Neighbors have plenty to say about Volunteer Park Cafe

Unlike two other news outlets in the city covering this story, we haven’t mentioned his name on CHS until now. Here’s why. The man who made the original complaint to the Department of Planning and Development about Volunteer Park Cafe’s land-use issues wasn’t the only neighbor to complain to the City of Seattle, a group forming to represent neighbors in the area says.

According to the group, the situation at 17th Ave and Galer isn’t Paul Jones vs. Volunteer Park Cafe. It’s a growing group of residents who live nearby and have concerns about the scale the popular restaurant is trying to achieve and who are concerned about what happens long after the cafe has served its last delicious, buttery scone.

“I think a neighborhood cafe is an asset to the community,” Volunteer Park Cafe neighbor Jones said. “But the issue is the growth that they have had. The expansion they have had is out of scale with what the neighborhood can support.”

Cliff Meyer also lives nearby and is acting as the unofficial spokesperson for the unofficial group forming to organize neighbors as Volunteer Park Cafe prepares to submit its application for a zoning change to permit it to continue operating as a restaurant in a building that is zoned for a grocery store. He says the group doesn’t speak for everyone, of course, but is doing what he can to talk with others in the area and get them involved. Meyer also reached out to us after seeing our post Tuesday morning about the latest in VPC’s process with the city. By the way, if you live in the area and would also like CHS to get your side of things on future neighborhood issues, we’re easy to reach — chs@capitolhillseattle.com. Don’t be shy.

Meyer, who works as a communications consultant, says the group is going by the name Volunteer Park Neighbors for now until somebody thinks of something better. And, he says, their mission isn’t to kick Volunteer Park Cafe out of the neighborhood.

“We think a compromise in which a business has certain limits would be wonderful for everyone,” Meyer said.

“This is not one next door neighbor that is doing something that is spiteful,” Meyer said. “This is a group of people who have been patient and polite and trying to work with the owners who feel like we have been backed into the corner.”

Meyer said he feels that the handful of neighbors who have filed complaints and who are working with the group have legitimate and fair issues that need to be raised — no matter how loved Volunteer Park Cafe is.

“I’ve been a customer and it’s great cafe,” Meyer said. “My family has enjoyed the cafe. We’ve spent hundreds of dollars. We felt like we were great neighbors.” But, like Jones, Meyer said that he and a half dozen other neighbors in the group are concerned about the restaurant’s growth and have specific areas of business they want to see addressed if Volunteer Park Cafe is going to continue to operate in the neighborhood.

Meyer listed the group’s priorities for CHS:

  • Fire safety related to a busy commercial kitchen in a residential neighborhood
  • Limited seating
  • No crowding of sidewalk with patio seating
  • Fix overflowing dumpsters
  • Better solution for delivery trucks
  • Limited operating hours and patio and garden hours
  • Better parking solutions
  • Jones, who works in the contracting and construction business, said he has known about the zoning for the space since he moved into the neighborhood 31 years ago and a grocery store operated on the corner. He said back when he was making the decision to buy the house neighboring the old grocery, he was concerned about the future of the store and spent an hour down at City Hall talking with staff about the limitations for the space.

    When the cafe first opened, Jones said its scale wasn’t a problem for the street. But dinner hours, a more and more crowded sidewalk seating set-up, increased popularity and traffic and, finally, the plans VPC started making for its garden dining area convinced him that something needed to be done.

    Jones said he took his concerns up with the cafe in February and was informed that the owners had been advised by a lawyer that their use of the space was legitimate. Jones said he knew better and filed the complaint with DPD in May.

    Jones also tells CHS that he didn’t intend to be part of the story. “You’re the first people I’ve talked to,” Jones said. “When I made the complaint, the city said my name would be confidential. ‘We highly recommend you not communicate with the owner and that you allow the city to handle this,’ they said.”

    When CHS asked DPD staff to provide names of neighbors who had complained in the situation, we were told the names of complainants were confidential.

    Jones’ name getting mixed into this situation is only part of the communication problems that have also been in play. When Volunteer Park Cafe sent out information about their patio and plans for a garden and chicken coops to the media, Jones and Meyer say they neglected to talk to neighbors about the project.

    “We’re confused by their inability to simply talk with neighbors,” Meyer said.

    While Meyer didn’t rule out meeting with the cafe’s owners, nothing is planned and the group is focused on the change of use application and public process that will follow. Meyer said he feels the process will be his group’s opportunity to lay out their concerns and put conditions on how Volunteer Park Cafe operates on the street.

    “A good public process is important if the cafe owners have no interest in actually working with the neighbors,” Meyer said.

    Jones is thinking about his home on Capitol Hill.

    “Restaurants come and go. We don’t know who will be the next tenant,” Jones said. “The neighbors are looking more in terms of long term.”

    “I plan on being in this house forever,” Jones said. “Chances are, I’ll probably be in the neighborhood a lot longer than they will.”

    74 thoughts on “Neighbors have plenty to say about Volunteer Park Cafe

    1. Plain and simple. They’re happy when a place opens when it doesn’t inconvenience them. The minute they can’t get their favorite table or have to wait for their scone, they get bitchy.

    2. Tom,
      You should try to delve into the issues with more objectivity that to just resort to name calling. Your response is the same type of generalizations other intolerant people have used for far too long in our Country.

    3. This doesn’t really sound that bad. Maybe the business is worse than it is described in this article. From their website they’re only open until 9:00 and that doesn’t seem like much of a list of complaints.

    4. It’s the same news story over and over again, we want X, but we don’t want it in our neighborhood. We want buses, but don’t park them in front of our business, we want cafes, but we don’t want them within a half mile of our houses, we want homeless shelters, hospitals and bars, but don’t you dare put them in our neighborhoods!

      If the richie-rich people in the VP area can’t handle city life with all the bustling commerce and thriving activity, why don’t they pick up and move to a lonely plot in some faraway suburb. Surround yourself with empty space where you don’t have to see or hear other people. But if you stay, keep in mind that you live in a metropolis, with all the *benefits* and all the negatives. Cities evolve, things change. Many of us live over noisy dumpsters, near loud clubs and bars, next to fire stations, 7-11s with winos out front, ugly parking lots, bustling grocery centers with endless truck loading, etc… and you get to live by a lovely little cafe in a hoity toity neighborhood full of amazing houses and trees. Once in awhile their dumpsters are over-full and people sip gourmet espresso on the sidewalk. BOO HOO.

