What have Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen ever done for Capitol Hill?

Longtime Seattle City Council members Tom Rasmussen and Nick Licata both announced — here and here — last week that they will not seek reelection this fall. As of October, Licata was the Council’s most beloved member, while voters felt much more ‘meh’ toward Rasmussen. Licata says he wants to concentrate on building a national network of progressive city leaders, while Rasmussen says he wants to concentrate on policy rather than campaigning during the coming year.

But before they bow out, CHS asked both councilors: What did you ever do for the Hill?

Inside the Sunset Electric (Image: CHS)

Inside the Sunset Electric (Image: CHS)

Rasmussen
“This was graffiti covered,” says Rasmussen, pointing at the Sunset Electric building. The top five stories are an exoskeleton of shimmering glass and metal balanced upon two bottom stories of quaint, old brick. “It was going to be bulldozed,” he says. “It was going to be torn down by the developer.”

But the building — which now resembles a titanic computer chip perched atop a frontier supply store — still stands, a physical manifestation of Capitol Hill’s future balanced on the shoulders of its past. This is due, Rasmussen says, to the legislation he championed to give developers a way to add to the Hill, rather than replace it. The result: a fast-growing brick-and-steel jungle which “preserves the character of the neighborhood,” rather than an asphalt savanna which erases it. Pointing out another old/new building on the northeast corner of the Madison/Union/12th intersection, Rasmussen says, “Extra floor on top, beautiful brick; I think it’s just inspiring.” Continue reading

On the List: Super Bowl XLIX Capitol Hill, Zapoi! at Annex, kids film fest continues, Kingfish Garage Sale

Not to jinx anything, but here’s what it looked like last year. Here’s our Capitol Hill Super Bowl XLIX Open Thread with a selection of fun times, etc. to be had on gameday.

If you’re already sick of it, you’re too jaded. It’s pretty great to have a sports team so successful that we have a full roster of soundtracks to choose from.

Looking for things non-sportsball to do? Check out the CHS Calendar, below.
Continue reading

‘SPD returns man’s golf club’ — Police video shows disturbing 2014 arrest at 12/Pike



SPD's report on the situation puts on a happier face: "SPD Commanders first became aware of the incident in October 2014 after receiving an inquiry from former Washington State Representative Dawn Mason in which she raised questions as to the necessity of the arrest and charges. The 69-year-old man had already accepted a plea offer in this case. Dawn Mason worked with Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Deputy Chief Carmen Best to broker an organized discussion between residents and police about this case specifically as well as the relationship between the department and the community in general."

SPD’s report on the July 2014 incident puts on a happier face: “SPD Commanders first became aware of the incident in October 2014 after receiving an inquiry from former Washington State Representative Dawn Mason in which she raised questions as to the necessity of the arrest and charges. The 69-year-old man had already accepted a plea offer in this case.
Dawn Mason worked with Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Deputy Chief Carmen Best to broker an organized discussion between residents and police about this case specifically as well as the relationship between the department and the community in general.”

Tuesday, in advance of “a media outlet” reporting on video released “as a result of a public disclosure request,” SPD posted this update its Blotter blog with a line you don’t see every day in police announcements: “Deputy Chief Best personally met with the man, returned his golf club, and offered an apology for his arrest.”

Wednesday, The Stranger’s Ansel Herz reported on this video of Officer Cynthia Whitlach’s July 2014 arrest at 12th and Pike of William Wingate, a black, 70-year-old veteran who happens to take very long walks while carrying a golf club as a kind of multi-purpose walking stick:

On the video, Officer Whitlach can be heard insisting that the recording would show Wingate swinging his golf club at her and hitting a stop sign with it. According to the SPD, there exists no video to back up this claim. (SPD did not make Whitlach available for comment.)

“The allegation that he swung at the police car,” said city council member Bruce Harrell, who subsequently got involved in the case, “wasn’t corroborated by any other facts and was not caught on any video. What was caught on video was him minding his own business with the golf club at his side.”

Whitlach, standing behind her car, shouts at Wingate to drop his golf club 17 times, and claims that “it is a weapon.”

“You just swung that golf club at me,” Whitlach yells.

“No, I did not!” exclaims Wingate.

“Right back there,” Whitlach says back. “It was on audio and video tape.”

Wingate ended up in jail and charged with unlawful use of a weapon for the incident on the same block as East Precinct’s 12th and Pine headquarters. According to muni court records, he agreed to a conditional continuance. In September, a judge dismissed the case at the “satisfactory completion” of the agreement.

