The top five contributors to the Compassion Seattle charter amendment campaign are commercial real estate companies and executives, each contributing $50,000.
The campaign on Wednesday said King County elections validated enough signatures to put Charter Amendment 29 on the Nov. 2 ballot. Signatures of at least 33,060 registered voters were needed, and just over twice that number were collected.
The amendment would require the city to prioritize work to end chronic homelessness. Among other things, behavioral health services would be offered in combination with access to shelters and other emergency or permanent housing. Within a year the city would be required to provide 2,000 housing units.
Greg Smith, founder and CEO of Urban Visions, was among those contributing $50,000. In a text, he said his company is committed to supporting a thriving, equitable Seattle community.
“The city’s current approach to solving the complex problem of homelessness is clearly not working,” he said.
He acknowledged he is not an expert on how to address the crisis but appreciates that the amendment requires the city prioritize it with “a clear plan that funds tangible, effective solutions.”
Compassion Seattle has raised just over $1 million and spent nearly $800,000, including on paid signature gatherers, according to reports made by the campaign to the city elections commission.
That is far more than the $28,770 that charter amendment opponents have raised. They’re organized by the Real Change newspaper as House Our Neighbors!
An opinion piece published in the paper blasted the charter amendment, saying it would “enshrine encampment sweeps — the most shameful, damaging and ineffective practice our city currently employs to respond to homelessness — into the city charter, mandating that the city continue this practice for years to come.”
Compassion Seattle disputes this. Its website notes the amendment says any relocation of unsheltered people should avoid any “possible harm to individuals caused by closing encampments” and that when closing encampments, it is “city policy to avoid, as much as possible, dispersing people, except to safe and secure housing.”
Other $50,000 contributors to Compassion Seattle are Martin Smith Inc., led by Greg Smith‘s brother Mickey; Hudson Pacific Properties; and Goodman Real Estate Chairman John Goodman and Goodman CEO George Petrie.
“We are saying there’s got to be a better way,” Petrie said, noting the amendment sunsets in six years. “It should be on the ballot so voters can decide.”
Early polling showed overwhelming support for the amendment’s approach, with backing by 71% of voters. EMC Research conduced the poll in January and February.
While real estate and other businesses are backing the amendment, House Our Neighbors! is supported by people with power at City Hall, including City Council President and mayoral candidate M. Lorena González and City Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant.
In a candidate questionnaire from news website PubliCola, González called the amendment “an unfunded mandate that does not identify a sustainable progressive revenue source.”
Other notable contributors to Compassion Seattle include HomeStreet Bank, Urban Renaissance Property Co. LLC, Vulcan Inc. and former Microsoft executive Chris Larson, who owns a minority stake in the Seattle Mariners. Each contributed $25,000, according to the campaign’s filings with the city.