    5. I am part of the group of neighbors trying set reasonable limits on the cafe’s operation so that we, too, can enjoy our neighborhood.

      No one is running around with a pitchfork and a rail. I like eating at the cafe, I like hangout with fellow Stevens parents after drop-off and before pick-up. Show me one person, however, would like:

      -dead rats in their backyard, and live ones dining on the cafe’s garbage bins;
      -putrid cooking oil spilling down the alley;
      -putrid cooking oil thrown on their plants;
      - glass bottles crashing into the recycling. At 11pm. Every night the cafe is open; and of course,
      -the whole “deadly fire hazard” thing I commented about here: http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2010/08/31/volunteer-park-).

      Erika and Heather need to accept responsibility for the very serious problems they have created. They need to demonstrate that expanding their restaurant will not leave us with an expanded set of problems. Whether or not the neighbors come ’round has very little to do with us neighbors. The responsibility lies squarely with Erika and Heather.

    6. So I take it that after working hard, going without and saving you bought your property and those “inconviniences” didn’t exist but now that they do you are fine with it.
      I love how people assume we are lucky to live here. My family wears second hand clothes and has had their share of powdered milk.

    7. If this is the list – wow – not a big deal at all.

      Wonder what the real problem is?

      Each of the problems on the list is easily handled.

      By the way, when do you talk about jobs, local food access, and the investment of the owners of the cafe? And, is this a woman owned small business – a category encouraged by all civic policy.

      In a recession, they are expanding? BRAVO. That is the American spirit. That is why I say to all the complaining, get over it.

      Going there to eat this weekend.

    8. Wow here we go, now the neighbor who has lived here for 31 years and by the way lived on Capitol Hill for 56 years is suppose to pick up his bags and move to the bergs because he no longer fits into your definition of what is the correct mind set to live here. What gives you the right to define our neighborhood? I think that it is the right of the neighbors to stand up for their legal rights to protect their neighborhood from outsiders who violate the zoning laws. The neighbors were here before these people arrived and they will be here after they leave.

    9. Hey Mike w/curls -
      Fire hazard IS a big deal. VPC’s building looks closer than 5 ft from the property line. Has the fire dept. been out to check the safety of the grocery store-turned-restaurant?

      As far as the investment the owners made -
      too bad they invested so much in the back even though they knew it was zoned for SF5000.

    10. This is the money line in all the comments.

      Quote- ” …for their legal rights to protect their neighborhood from outsiders…”

      If I had not read this I would not believe it was uttered by any modern day Seattle resident.

      And they say they are opposing this for the letter of the zoning regs.

      This discussion is fast becoming – The Shame of Volunteer Park.

      Yuk.

    11. The neighbors or VPC?

      VPC is like that new college graduate that comes into the company at the lowest man on the totem pole thinking they know everything but refuses to give respect to those they have been there and put in their time and know how the business works.

      It’s an older neighborhood and chances most have been there for 20-30 years. It’s obvious VPC isn’t giving the respect people in the neighborhood have earned. We all saw it in their June “pity me” letter.

      I can not wait to put in my two cents.

    12. Huh?

      What does that have to do with it? You don’t need papers to change neighborhoods, live work anywhere you please.

      You all sound like bad acid.

    13. It’s sad to the see polarizing attitudes here. The whole thing sounds like an excellent candidate for resolution through mediation.

    14. This is a very difficult issue for my wife and I, who have lived across the street from the Cafe/Grocery store for 18 years now. We have seen a lot of different owners in our day, as it has cycled between grocery and cafe and back a few times. All of my observations are from this 18 year window.

      The very first people that were there when we moved in 18 years ago had a sign that said simply “Ice cold beer and cigarettes”, and along with some candy, it was about all they sold. There was some expired other groceries on the shelves, but they did not really move.

      The first place there that I think added something positive to the neighborhood was when a couple gentlemen acquired the place in the late 90’s and converted it to a cafe. They had a popular and wonderful brief run before their personal relationship failed, and it was sold. These guys were friends with most of the neighbors, and as far as I can tell, everyone was sad when they left.

      This lead to a series of failed cafe’s and groceries. The final owners, before it was sold to Erika and Heather, had it branded as “Cafe Europa”. Very few neighborhood people cared for this place, and it was clear that they didn’t care for us. Most infamous was the dispute with a neighbor who objected to the prominent display of Benito Mousilini’s portrait.

      As far as my wife and I are concerned, Erika and Heather have done things almost entirely right. They have created a space that is very pleasing, and very popular with many people within the neighborhood and beyond. Starting about three months before they opened, they were reaching out to the neighborhood, and making us all feel welcome. We are still frequent guests of the establishment, and hope to be for many years to come.

      My wife and I have tried desperately to try to remain “above the fray”. We are very good friends with the people on both sides of this dispute, including Paul and his wife, Cliff and his wife, and with Erika and Heather. I do know that there are legitimate complaints, and I don’t want be dismissive of them.

      However, we support the Cafe. Of our 18 years here, we have only had what I consider to be “good tenants” in that space for perhaps 5 years, and that includes these past 3.5+ years that VPC has been there. We will be extremely disappointed if we lose the cafe.

      The neighborhood itself appears to be very split in their feelings. We know many people who love the place, and of course we have very good friends who are on the “complaint” side. But this situation should *not* be construed as having any kind of unanimity of opinion amongst the neighborhood. VPC does have neighbors who support them.

    15. Curly,

      If they are easily handled then Erika and Heather should handle them. The responsibility and onus is on them and not their neighbors to make this right.

    16. Thanks for adding this — replying not to object to anything you wrote, etc. but to thank you for adding your voice. Jones and Meyer both wanted it to be clear that they don’t represent everybody, of course. I tried to express that without reducing their effort to organize. The DPD process is right around the corner so no huge need to prognosticate on who has more support, etc. We’ll know soon what everybody has to say. I was eager to be able to share what some people who live nearby are most concerned with as we hadn’t really heard that yet. Your comment is also very useful to read. As much as this is an interesting news story touching on so many of the themes CHS tends to focus on, there’s a street of neighbors and day to day lives involved.