CHS has posted our recordings of East Precinct radio traffic from the minutes before and after the arrest. While in the video the officer describes seeing Wingate swing his club at her as she drove by 11th and Pike, you’ll note (around the 18-minute mark) that she never verbally reports any incident preceding the stop:

The Seattle Police Department insists racial bias played no role in the incident, the Stranger reports, adding that Wingate has filed a claim with the city for damages.

SPD says the officer was disciplined in the incident with counseling, a course of action that must be formally approved by the chain of command including East Precinct’s Capt. Pierre Davis who is also black. “The officer who made the arrest received counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution,” SPD writes.

UPDATE: SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole has issued a response to the incident and says Capt. Davis has been “directed” to report on the decision to discipline Officer Whitlatch with counseling:

Today I heard many concerns from community members about the conduct of an SPD officer assigned to the East Precinct. These concerns are related to two incidents that occurred during the summer of 2014, one of which was detailed previously by our department. I have directed East Precinct commander Captain Pierre Davis to prepare a comprehensive report, to include his assessment of the officer’s performance and any supervisory measures that were taken to address her actions in these incidents.

In the statement, O’Toole references “two incidents” involving Whitlach from the summer 2014. It’s not yet clear what other incident she is referring to.

Seattle City of Literature will have center on First Hill

8445863019_336acfdb40Seattle’s quest to become an International “City of Literature” will have a home on First Hill.

The Sorrento Hotel announced Wednesday that a new “book-filled conference room at the hotel, where readers and writers can work, meet, and learn more about the UNESCO Creative Cities network” is part of the project underway to overhaul the 105-year-old landmark.

“Cultural tourism is a major tenet of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and the Sorrento understands the impact cultural tourism can make, both here and abroad,” Seattle City of Literature director Ryan Boudinot is quoted as saying in the announcement. “For those who love books and writing, in Seattle and beyond, this is going to be a destination unlike any other.”

CHS reported last fall on the “Pike/Pine-style” makeover for the Sorrento with a new management company, overhauls of The Hunt Room restaurant and Fireside Room lounge, and a new look for the hotel’s Madison-facing courtyard. You’ll also soon see a giant mural on the hotels parking garage.

The Seattle City of Literature initiative seeks to include the city’s writers and literary history in the United Nations’ Creative Cities program. According to the announcement, Seattle City of Literature will organize readings, conferences, book clubs, festivals, and more at the hotel. The new meeting space is scheduled to open by spring.

In the meantime, a longtime favorite Sorrento event for lovers of literature won’t be taking place this month. January’s Silent Reading Party has been canceled, organizer and Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizzelle announced, citing the work underway to update the Fireside Room. “I am sad to say they’re getting rid of that carpet. I love that carpet. I really wish they wouldn’t get rid of it,” he writes. “But seasons change, carpets change… Happily, the new management is not getting rid of the silent-reading party.”

Capitol Hill food+drink | Thomas Soukakos’s friends will like Omega Ouzeri and so will you

Omega opens Thursday (Images: CHS)

Omega opens Thursday on 14th Ave (Images: CHS)

Thomas and Alexander Soukakos (Image: CHS)

Thomas and Alexander Soukakos (Image: CHS)

Here’s a business model for thriving in the rich but competitive Pike/Pine food and drink economy: Earn loads of friendships in your 20 years of experience in the Capitol Hill restaurant business and then build a place where all those friends will want to hang out.

Good luck to you!

But Thomas Soukakos has it down.

“I’m all about my friends,” Soukakos tells CHS summing up his two decades of Seattle food and drink experience as he prepared to open his new Omega Ouzeri Thursday on 14th Ave. “My friends will come here.”

Omega, Soukakos says, is the food and drink experience he has always wanted to create. Starting with El Greco on Broadway in 1994 and creating his two Vios restaurants took Soukakos on a path that in many ways mirrored his life with family and a cautious, humble approach to the restaurant business.

“Life gives us curves,” Soukakos said. “I forgot about it.”IMG_7376 Continue reading

Capitol Hill gets ‘efficient’ as two new-era microhousing projects face design review

"It doesn't feel like microhousing at all!" -- Guy in rendering

“It doesn’t feel like microhousing at all!” — Guy in rendering

As CHS reported last fall, Seattle’s new microhousing rules left plenty of room for aPodment-style development on Capitol Hill. One of the biggest asks for microhousing critics was to subject the “efficiency unit” building type to the Seattle design review process. Critics — and the rest of us — can see their dreams become reality at Wednesday night’s meeting of the East Design Review Board.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.13.46 PMBoylston Flats
1404 Boylston is familiar territory for the board. The seven-story “affordable” apartment building with 105 units averaging around 440 square feet a piece and slated to replace the 1905-built Emerald City Manor apartments took its first run through early design guidance back in November.

