fremont across Aurora. Splitting Fremont as you propose will make it even more difficult to be heard as tiny minority voices alongside other larger neighborhoods’ concerns.
It is difficult to imagine our neighborhood would get the same attention and support if 1/3 of the neighborhood is placed in District 7 where it would compete with the major public safety issues in downtown and Belltown. The North Precinct is not at all within District 7, which would impact the relationships and efforts required to address issues in the North Precinct which are very different from downtown, South Lake Union and Belltown.
The multiple issues, multiple precincts, and geographical barriers among neighborhoods in the proposed District 7 will make representation with SPD by the District 7 Councilmember and staff challenging and inefficient, defeating one of the purposes for establishing Council districts.
3)Synergies between Wallingford and Fremont make the two neighborhoods well aligned. These include: public shared resources such as Gas Works Park, common Transit/SDOT issues (such as the proposed SDOT/Metro changes to Route 40; pedestrian and bike safety, bike trails; similar calls for creation of affordable and low income housing within our two neighborhoods (the FNC has itself sponsored low income housing projects); historic preservation; tree canopy protection; and creation of walkable and livable neighborhoods.)
4)We also share common issues with Ballard, however, recognize that we may not be able to remain in the same districts as Ballard and Wallingford and we may need to compromise. If we can only choose one neighborhood with which to be aligned in the same district, it would be Wallingford.
5)Managing relationships with three council members (and their respective staff members) is a lot to ask of a small neighborhood—whose residents are represented by a volunteer organization (FNC). It is not an efficient use of volunteer time and energy—particularly in a neighborhood that is known for its activism and engagement.
6)Fremont has historically been a working class neighborhood and remains one today with many new residents working in the neighborhood’s growing tech sector. We have an increasing number of renters in the neighborhood who live in the growing multi-family rental housing and the diversity of our residents continues to evolve. Because of the ratio of renters to homeowners and many of them skew younger, we understand the neighborhood lacks the influence of the larger single family neighborhoods who have a higher ratio of property owners to renters. We hope and trust the Commission will act with equity and justice in its efforts to treat all Neighborhoods in Seattle with the same consideration.
We think that you may be using a planning map of Fremont that does not reflect the historic boundaries of the neighborhood, which originally was independent from the city of Seattle (the Fremont Post Office was opened on May 25, 1890) and is one of the City’s older neighborhoods . As posted on the FNC’s website for many years: “The Fremont Neighborhood Council boundaries are the Canal on the south, 8th Ave NW on the west, North 50th Street on the north and Stone Way on the east”:
More recently, the 1994 Comp Plan added the Fremont Hub Urban Village in the southern portion of central Fremont and extending the eastern border of the Urban Village to Interlake (one block east of Stone Way) between N 40th and the Ship Canal. This makes putting central Fremont in District 7 even more problematic.
We recognize the Commission has a challenging assignment and many stakeholders with strong opinions. On Monday night we were asked to propose an alternative.
If our proposal to continue to be divided only between Districts 4 and 6 (both North of the Ship Canal, both in the North Precinct) is not viable, the FNC Board and our constituents propose that Fremont be added as one entire neighborhood (with the boundaries identified above) to District 4. This will place Fremont in the same district as Wallingford with whom we share resources, values, challenges, and opportunities.
Thank you Commissioners for your service to the people of Seattle.
Tawny Bates Judie Clarridge Linda Clifton
Jim Engelhardt Norma Jones Gordon Lagerquist
Audrey Livermore Erik Pihl Alyson Teeter-Baker
Fremont Neighborhood Council Board
3518 Fremont Ave N, #111
Seattle, WA 98103
Cc: Seattle Redistricting Commissioners:
Seattle Redistricting Commission staff:
Logan Drummond, Department of Neighborhoods
Elsa Bates-Boni, Department of Neighborhoods