    17. The problem with the cafe is that the dumpsters have been attracting large numbers of rats. The reality is that the cafe has had years to get its act together and manage the garbage problem. Obviously if you are not from the neighborhood, you have no issues with it. I doubt that anyone would want to trade a cafe next door or across the street for garbage and rats in your home. This is just a small part of the reason’s why neighbors are unhappy with the cafe.

      for years people have parked in the neighbors driveways, blocked driveways and refused to move, poured oil on plants,and no one complained. The neighborhood has not been against the cafe since day one, this has been years in the making. if some reasonable limitations were placed on the cafe it could still operate within the neighborhood just fine. If you want to keep eating your scones, the cafe has to agree to work with the neighbors, rather than try to bully them into moving to the suburbs.

    18. Call me naive…but has everyone tried to get together to work this out…somehow? I can see both sides…I live on the hill and have been to the cafe, which is chic and very quaint. Visually it fits right into the neighborhood.
      People pick places to live usually because of what they can afford and the neighborhood, schools, and proximity to work. Most of the residents have probably been there longer than the cafe. They bought the neighborhood…but Not the cafe.
      However, fire hazards, rats, noise…if they weren’t there before is an issue. They would be for me. I’m a landlord myself and would have to fix those things if they became an issue…and would want to.
      At this point, it sounds like everyone is so angry that instead of trying to find some common ground, everyone has taken up arms?
      A mini civil war. I suppose if the lines have been drawn in the sand and no one is able to TRY an TALK to each other to find a solution..then the law is a sad avenue to take.
      The neighborhood is beautiful…and so is the cafe…lets get together…defuse the bombs of anger and try to work to fix things…
      In the end it may not be perfect for everyone, but it seems worth a try?

    19. I live in the immediate neighborhood and i would like to state for the record that the people who are concerned with the cafe, definitely do not speak for my family. Also — by the way — rats are just part of city living — they’re called Norway Rats, they’re creative, they want to be here.

    20. I think it’s interesting to note that noone has mentioned the new sidewalk that VPC put in on their own accord, as the landlord wouldn’t fix it, and that itself was becoming quite the hazard. I used to trip on the uneven, broken concrete and now have a renewed sense of confidence as I walk home on the sidewalk. I’d much rather dodge a few happy customers munching away on lovely tidbits and savories, than risk breaking my neck on the broken concrete. I say, YAYAY, BRAVO, Job well done!!! Now that’s a GREAT neighbor!

    21. Sad is a great word for what a lot of us are feeling. I was speaking with a neighbor two nights ago. She really likes the café. She, among many, are thrilled to finally have a café that we like going to. (That Mussolini lover was really a pill.) Her final words were, “Why can’t the café just be a good neighbor?”

    22. The cafe has completely taken over the sidewalk and it is really hard to navigate through the mess that has evolved on this corner – there are tables, chairs, a sandwich board, three newspaper machines, a large stainless steel dog water dish, and the blue USPS box – which itself is easy to navigate around – but there is usually some dumb dog tied to it. Look at the site on google maps street view – there are items listed above in the middle of the walk – with no consideration to someone that is just trying to get across Galer.

      The lack of consideration to the general public by the cafe workers and patrons is annoying for people that use the 17th sidewalk for one of its intended purposes.

      Regardless – 17th is on one of my running routes and as I like the incline from Garfield to Aloha – I will continue navigate my way through the crowd – sweaty and shirtless blowing snot rockets at 17th and Galer to the displeasure of the type of people that talk about freshness of scones.

    23. In response to this good point, and also to the above comment: “At this point, it sounds like everyone is so angry that instead of trying to find some common ground, everyone has taken up arms?” :

      In fairness to the neighbors, we have tried. When VPC first went to the press, one neighbor sent and e-mail to the owners expressing his discontent. Not only about the café’s lack of communication for their expansion plans, but also their unneighborly slamming of Paul Jones for filing the complaint. This neighbor received a prompt apology e-mail from Ericka, who promised to do something to increase communication with the neighborhood.

      The neighbors are still waiting.

      In July, one neighbor put together a list of problems and concerns and met with Heather and Ericka. Again, they sent an e-mail reply saying they would get back to us to set up a meeting.

      Again, the neighbors are still waiting.

    24. I wish I had been able to reply directly to the above comment: ” … this is the list? If this is the list – wow – not a big deal at all. Wonder what the real problem is? Each of the problems on the list is easily handled.”

      Exactly.

      The question is: why hasn’t VPC responded? They keep saying they will, and they don’t. What is truly galling is the way they tell their customers and send out PR (!!) saying they are the victims.

      As for the real problem (a wise obvervation, Mike with curls): despite some back-and-forth about dead rats and overflowing garbage, Volunteer Park Neighbors’ feels strongly that this we are not debating the validity of the café. We want to discuss the future of the neighborhood.

      • VPC rents the space in the building and is not the owner. Should the city approve their request to change zoning use from its current ‘Grocery Store’ to ‘Eating and Drinking Establishment,’ the use approval stays with the property regardless of the tenant.

      • Should the city approve, neighbors would have virtually no influence over any future tenant: sports bar, tavern, chain coffee shop or restaurant.

      None of us chose to buy a house near a sports bar of Starbucks. Should VPC ever move, one of those legally open. And that, neighbors, would truly alter where we live.

    25. You are freaking disgusting. The people outside are not apart of your stupid argument. They are just patrons. I hate Seattle so much sometimes.

    26. Neighborhoods change and grow. So do cities. With cities come noise, community, rats, garbage, differing opinions, etc. I remember when the VP neighbors opposed the dog park in VP — there is always something to be mad about. Fact is we live in a growing city and these types of growing pains are to be expected. I do think the VPC should be a good neighbor though but enough with all this bashing back and forth! Come on people, just be glad you live in a nice hood with a nice little cafe.

    27. You’re obsessive-compulsive if that bothers you. I can see some of the other residents’ complaints, but yours sound seriously petty.

    28. Thanks for the comments, Brian and Justin. I think it was very important that Justin’s article told the public that the Jones family is only one of many families concerned about the cafe’s plans and operations.

