The Facebook video, shot from a distance, across a highway, has the feel of evidence from a private eye, trying to catch a cheating spouse. It shows a man carrying a backpack and a guitar, walking around a fenced tent encampment and then entering. He briefly chats with another man, and then ducks into a tent.
“Oh my goodness,” says Ann Davison Sattler, in a voice-over. “He went through the fence — all of one second and inside the fence.”
Sattler then poses in front of the encampment near Northgate and talks about the scene.
“They’ve set up here in the watershed area, there’s protected water fowl, and this water in Thornton Creek Watershed here, it drains down into Matthews Beach Park,” she says. “I take my kids there.”
Sattler, a lawyer and former Sonics executive, has made combating encampments and visible homelessness a cornerstone of her campaign for Seattle City Council in North Seattle District 5, where she faces Councilmember Debora Juarez, who is seeking a second term. Sattler, 51, wants the city to build three massive emergency shelters in old warehouses that could house up to 2,000 people each.
“The city has been telling us a different story than what we’re living out here,” Sattler, a Wedgwood homeowner said. “The lack of urgency for the homelessness issue, it really has just grown over the entire term of this council.”
Juarez, a lawyer and former judge, bills herself as a pragmatic leader who’s been able to get things done for her district. She rattles off projects she says she’s helped secure for North Seattle: An extra planned light-rail station at 130th Street, a new Lake City Community Center and, at Northgate, an NHL training facility, 1,500 units of housing and a new pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5.
“I am very pragmatic about moving the ball forward, how do we get here,” Juarez said. “I’m not interested in the name calling and the chatter and the toxicity.”
Juarez, 60, supports Mayor Jenny Durkan’s funding increase for the city’s Navigation Teams, which clear encampments, but says Sattler’s proposal is impractical and inhumane. She points to the county’s annual “point in time” count that showed a modest decrease in overall homelessness last year and a significant decrease in the number of people sleeping outside.
“We have made major strategic investments that are working,” she said.
Juarez, alone among council candidates citywide, is endorsed by both the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and major local labor unions as well as Durkan. Sattler is endorsed by The Seattle Times editorial board and Kenmore Mayor David Baker
Juarez touts waterfront park, KeyArena deal
Juarez, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation, grew up on the Puyallup Reservation in Tacoma. She worked in the King County Public Defender’s office, served as a Superior Court judge and led the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs for governors Mike Lowry and Gary Locke.
She worked as a Wall Street investment banker and worked on tribal legal issues for the Northwest firm Williams Kastner before handily winning a City Council seat in 2015.
She touts the key role she’s played in shepherding legislation to build a $700 million promenade park along the downtown waterfront and to secure a deal with private investors to renovate KeyArena and bring an NHL team to Seattle.
She’s embraced the council’s new district representation, frequently bragging that she’s the only council member with a physical office in her district and with a district director.
“I don’t know what more I could do as a district representative to tell D5, ‘I’m for you,’ ” she said in a recent debate.
Sattler thinks Juarez could have done more. At another recent debate she repeatedly asked Juarez, “where were you,” referencing specific encampments and concerns. On the campaign trail, she’s quick to mention constituents who’ve told her their calls or emails to Juarez haven’t been returned.
Sattler said she decided to run about two years ago after writing to Juarez to express her opposition to safe drug-consumption sites and to request a conversation. She says she didn’t receive an adequate response.
Raised in Dallas, Sattler did constituent work after college for a congressman (Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, an Arkansas Republican, although she says she’s always been a moderate Democrat) before moving abroad where she taught English in Thailand and helped at a refugee camp on the Cambodian border.
On returning to Washington, D.C., she worked for a sports agency and ultimately moved to Seattle to take a job with the Sonics, where she handled logistics for basketball operations. She went to law school and started her own practice, doing mostly contract work and teaching continuing-education classes in international business law at the University of Washington.
She says Juarez gave up too much in the KeyArena renovation, which is privately funded but lets the development company keep the admissions tax it will charge for tickets, a bonus worth millions of dollars a year.
She’s made homelessness, public safety and drug addiction the foundation of her campaign, arguing that the City Council is too focused on housing affordability at the expense of other issues that can lead to homelessness.
“I don’t really see it other than us talking about affordability, affordability, affordability,” she said. “We don’t even know what part of the problem is affordability, what is addiction, what is mental illness. We’re just calling it all affordability.”
Sattler wants to convert empty warehouses into shelters
Sattler’s marquee proposal is to convert three empty warehouses — an old county-owned flour mill on Harbor Island and former Sam’s Club locations in Renton and in North Seattle — to FEMA-style emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
She envisions tents or partitions within the warehouses to give residents some privacy and security.
“We need a transition piece. We talk about we need developers to build affordable housing, but what are we doing in the meantime?” she said. “The buildings are already there, it’s providing some shelter from the weather.”
Juarez calls the proposal inhumane.
“You can’t round people up with mental-health and addiction issues and say you’re all going to stay in this encampment until you get better,” she said. “The world doesn’t work like that.”
Tacoma has had some success with a similar tents-within-a-tent concept, as have San Diego and Sacramento. Last year, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda asked for $3 million for such a site in Seattle, but was rebuffed. Mosqueda’s office declined to say whether she still supported the idea.
Tacoma’s emergency-style shelter holds about 90 people. It has three case managers and a counselor on site every day and costs about $2.3 million a year to operate.
Sattler is proposing shelters that would hold up to 2,000 people. That’s about 10-times larger than the biggest city-funded shelter in Seattle. And Sattler’s cost estimates don’t seem to pencil out with the experiences of other cities.
Sattler estimates the annual cost for “basic services” to shelter 1,000 people in a Harbor Island warehouse at $1.2 million. Tacoma spends nearly twice that much on its tent shelter, which holds less than one-tenth as many people. San Diego spends about $14 million annually to operate three large tent shelters that, combined, have about 675 beds.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how long Debora Juarez had served as a King County Superior Court judge. She was a full-time judge for less than a year after serving as a pro-tem judge on Superior and Municipal courts for about two years.