This Week in Seattle: Mayor fights abuse allegations, City Council recovers $3M in unpaid fees for affordable housing, and more


This Week in Seattle is your weekly dispatch of need-to-know news from the Emerald City. (BigStock Image)

This week in Seattle: Washington state tries to block businesses from selling customer data and fingerprints; South Lake Union gets an upzone; Microsoft strikes a deal on renewable energy; and the mayor offers new evidence in sexual abuse scandal. Continue reading for the week’s top regional stories.

Seattle recovers $3 million in unpaid fees for affordable housing


(From left) Councilmembers Mike O’Brien, Lisa Herbold, Kshama Sawant, and Rob Johnson. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Councilmember Mike O’Brien requested an audit of the city’s Incentive Zoning program, which allows developers to build taller buildings in exchange for affordable housing contributions. The audit revealed some serious flaws or “a lot of room for improvement,” as O’Brien put it.  It turns out, developers for at least 10 projects didn’t follow through on their requirements so the city charged them $3.7 million in fees to support construction of affordable housing. City departments have been using inaccurate data on developers’ affordable housing contributions, according to the audit. Seattle’s construction and housing departments will submit reports to council from now on. [Council.Seattle.Gov]

Seattle votes to upzone South Lake Union and downtown (again)


Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. (Photo by Puget Sound Aerial Imaging for GeekWire)

Seattle’s skyline keeps inching upward. The City Council voted to increase building heights by one to five stories in South Lake Union and downtown. It’s the second upzone those neighborhoods have seen in the past five years. In exchange for taller buildings, developers will be required to build at least 2.1 percent affordable, income-restricted units or pay fees to the city that will go toward nonprofits that focus on affordable housing. [GeekWire]

Attorney for Mayor Murray says physician’s exam discredits sexual abuse allegations


Mayor Murray faces serious allegations. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Bob Sulkin, Attorney for Mayor Ed Murray, says medical records from a recent examination disprove claims that the mayor raped a Kent, Wash. man when he was a teenager. The man, identified only as D.H., described a distinct mole on Murray’s genitals in a civil lawsuit filed last week. The mayor’s physician says no such mole exists. Attorneys for the prosecution are calling for an examination by an impartial doctor. Meanwhile, editorial writers for The Seattle Times say that Murray should not run for re-election, asking: “How much of this sordid theater are voters going to be forced to endure in the coming months?”  [KING 5, The Seattle Times, The Stranger]

Washington speeds toward tougher distracted driving laws


New law would make virtually all use of electronic devices illegal while driving. (BigStock Photo)

A bill that would make it illegal to use a smartphone or other device in almost any form needs only a signature from Gov. Jay Inslee to pass. The law forbids using a device for any function more complicated than the press of a button. Drivers could still, for example, push a button to accept a hands-free call. Current law prohibits holding a phone to your ear for a call or texting but doesn’t apply to the myriad other uses for today’s devices. [GeekWire]

Microsoft strikes a deal to get renewable energy straight from the source


Microsoft’s Redmond campus. (Photo by Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Microsoft have made an agreement that would allow the software giant to shift 80 percent of the energy used by its Redmond headquarters to renewable sources purchased by other providers. Under the deal, Microsoft would still pay PSE to deliver the electricity and would also give the utility a $23.6 million fee. Microsoft sought the agreement in pursuit of its sustainability goals. The deal will be reviewed by the Utilities and Transportation Commission in the coming weeks. [GeekWire]

Washington makes it illegal for businesses to sell your fingerprints


(Apple Image)

Both houses of the Washington state legislature have passed a bill that would forbid businesses from selling customers’ biometric information, like fingerprints and voice recognition, under some conditions. If the biometric info is needed for a transaction and the need is spelled out in state or federal law, then a business may be able to sell, lease, or disclose it. The bill also makes it illegal to store biometric information in a database without a person’s consent. In other words, corporations can’t obtain and store that data secretly. [GeekWire]

State lawmakers consider new privacy bills after Trump deregulates internet providers


The state Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Photo via Flickr).

A bill that would limit the ability of internet service providers (ISPs) from selling customer data is under consideration in the Washington state legislature. The bill is a response to a law signed by President Donald Trump that allows ISPs to sell personal information about their customers without their permission. Advocates of the bill say it’s necessary to protect the privacy of Washington state residents while opponents believe it is a federal issue that would only be complicated by a patchwork of state laws. [GeekWire]