      I don’t think it’s incompatible to support the cafe *and* want Ericka and Heather to be better neighbors when it comes to expansion plans and the safety and health issues we are raising. I have spent a lot of time (and money!) at the VPC, and hope to spend lots more. I hope the outcome of the public process about to happen is positive for everyone, and will also result in a few clear, reasonable limitations that will govern the current AND future operators of that retail space. Let’s face it, Ericka and Heather will not be there forever.

    29. The cafe is a wonderful place to meet friends and enjoy delicious food. I do not live beside the cafe but I want to express my sympathy for those who do. If my neighbors had outside parties six nights a week I would not be happy either. I HOPE we can all work together for the good of all involved. I recently read: When the winds change some people put up walls and some build windmills! I hope we can do the latter, as a community.

    30. “Come on people, just be glad you live in a nice hood with a nice little cafe.”

      In the beginning we were glad to have a nice little cafe, that is until the “little cafe” became a busy over crowded restaurant that decided to expand their seating to a large patio complete with an 8 foot high chicken coop in the back yard. Perhaps if the VPC had handled all their other issues (overflowing garbage, cooking oil spills, loud parties every month and over crowded sidewalks) in the beginning all this may have been avoided.

    31. Why do you think we live in a nice hood? How do you think it got this way? There are plenty of neighborhoods in Seattle with the same architecture, proximity to parks, etc. It’s nice here because those of us that live her care about it. We take care of the neighborhood and it takes care of us. Yes, we’re a bunch of busy bodies, we don’t like something, we do something about it. That’s how we roll. That dog park was shit, and we got rid of it. You can thank my crazy neighbor for that one.

      I’ve lived here for 40 years, I take immense pride in my neighborhood, so I take offense when someone comes in and shits on it. Clean up after yourself, be courteous to your (my) neighbors, and don’t create problems. All things not being done in this instance.

      The next time you’re visiting our neighborhood and enjoying the fruits of our labors remember it is like this because this is how we made it.

    32. As I posted on the other article, please imagine Jon Stewart saying the following:

      “Enough with the ‘Close the cafe!’ narrative. That narrative was created by the a right-wing agenda in order to present a dichotomy where there is not one.”

      This is me, now: From the beginning, the cafe has played this as, “They want to shut us down.” The only one talking about shutting down the cafe is the cafe.

      I am watching these comments multiply and wondering, why no one is asking, “Why would so many neighbors want to shut down a perfectly lovely cafe?”

      WE DON’T.

      We want the cafe to grow in a way that the neighborhood can support (as in: the necessary infrastructure); secondly, we want them to straighten out the mess they make. (As in: actual mess: garbage, rodents.)

      That is all. Very reasonable. Long live Volunteer Park Cafe!

      And thanks to Brian across the street for opening up this arm of the conversation with his well-thought-out comment.

    33. Having now read every line over the months …

      And feeling quite endowed as a Seattle native …

      No way would I want to live in this clutch of opinionated, busy body, stick in mud, harping folks who call them selves good neighbors …

      You are a bunch of Hill HORRORS Neighbors. You go beyond NIMBY to name calling, insults, getting hot and bothered about every little detail of others lives, and assuming you have some power over the lives and business interest of the cafe …. just because … well just because, we got here first. Oh bunk.

      I ate there on the weekend, the food and mood were both great. You all need to get a grip, and I hope the neighborhood becomes a beacon for families with tons of small children … the pissing and moaning will be legendary I think.

      And by the way the fierce and personal nature of your complaints and the claim the we got here first so we set the rules, neither will give you any clout in a fair zoning hearing. Cause, neither are the basis for fair and equal rules in a civil society, ie. zoning, and business use permits.

      I encourage everyone reading these posts to go eat at the Volunteer Park Cafe, VPC, and make you own decision about all the complaints. They are all smoke and talking points. Nada.

    34. Curly,

      I hope this means the end to your constant comments that don’t move the conversation forward. You don’t offer any solutions but fuel the fire.

    35. This is my neighborhood too! I may not have lived in this hood for as long as you but as it is where I live too I think I have a say. I think there are plenty of neighborhoods like Greenlake that have cafes and houses that all live in harmony. The hood was nice when there was a dog park too — in fact, better, I think!

    36. A comment about moving forward …..means what?

      These woman are operating a fine business, true and tried Americana, cozy cafe on the corner, serving good product. They have every right to this location. All the various claims can be resolved in ten minutes, most are bogus.

      You don’t like the place, don’t buy their product. That is the only vote anyone gets. End of story. This is America.

      And no matter what happens, the whining clutch will keep whining. It is how they live, it is what animates them. And, really, who cares about constant whining? Remember there is a clan, the Whiner Clan, you all can affiliate to share stories.

    37. “Many of us live over noisy dumpsters, near loud clubs and bars, next to fire stations, 7-11s with winos out front, ugly parking lots, bustling grocery centers with endless truck loading, etc.”

      Maybe if you spent less time feeling sorry for yourself you might be more successful.

    38. Whiner…I mean Curly,

      It means you stop making incoherent comments.

      You don’t have all the facts. You are not part of the situation. You don’t know whether it can be solved in 10 minutes because it hasn’t. You don’t know what is bogus and what is not.

      They do have every right to operate in this location following the correct zoning. After all, this is America.

    39. The cafe is not operating a “fine” business. They are illegally operating a popular business.

      There was no shock when it was “revealed” that the cafe was, in fact, zoned as a grocery. Unless you count the cafe’s owners, who were shocked, shocked to discover the fact. (They claim they signed a lease for the rent of a cafe. Who knew?)

      When I bring up the illegal use issue with my neighbors, literally everyone says–I mean: literally–says: “I know, but I’d love to go sit on the patio for dinner and wine on a summer night.”

      To which I am considering replying: then move to a neighborhood zoned for cafes that can legally serve outdoors at night. :)

      America has never meant anyone has the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. America has laws. People certainly can and do break the law. And people certainly can and do expand their business. I have never understood why the cafe does both.

      More importantly, I would really like to know why, if they want one from column A and one from column B, why do they run around hacking off their neighbors?

      PS. to Pinkyboo: Of course you have just as much right to voice your opinion. I hope you plan to take part in the public process that will happen as soon as the cafe files for non-conforming change of use. As does Mr. Mouthy, over there, if he can string together a thought not dripping with incomprehensible venom.