At that meeting, the board didn’t like what it saw and kicked the project back to microhousing developers Tyler Carr and Kelten Johnson and architect S+H Works to sort out the issues for another EDG round. Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar delays are prompting SDOT director to visit Czech manufacturer

The most useless Seattle transit tracking app ever -- Vesselfinder.com shows the Maltese vehicle carrier Tiger underway to the States with one of Seattle's streetcars aboard -- Check out the latest position at vesselfinder.com

The most useless Seattle transit tracking app ever — Vesselfinder.com shows the Maltese vehicle carrier MV Tiger underway to the States with one of Seattle’s streetcars aboard — Check out the latest position at vesselfinder.com

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 7.19.09 PM

SDOT director Scott Kubly (far right) meets with the City Council transportation committee.

City Council member Tom Rasmussen is not happy about delays with the First Hill Streetcar. While his office never responded to CHS as we broke the news last week that streetcar service won’t be started as late as the end of July, Rasmussen did have a lot of questions for the director of the Seattle Department of Transportation during a Tuesday council meeting.

When pressed about why the manufacturer Inkekon had still not shipped three streetcars from the Czech Republic, SDOT’s Scott Kubly said the delay was more about poor timeline setting. Inekon had to redesign several key components from their stock streetcar model and Kubly said the city had not anticipated the extra manufacturing time.

However, Kubly’s heavy handed response to the delay suggests he and SDOT are taking an even more serious response to the issues.

Kubly said he began holding daily phone calls with the CEO of Inekon last month and that he is planning a trip to the Czech Republic in February to inspect production and press the importance of delivering the cars as soon as possible.

“This is frustrating,” Rasmussen said during the meeting. “How do you know they’re just not putting you off and not making excuses, and if they really buckled down they could get this thing done sooner?” Continue reading

CHS Pics | Slummit Block Party, LLC

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_6877Last week, CHS reported that the artist enclave Summit Inn had been sold to a developer with plans to transform the Inn “into conventional apartments” with a total overhaul and inevitably higher rents.

Saturday night, some of the Inn’s remaining residents and other Summit Ave neighbors got together for a winter edition of the block’s annual music festival. Here are a few scenes from this weekend’s Slummit Block Party, LLC.

Meanwhile, the Summit Inn’s new owner Brad Padden‘s plan — “Substantial Alterations to an existing 40-unit apartment building. Renovate all units and decrease unit count to 35 small efficiency dwelling units” — is wending its way through the Department of Planning and Development.

Blotter | Hill bar burned by utility scam, 27/Yesler shooting, hate crime arrest

See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959. You can view recent CHS Crime coverage here.

  • Bar rip-off: A Capitol Hill bar was nailed for $1,500 earlier this month in a recurring scam Seattle City Light has been trying to warn customers about. Here’s how the ruse played out:
    Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.41.41 AM“In retrospect it all falls apart (online billing records show no such balance, the phone number itself doesn’t show on Seattle City Lights website, etc) but it was so scary to imagine losing our ability to operate, staff losing hours, etc that we went into a blind panic,” the victim of the scam tells CHS. She said the timing of the call was unfortunately perfect with her fears about the prospect about being closed for a three-day weekend overwhelming her sense. She says the hope for nailing these bad guys is slim but that there’s a chance insurance can help them recoup the lost cash. Continue reading

Central Area Neighborhood Greenway begins with bike markings, better pedestrian crossings — and ‘speed humps’

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.48.31 AMcentralgreenway_map_vertical_feb27-212x550 (1)Work on the first phase of the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway is underway creating new bike route markings, new stop signs and better pedestrian crossings along a route connecting 21st, 22nd, and 25th Ave from John to Jackson. You’ll note that SDOT is also adding “approximately” one speed hump per block on the route.

CHS included the work in our list of transit projects to look forward to in 2015. The “Hybrid” option for a bicycle and pedestrian friendly parallel to the 23rd Ave corridor will begin at I-90 and pass up through the Central District along 26th and 25th Ave before a jog over to 22nd north across E Madison to Capitol Hill. Through a mix of signage, pavement markings, speed bumps, roundabouts and other traffic-calming features, the route will complement a $46 million overhaul of 23rd Ave. When complete, the 23rd Avenue greenway is likely to be the longest greenway in the city.

