Cathy Tuttle has a plan. Actually, she has a lot of plans. And we think she might be able to get them done.
"I’m an academic so it's my tendency to jump in and do a lot of research," Tuttle told The Stranger one April morning. Her recent deep-dive has been on homelessness. She's talked to experts from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle.
"Do you want to hear my three-step approach to homelessness?" You bet we did.
The first step is a public health triage. That means getting facilities like bathrooms and garbage cans, places to fill up water bottles and sharps containers to safely dispose of needles. That's because the people on the street deserve our compassion, Tuttle explained. Without these basic necessities, people who are already in dire situations are further dehumanized.
"That’s just step one," Tuttle said, "That’s in the first 30 days I'm in office."
Tuttle is action-oriented. With a background on Seattle's Planning Commission and in the Parks and Recreation Department, she knows the ins-and-outs of the system and, most importantly, how to get stuff—like the 40 parks and community centers she was project manager on—built.
As an urbanist, Tuttle sees the opportunity for Seattle to grow in the right way. Our first priority, she said, should be auditing for climate impact in everything we do. Part of that means creating a more walkable city.
"This is how we can transform our economies and our cities into being a lot less dependent on fossil fuels," Tuttle, who founded Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a neighborhood coalition dedicated to making streets better, said. "Deeply connected communities are torn apart by freeways, by fast-moving traffic, by the soccer game being an hour-and-a-half commute away."
Seattle's lack of affordability is driving people out and forcing people to drive further to get to jobs in the city; an endless positive-feedback loop that's wearing on our commuters and our climate.
On her goal to knock on 8,000 doors in the district, Tuttle says she has met many people—from the old woman who teaches neighborhood kids how to plant vegetables to overworked first responders—who are afraid of being priced out of their homes.
"These are real stories and real people who need to be a part of this conversation about how we transform our city into this urban dynamic place," Tuttle said.
Step two of Tuttle's homelessness-approach, she says, is "educating the public on who is experiencing homelessness." Step three is housing. She believes we have the space and capacity to build. Just look at the under-construction Roosevelt light rail station, she said.
There are approximately 245 units of affordable family housing that will be built on station property. Most of those are for families. The bottom floor of that building will have retail and a childcare center.
"It’s gonna be beautiful," Tuttle said. "The building is for people who will not have cars because they can’t afford cars and they’ll have this great access to transit and great educational access for their kids and also services for their needs. It’s an ideal situation. The problem is we need another 30 or 40 like that around Seattle."
But, one of the most exciting parts about it for Tuttle is that the affordable housing project was neighborhood-led. The project was a collaboration between the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association and Sound Transit.
"When a neighborhood gets involved and the smart people who live in the city who are compassionate and understand the need for dense housing get together and start talking miracles—" Tuttle cut herself off. "This shouldn’t be a miracle, this is the kind of thing that does happen in cities."
And now, Seattle can lead by example, she said.
If elected, Tuttle will be directly involved in shaping how District 4 responds and reacts to the two soon-to-be-opened light rail stations coming to the region and the extensive University of Washington Master Plan. It's one of the fastest-changing districts in the city.
"I can lead those conversations and I have the experience of getting stuff built, getting parks built, getting streets reconfigured," Tuttle said. "I know the kinds of partnerships you need to build, I know how to manage huge budgets, I know how to manage very diverse sets of people, and I know how to achieve that common vision. I have the practical experience of getting things done."