    40. Mike with gurls, please post your home address. I’m dead fucking serious. I’ve been thinking for years of opening a cafe in a residential with outdoor seating and chicken coops, but have been worried about the reactions of the neighbors. Since you seem so uber-in-favor of such cafes, I would like to know where you live, because I know that I will face no opposition to my chicken coops and loud customers. So, man up, gurls, post your address, and I will open my cafe right next door. I double-dog-dare-you. If you are not willing to post your address so that I can open my cafe with chicken coops, then please go and STFU, and leave the big-boy business of running a city to the rest of us who actually have brains.

    41. I live mid twenty bars and night spots in the busy Pike-Pine area, atop, as they say. Love it.

      Then, from an old time resident, posted above, across the street – “in the past there were a number of grocery stores and cafe people in the space” – Hah, current ladies did not invent this so called new use.

      Next, you really do act like you own your neighbors business and right to act without your approval. All you own is your little patch. That is all. Nothing else, no matter what. This is America.

      In this climate we need people who are making efforts to do business, jobs, commerce, small business entrepeneur spirit. You are making a fuss to chill that spirit. Amazing.

      Gurl – who is that? Is that a crowning insult from, big boy Casper, the STFU guy? So women own this cafe, is that one of the problems? Hmmmmm.

      Am I really going to have to match my hyper masculine attributes with STFU big boy guy? Really now… this is getting crazy.

      Mike with Curls – NOT Gurls, and I do really detest whiners. And I admire the two women, they eat it and show it – grit. The All American True Grit Cafe, on the historic corner near historic Volunteer Park. I like it. Could go national.

    42. xthestreet I will definitely participate in a public forum regarding this issue!! Hopefully the information will be posted on this site!

    43. I live a few blocks from the cafe, have never been because I thought it was just a bakery (from the sign that is displayed). I wondered why there were always so many people there, though. I also run up the hill to Aloha like another poster. Oh no, people are on the sidewalk! How hard is it to cross the street?

      I guess I don’t understand what the big deal is. I would love it if I had neighbors making noise every night because then I wouldn’t be so concerned about trying to be quiet myself. I’ve heard stories from many of my neighbors about getting the police called for making noise at night. Makes me paranoid.

      There are rats all over Seattle. They get in your garbage cans, too. So do the raccoons. Don’t pretend they don’t unless you have 3 bungee cords keeping them closed.

      If they are destroying personal property by pouring grease on plants (sounds a bit far-fetched), why weren’t the police called? Destruction of property is a criminal offense, not a “neighborly discussion”. Same thing with grease running down the alley. Wouldn’t that be illegal dumping?

    44. Oh, Mike. With gurls. Funny that upsets you so.

      “This is America”. You sound like Glenn Beck. “I can do whatever I want on MY patch of land! Grow pot. Shoot rifles. Open a casino. Manufacture crystal methamphetamine, and sell it to passerby. Open a dairy farm. Enslave young Bangladeshi children and have them weave rugs day and night. Hold loud quilting bees outdoors at 3 a.m. The list is endless, because THIS. IS. AMERICA!!!”

      “America” is not a free-for-all, regardless of what Faux News tells you. We have laws, and zoning regulations, and building codes. Nobody is trying to “chill” the American capitalist spirit. The neighbors are asking this business (that moved in AFTER most of the neighbors) to stop trashing the ‘hood. Erica, unfortunately, is NOT responsive, so they have gone this route – not to shut her down, but to get her to be a good neighbor. If you had actually ever gone to that intersection, you’d see that it’s not full of bars with people coming and going at all hours. Have you been there? And what, exactly, is your beef with property owners? Are you jelly because you can’t? Too poor? Well, Mikey, your problem. Not anyone else’s. If you like to live amidst 20 bars, and if you like to be drunk all the time and never sleep, then that is your prerogative. But, as you stated, THIS IS AMERICA, and you shouldn’t presume to tell other people how they should live. By your own reasoning, you should butt out of this entire discussion, because THIS IS AMERICA, and you have no dog in this fight. By bossing people around and telling them how they should live in their own neighborhoods (where you apparently don’t live), you are acting just like a Soviet-Communist-Socialist-Fascist oppressor.

      BTW I am a woman, so your accusation that I have a problem with a woman-owned business is, well, a big joke. Again, using your own logic, my vagina has a bigger say in this than you, so please take your curls and go occupy yourself with something useful.

    45. “I would love it if I had neighbors making noise every night”

      Well aren’t you special. Not everyone likes that. That’s kind of the point here.

      “There are rats all over Seattle.”

      What is this, the Middle Ages? We all have to deal with rats now? Seriously? That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. In case you’re not aware (obviously you are not), rats spread disease. They should be DISCOURAGED, not ENCOURAGED. D’ja get that? At all? Is anyone home there?

      “Destruction of property is a criminal offense, not a “neighborly discussion”. Well, you see, the neighbors, not trying to be total dicks, have actually tried for some time to get the business to resolve some of their practices that impact the neighbors, outside of calling the cops. The business (Erica) puts her hands over her ears and goes “LALALALALALALALALALALA”. She won’t listen. So they are sticking up for themselves. Again, d’ja get that? Anyone home there?

    46. In all the years I have posted on line in many forums, NEVER have I had so much invective thrown out in a post.

      Casper, you need some better way to get rid of all that anger.

      1. I don’t drink hardly. 2. I live in a district with lively street life, no problem on the upper stories. 3. We all have an interest in fair laws and fair enforcement. Law and regs. are not the subject of bad neighbor whim. 4. No matter what you spout, you will never have dominion over any more than your own patch. 5. I own several homes, have invested in real estate for years. My family traditions are about owning a lot of real estate, all home owners, of all sorts, including business properties.
      6. You must sense this is one fray the neighbors are going to loose, and so you are angry. Get over it, and move on. You are too invested.

      While in the Navy, I was trained by Navy Seals. Thus, your jabs about Gurls are really funny to me, not at all insulting. Just stupid funny.

      Mike with Curls

      (and I am going to eat at the Cafe again this weekend, with friends, several of whom are attorneys)

    47. Hi, Hill Resident,

      Full disclosure: I’m one of the neighbors who is part of Capitol HIll Neighbors.