Seattle Bike Blog says the first phase of work is slated to be wrapped up later this winter. SBB also provides insights on some of the most important bike and pedestrian work still to come to make the greenway a reality.

If the plan doesn’t get mucked up for the northern end of the route, the area should connect nicely to Montlake’s bicycle and pedestrian resources included in the Seattle-side 520 replacement project.

Updates and more here:

Phase 1 runs between E. John Street and S. Jackson Street along 21st Avenue E, 22nd Avenue E, and 25th Avenue S. Installation elements include:

  • Bicycle pavement markings
  • Stop signs on all streets crossing the greenway
  • Flashing beacons for pedestrians and bicyclists at arterial crossings: 25th Avenue S and E Yesler Way; 25th Avenue S and E Cherry Street
  • Enhanced pedestrian traffic signal at 22nd Avenue E and E Union
  • Approximately one speed hump per block on the route

This work will necessitate some temporary on-street parking restrictions, pedestrian and cyclist detours, and some light construction noise. Access to businesses and residences will be maintained except when temporary restrictions are necessary. Normal work hours will be 9 AM to 4 PM. Installation is expected to be complete in late Winter 2015.

Broadway OfficeMax is closing in February

IMG_9040Ripple effects from a multi-national corporate acquisition are once again making an impact on Capitol Hill. This time, it’s not a local brewery takeover, but the closure of an office supply chain store.

CHS has learned that the Broadway OfficeMax will be closing its doors in late February, just one year after it opened in the mixed-use Lyric building. Around 400 other OfficeMax locations were slated to close last year as part of Office Depot’s 2013 takeover of the company.

UPDATE (1/28): An OfficeDepot corporate spokesperson said the Broadway store would close on February 21st.

panorama-600x153

An employee at the Broadway store told CHS that staff were notified of the closing a few weeks ago. Pillar Properties owns the Lyric apartments, but the company does not control the OfficeMax commercial space. A Pillar spokesperson said they’ve reached out to the individual who owns the space for more details on what may come next. We’ll update here if we hear anything.

The Broadway OfficeMax was one of six nationwide “vector” stores — a smaller-format concept meant to target urban neighborhoods. CHS broke the news of the company’s move on to Broadway in August 2013 and was there in January just before the store’s grand opening. At the time, store employees said the companies strategy was to offer a range of businesses services to the neighborhood’s independent shop owners. The Broadway location also includes around 90% of office supplies found in OfficeMax’s regular sized stores.

An OfficeMax corporate spokesperson did not return CHS’s request for comment on the Broadway closure.

It’s unclear what the future holds for the atypically large Broadway space that sits between Thomas and E Olive Way. With nearly one square mile more than 5,000 square feet of retail area, the space is small by box store standards but probably too large for many independent retailers. It’s possible the store could be divided in half with two separate entrances.

Broadway recently lost two longtime retailers when Redlight and Aprie fashion stores shuttered in November. Lifelong Thrift is preparing to take Redlight’s place, but is seeking some extra funds to help pay for the move from 10th and E Union.

Down the block, Metro Clothing is holding a liquidation sale to make way for of major changes in inventory. Metro owners assured customers on Facebook the sale was not a signal the store was closing.

Meanwhile, Broadway’s Castle Megastore sex shop is making plans to move to E Pike.

City’s Neighborhood Councils look for place as District 3 race begins

d3-1Seattle’s transition to a district-based City Council will mean an extremely busy 2015 campaign season. It will also mean shifts and changes in some of the old ways of getting things done. One framework in the city seemingly due for a shift is the East District Neighborhood Council.

“If it’s in campaign season you’ll ask [candidates] ‘hey can we get spotted unicorns’ and they’ll say ‘you bet we’ll get a boxcar full of them.’ If you can get outside of the election zone, it’s nice to have them come,” said Department of Neighborhoods district coordinator Tim Durkan, the city rep charged with organizing the East group. Durkan, we should note, is also a CHS contributor. But having candidates show up at this particular council’s meetings is one thing. Sorting out how existing community bodies fit into the new system is another.

Lindy Wishard, chair of the East group and a member of the Madison Valley Community Council & Merchants Association said that it will be important to connect at some point with the eventual District 3 rep.