      To address: “I don’t understand what the big deal is. I would love it if I had neighbors making noise every night because then I wouldn’t be so concerned about trying to be quiet myself.”

      That is totally a fair opinion. I’m going to ask that you extend me the same respect: recognize the have a right to my opinion without demeaning me for it. I don’t want neighbors making noise every night. That is the reason I bought a house on this street. VPC came in and changed the street I bought on. I am working to keep what I like about the street the way I like it and working to change the things I don’t like. Anybody should be able to respect that, even if they disagree with what it is I like about a street.

      IF VPC wants to go about changing the street so that they can make more money, they would be in a better position if they went about it legally. As they chose, from the very beginning, to proceed illegally, well, it might have been a good idea to work with the neighbors instead of refusing to address the issues — rats, cooking oil, et. al — each and every time we brought them to their attention.

      If they didn’t want to do the above, well, perhaps they should have been legal in how they undertook their expansion; as in: file for a permit.

      And perhaps they should have listened back in February, when one neighbor said directly to them, “You aren’t zoned for a restaurant. If you continue with this expansion, I will complain to the city.”

      And if they then wanted to continue with the expansion that would in no uncertain terms bring the city down on their backs, perhaps they should not, on Augusut 8th, have had a big, noisy party on their illegal patio, right next to the neighbor who complained to the city. Which brings us back to where we started: noisy neighbors.

      How the cafe proceeds is “a bit far-fetched,” as you say. Yes, they did indeed throw cooking oil on a neighbors’ plants. Who knows why; ask them. I saw the sign the neighbor put near her plants, after the oil incident. Very simple: 8-1/2 by 11, saying “Please don’t throw cooking oil on the plant.”

      When one of the owners saw it, she laughed. Big, shrieking laughs. Pointing at the sign and laughing.

      That is just rude.

    48. I really like the Cafe’ and I happened to walk past it a few days ago. I noticed the nice little garden/patio at the back they are working on. It really does not seem like a giant expansion that people should be worrying about! If it brings a little more life to an already nice ‘hood..all the better! I am sure I can handle a few more customers…and a few resident chickens.

    49. I don’t feel sorry for myself, and not sure how you’ve determined that I do or that I’m not successful just because I don’t live in a neighborhood filled with whining old people. The point is that there are a ton of people in this city living in way less desirable neighborhoods and situations and they handle it just fine, without a need to make war on their neighborhood businesses or whine about it on a blog.

      I live where I want, and I don’t bitch about what is around me. I love the diversity and the commerce, and the ability to walk to things such as neat cafes, grocery stores, video stores. BTW – There are rats everywhere in the city, not just by VPCs dumpsters. Working with your neighborhood for positive change is one thing… bitching and whining and suing to get your way is pathetic. The fact that the neighborhood couldn’t come to agreement with the business just shows how out of touch they all are with the way an urban environment works. You don’t always get your way, you can’t always pay (sue) your way out of everything. I hope VPC closes down and moves to a neighborhood that will love and appreciate them.

    50. Hi, Fabio.

      I believe everyone when they say, “The patio is so pretty!” and “The cafe is so nice!” The cafe is very nice to their front-end customers. The cafe is simply not the same kind of community-minded lovely people when forced to deal with the consequences of growing a successful business in a space in a neighborhood that was neither intended nor zoned for business use. Chickens notwithstanding. :)

      Appearances are deceiving. While the space is not that big, and the owners have certainly done a lovely job of design, the seating would allow the cafe to at least double the number of people they serve.

      While that is great for the cafe,that is too lively for the direct neighbors who have spent the last three years dealing with already over-elevated levels of noise, trash, rats, cooking smells, and perhaps the most difficult to bear, rude and inattentive attitude on the part of the cafe owners themselves when it came to doing anything about the many, many complaints (and not just from direct neighbors; from all the way up the street).

      The cafe has also had plenty of legal warning from a number of city departments. (How about the first: violation of non-compliance. To date, they have not submitted required paperwork that was due on July 1st. Although they did file an extension; due date: today.)

      VPC is in clear violation of a number of city oversight departments: zoning, fire, the list goes on. The only thing they had to do to ward off this public fight was SOMETHING.

    51. I, too, am confused. Neighbors from next door to all the way up the street have complained directly, talked to them sweetly, and called the city to force the cafe to comply to laws. You will notice the cafe has been in operation for two- to three years with not one significant, “shut-downable” complaint filed. At no point in this process, up to and including now, have they seriously undertaken to address our complaints, which are, as you point out, manageable and reasonable: keep the noise to a reasonable level and clean up after yourselves.

      I know, I know; it is hard to believe, given how nice the cafe is to their customers. The cafe has customer service down apt. Try this: try talking to them about why the neighbors are so mad, and just for the sake of experiment, say, “Well the neighbors have a point about ( choose one): 1) the rats, 2) the noise 3) extending into the patio without once calling a neighborhood meeting to discuss it.”

      cafe has not done anything they were suppsed to do — except make really good food and provide a debate all comes down to: Do Something, Cafe.

      Maybe the business is worse than it is described in this article. From their website they’re only open until 9:00 and that doesn’t seem like much of a list of complaints.

    52. Mike, you’ve got something like 7 or 8 comments on this post. I understand that you don’t live in the immediate area of VPC, and the issue really doesn’t affect you in the least. I would say that *you’re* to invested in this post for some reason, and maybe instead of telling other people to move on, you should take a look at your own behavior. You’ve not really added anything to this conversation except things like the following:

      “get over it”, “You all sound like bad acid”, “clutch of opinionated, busy body, stick in mud, harping folks who call them selves good neighbors”, “You are a bunch of Hill HORRORS Neighbors”, “You all need to get a grip”, “the pissing and moaning will be legendary I think”, “Remember there is a clan, the Whiner Clan, you all can affiliate to share stories”.

      I’m not sure what you’re really adding here. The neighbors have complaints, they’ve tried to work with VPC unsuccessfully, they are going a new route, which the City of Seattle, our local government, has established to help regulate business and residential use of property in the city. If you don’t like that process, I suggest you refocus your efforts on changing it. The only thing the neighbors are doing is using a civic process to get the cafe to act as a good neighbor, after several years of apparently failed attempts to work with VPC directly. Since you don’t live near there, I fail to understand what your intense interest is, and why you need to insult other people over this issue.

    53. I think all the city has an interest in fair and equal treatment in all quarters of the city. I don’t live in Columbia City or Northgate either, but it would concern me if I thought someone is about to get treated unfairly there….. neighborhoods are not akin to mini feudal states ….

      I think the neighbors of VPC are trying to play that card, we live near, unfairly against this woman owned small business….. even if all is not perfection. (which life never is)

      Sorry if I am tart tongued, but, I think it is called for at times. By the way, some of the replies to my posts are just plain mean and ugly. I love Capitol Hill and the way people usually treat each other in general. I love the diversity, the old and the new… the wonderful mix of people and options in most matters.

      And, most of all, I cherish small businesses which are the backbone of the economy and good community.

      I have no investment in the matter as in fiscal or friendship. I have a giant investment to see if problems can be corrected, by agency rules, fair hearings, etc., not by neighborhood invective, and I hope a business permit is issued to allow the cafe to remain.

      Now that I have eaten there, even more so. The place is surely a neighborhood resource, and as such, needs to stay.

      (and I like to post – if – an issue is of interest to me on the Hill)

      Mike with Curls

    54. funkisockmunki, that is the issue. The neighbors have been trying for years, but the business is unresponsive. This is why the city has codes and a complaint process. If you hate that process, then lobby the city to get rid of it – but don’t blame the neighbors. I’m guessing you haven’t been involved in this at all, and are just here to post comments. If you’d been involved, you’d be better informed about what’s going on. Also, nobody is suing anyone else. Get your facts straight. The neighbors have filed a DPD complaint – ONLY after not being able to resolve these issues for several years, outside of the city process.

    55. I love Capitol Hill, too. But being “tart tongued” doesn’t add anything to this discussion, much less doing so in response to others. That is childish playground behavior. When you talk about “fair and equal treatment”, that applies to both businesses and residential property owners (to renters, too). All should have an equal voice. Business does not trump residential – this isn’t a game of rock, paper, scissors.

      Not *all* streets in the city need to be multiuse, with loud neighbors, bars and restaurants. 17th, is, in fact, not zoned multiuse. That argument has been rehashed ad nauseam.

      The fact is, the neighbors have, by their own admission, been trying to resolve some issues with VPC over the years. Obviously, they have found the results unsatisfactory – please bear in mind they are NOT trying to close down the cafe. Nobody is standing outside with torches and pitchforks. The people who live nearby have every right to use civic processes to address their complaints to the business owners. This is a matter between the neighbors and VPC – not between anyone else. Nobody is trying to persecute this ‘woman-owned business’. As the neighbors themselves have stated, many of them are customers, and they have enjoyed having the cafe in the neighborhood – there are, however, certain things the cafe does which they would like to change: overflowing garbage, rats, late-night noise, and outdoor expansion.

      None of these folks bought homes in a nightlife or commercial area – this is not Pike/Pine, or 1st and Bell, or Pioneer Square. As residents, they have right to air grievances to VPC – and if VPC has grievances, they can air them right back. VPC has done so publicly though their email with complaints about the neighbors. The neighbors, on the other hand, did not take such a route – they tried to resolve this privately, and now through civic channels. It is unfair of anyone to try to malign these people, especially if you don’t live there.

      The fact that this is a ‘woman-owned business’ is irrelevant. If you knew anything about the neighbors, you’d know that there are couples, gay couples, lesbian couples, and single people all living in the vicinity. This is not some male-driven campaign to shut down a woman-owned business. This is about human beings, property owners AND renters, living nearby, trying to resolve some issues with a business. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want to live in a city where business use trumps residents, which is what it sounds like you are advocating, then perhaps you might seek out another place to live. I think Seattle does a reasonably good job at accommodating both, and at having a process for BOTH business and residents to work through civic process to resolve differences.

    56. 1. Women are undervalued, even in nice Seattle. Sorry, lesbians even more so. I wondered if they were lesbians, seems they are. Comment – “she can free to bring her girlfriend over”……
      2. This has nothing to do with where I live. Or where you live. I know the Hill like the back of the hand, funny you would tell me about any street composite of people. You are mistaken, mixed use to a great degree is the formula for good neighborhoods. You are opposed to a mixed use, I am not, and modern zoning is not.
      3. You, and anyone else, can use all the hearings – complaints – all the city process you choose. I am sure there are thousands of pages of the stuff. But, some of us don’t like the tone of discussions and the “we own the neighborhood by weight of our own declaration”. That is silly. It is stale. It is not open, and not progressive.
      4. What is with this, live somewhere else??? Not nice, not rational – I will die on the Hill. It is my home. I am a native born Seattle slice. Love my town.
      5.This story will grow. Big media will pick up on it now that the conflict is in the open.

      Past my bedtime.

      Mike with Curls

    57. Hi jseattle,

      Why in this thread is Curls not considered a troll? You monitor it everywhere else but maybe you give him special treatment.

    58. Mike’s long term record of typically (but not always!) adding value to the site’s discussions works in his favor but in this particular discussion I would agree that we’re getting to the point of diminishing returns.

    59. You have labeled dissent incorrectly. I do not agree with the theory put forth by the adversarial posters here, vis. a vis. the cafe.

      I was trying to mock the situation, satire and allegory are tricky. Most likely it was not a good idea.

      But, I still do not agree, and in fact believe the Cafe will win handily any hearing process they are taken to.

      They will have time, weeks not days, to fix any defined problem which is judged to be their responsibility, fire codes will determine seating/service capacity, back open garden will be allowed (very common) and they will get a city permit to operate. If they loose, they will appeal might take 5 years to adjudicate.

      Confused, you need to look at the attack language that was directed to me after it became clear I was making fun of the neighbors. Shut the Fuck Up was NOT my rhetoric. Several of the posts in reply are really over the top….. thus, in my perception showed real anger and hostility.

      I do agree the thread is about out of steam. Next will be outcomes.

      What the city will do, who has insight into the process and issues, all that is more interesting than the banter.