“We have some very conservative neighborhoods and we have some very liberal neighborhoods and we have everything in between,” she said. “I think it’s important for whoever gets voted in to be aware of all areas of the district.” Continue reading

#caphillpsa: Capitol Hill signs — Starbucks apologies, Comet code of conduct, City Market on Tom Brady’s balls

(Image: Comet Tavern)

(Image: Comet Tavern)

It’s a sign. One of the most effective ways to communicate your thoughts on the Hill on the Hill is to create a big, giant sign. CHS has a pile of Capitol Hill sign updates to share, below.

  • As you can imagine, we’ve been sent the Starbucks apologies banner that popped up on the side of Benson’s Grocery several times over the weekend. But Dan Nolte sent it first.

    This appeared on Bellevue at Pike over the weekend -- thanks to @noltedan (and everybody else) for sending

    This appeared on Bellevue at Pike over the weekend — thanks to @noltedan (and everybody else) for sending

  • We assume the sign makers “Mark and Sam” are referring to this. But maybe they meant this?
  • Benson’s, by the way, knows a little about the city’s on-premises advertising rules regarding signage.
  • We look forward to the Amazon, Microsoft, and CHS editions of the apology banners. Continue reading

Done with Broadway Alley, Villa Escondida — ‘the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of’ — vows to reopen

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

Seattle Central College alum Jose Perez has shuttered his first restaurant venture as Villa Escondida is on a search for a new home — preferably on or near Capitol Hill, we’re told.

Word spread over the weekend of the affordable Mexican eatery’s preparations to shut down inside the Broadway Alley retail complex. A few fans had one last opportunity to eat at the restaurant Saturday night.

In a Facebook post, the restaurant’s management chalked the closure up to a “contract disagreement.” The restaurant had recently been unsuccessful in winning a beer and wine license for the location.

CHS covered Broadway Alley’s unusual mixed-use history here in 2012. It continues to house several Capitol Hill businesses including the much-loved and expanded Tacos Chukis.

CHS reported on Perez’s first restaurant venture last spring as Villa took over after Mexican sandwich shop Torteria Barriga Llena also pulled out of the Alley. The family connections to Capitol Hill’s Mexican food scene run deep:

“I always wanted to do it but never had the opportunity,” said Perez. His cousin,Misael Dominguez, has previous experience opening up businesses and is kicking in financial support. “He’s the one, I guess, that is teaching me all the stuff.” Dominguez, when we spoke with him last, was opening La Cocina Oaxaquena at Melrose and Pine last spring. Dominguez managed Ballard’s La Carta de Oaxaca back when the restaurant first grew into prominence. Roberto Dominguez, the managing partner of La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne, just opened the beautiful the beautiful and mezcale-stuffed Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill on E Pine.

The recipe of affordable Mexican food and breakfast options seemed to be catching on. Earlier this month, the Seattle Times named Villa Escondida to its roster of “best new cheap eats for 2015.” “This is the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of,” the Times wrote in a sentence now likely filling you with deep levels of regret. Hopefully that regret won’t last long.

Keep an eye on the Villa Escondida Facebook page for updates about a new location.

Capitol Hill nonprofit has one question for you: ‘What would you most like to see in the new Hugo House?’

download (4)Last fall, CHS reported that Capitol Hill nonprofit Hugo House had begun work on a plan to build a new center as part of a mixed-use development at the site of its 11th Ave home. The literary arts organization is asking for community feedback on what shape its new venue should take with an online survey and Monday night community forum:

Hugo House is going to have a new home! Come help us dream up an even more dynamic center for writing and reading and listening.

What do you most wish to see in the new Hugo House—whether it’s something you hope we continue to have, a practical addition, or a wild wish for something new? We wouldn’t dream of making decisions about our new facility without you: the teachers, the students, the event attendees—the writers. This forum will give you a chance to tell us what would make the new house a home.

We’d love to see you there—and please invite anyone on your friends list who you think might be invested in the future of the House.

The “community conversation” starts at 6 PM at Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave.

You can also add your voice via this one-question survey:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.03.45 AM

Note: You’ll have to enter at least five characters so F-U-N won’t count. We always preferred essay questions over multiple choice, too.

One group is already rallying to ask for Hugo House to include a performance venue in its plans:

Right now, the building is home to an 1800 square foot black box with fixed seating for 87, theatrical lighting grid and built-in sound system – this stage has been a place for local Seattle playwrights to debut the bold new work being produced in our city, and to lose it would be a serious setback in transforming Capitol Hill into the arts district it strives to be.

In the announcement of the new development project last fall, Hugo House and the longtime property owners of the more than 100-year-old building said they were working with a developer to determine “the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process.” The announcement notes the property owners have “generously supported all facility costs, including rent” for Hugo House throughout its history.