      Cheers, Mike with Curls

    60. Mike, when you say you “don’t agree with the theory”, what I understand is that you are not agreeing with a civic process to address complaints. This city-established process can be used to address complaints against a business OR a private property owner (even residential property). The city has this process for a reason. The city also has zoning regulations and building codes for a reason. Perhaps you don’t mind if there are loud businesses next to your residence, but not everyone wants to live adjacent to such a place. That doesn’t mean they should live in the suburbs – after all, the city itself has determined that there are areas which should be zoned for different uses. You apparently disagree with this. You also put up straw man (or woman) arguments – that people are against a woman-owned business, that the neighbors are relentless suburban busy-bodies, that city zoning should allow business use everywhere, that people are telling you what the streets of Capitol Hill are like.

      Mike – let’s just deal with the issue at hand. There is a business. They are operating in an area not zoned for that use. The neighbors were fine with it. But then the neighbors felt the business was encroaching too much. They tried to resolve it privately, unsuccessfully. They are using civic process now. End of story. These are the facts. There is nothing else to this argument. If VPC was a private neighbor, and was blasting music (I walk by there quite often, and you can hear it across the street), attracting rats with careless disposal of garbage, having loud friends over every night of the week, and parties in the back yard all the time, nobody outside of the neighborhood would be interested in this in the least.

      Rather than framing this as misogynist property owners against innocent women and capitalism, a more interesting discussion is to talk, in a civil manner, about zoning, the appropriateness of business in residential areas, and the expansion of mixed-use areas in Seattle, and how we are going to accommodate this. But first and foremost, just deal with the facts, and stop trying to create anti-woman, anti-Capitol Hill, anti-capitalism scenarios. These scenarios have nothing to do with this situation.

      As to your comment about other posters being rude first – just because someone says something nasty doesn’t mean you have to be nasty back. If you have something to add to this discussion, you can do so without returning insults to others.

    61. Hey Some Guy – I hope you see how far apart we really are. And respect that. Please respect I never said move. Do remember my pointing out that as you can recall, we each have much control over our patch, not so much over the patch of others, even if you live very close for a very long time. All the chants of we were here first are a bit un sophisicated in a city that is growing year after year in population and density, and thus, there is a sea of change in its own reflection …. not dictated by animosity but by the necessity of moving forward.

      You have allied friends who were more flagrantly non respectful than any other poster here.

      I think the thread has run off the spool, now we will see just what both side document to the city in the to be announced hearing process and its responsive components.

      Interestingly, mixed us is a timely Seattle topic in every neighborhood. But each neighborhood has different variables, the Hill is not like any other. (density and century old historic uses give it unique definitions).

      And just because you want to dismiss counter theory / evaluation does not make them of straw. Nice try.

      Mike with Curls

    62. Mike:

      The above comment make no sense. Also you are insufferably rude. You are not interested in listening, you are not interested in furthering the conversation. You are interested in using big words and fancy if ungrounded philosophies to cause a ruckus.

      In fact, your attitude is similar is to that which I have experienced from the cafe:

      “The nasty, richie-rich neighbors are trying to shut us down when we have addressed each complaint as soon as it came up and we also serve delicious food, which makes us a good neighbor and stunning community steward.”

      Such is the similarity, that I begin to wonder if you own the place and are posting under a false name. Or perhaps you work there? Unlike, say, ME, who backs up her opinionated posts with her full name (middle initial included), I don’t cower behind a curly screen name.

      Sack up, friend.

      Attention other poster: Let’s ignore this guy.

    63. Dear Some Guy:
      Thank you.

      So many people focus on how nice it is to have a cafe and what a good neighbor they are, that all pertinent argument go out the window. They tell me directly that they want to walk to a sunny patio and have a nice dinner. Without irony or sarcasm, I say: please take part in the public process that will happen when the cafe files for their change in zoning use. (We should know today if they made their filing deadline of yesterday.)

      Per: “Cafe will win handily any hearing process they are taken to”:

      1) “problem which is judged to be their responsibility”:
      -if “fire codes will determine seating/service capacity,” the cafe will have no seating capacity. SFD takes very seriously the risks to their firefighters and to innocent bystanders caused by fires. They are in violation of so may fire codes, the fire department will shut them down before you can say “zoning change of ‘non-conforming use’ from ‘Grocery’ to ‘An Eating and Drinking Establishment.’ “

      2) “back open garden will be allowed (very common)”: in residential homes. The cafe plans call for restaurant service. They can’t serve out back. The city already slapped their hands on that one, which is why they stopped serving. If they missed their second filing deadline (they requested an extension after the July 1st deadline came and went), the city will fine them $500 every time they receive documentation of serving out back. The café’s extended deadline was yesterday.

      -“and they will get a city permit to operate.”
      Up for debate. Which is why the neighbors tried and tried to work this out before filing the zoning complaint. It was only when the cafe started construction that a neighbor told them that if they continued, he would file a zoning complaint.

      Once a complaint is filed, the city (not the neighbors) has to proceed with the public process. Even if the cafe ends up with a zoning change, they can never erase the fact that they caused massively unpleasant neighborhood clashes. As someone wrote above: I don’t call that being a good neighbor.

      “If they loose, they will appeal might take 5 years to adjudicate.”
      My greatest fear.

      VPC has basically not responded to every deadline for legal compliance. If they appeal for five years, they could crack this community.

    64. Your comment doesn’t make perfect sense, but I think you are trying to say: you don’t need papers to change neighborhoods, people should be able to live and work where they please.

      If I I get what you are saying, you are wrong. People do need papers to operate a business. They are called: zoning permits, businesses licenses, fire, safety, , Department of Transportation compliances.

      The cafe does, however, have choice in whether or not they file paperwork about compliance and are adhering to fire, safety and SDOT rules. If they do all that, they certainly have the right to run their business is a residential neighborhood. If they don’t, it is hard to see why the city would let them.

    65. Since VPC opened, the rats have increased a lot.

      I lived here before VPC and I live here now. I saw a rat or two before VPC. Since VPC and their over-flowing garbage bins, I see so many rats if I take out my garbage at night that Ii now take it out in the morning.

      My neighbor saw a crow swoop down to snatch a rat in its beak. The rat then wriggled out of the crow’s beak only to drop to its death into my neighbor’s yard.

      That is beyond gross. That is Darwinian to a disgusting degree.