This year’s Capitol Hill Housing forum on the neighborhood was a little more existential than most. The death of a neighborhood isn’t necessarily something you can quantify. But, in a similar fashion to the “ignore the conclusions, utilize the analysis” Broadway retail study we shared with you last week, Tuesday night included — along with big picture takeaways — some potentially useful numbers about those things which can be measured.
On the biggest possible picture end of things, eventually the question was asked. What can be done about the relentless redevelopment of Capitol Hill? Live with it, panelist, philosopher and Seattle City Council president Sally Clark suggested, saying Seattle’s leaders must “figure out how to make it so people can live with loss at a pace they can withstand.”
That’s one way to go about it. Developer A-P Hurd suggested another saying Capitol Hill must build its way out of it as thousands of people continue to move to Seattle and choose the neighborhood. The neighborhood will have to ”increase supply” of its housing to keep prices from continuing to soar, Hurd said. New construction requires a solid return “to get pension funds to invest in it,” she said.
The academic representative on the panel concurred. The University of Washington’s new leader of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, East Coast transplant Stephen O’Connor said Seattle developers are still rushing to get projects approved and built, the market’s “dynamics” are just “unbelievable” — and more demand is “coming.”
One private market player on the panel said the only way to balance the market and have a chance at keeping some portion of Capitol Hill affordable is government regulation. “I don’t think the private market is ever going to do a good job,” said developer Liz Dunn, adding that solutions like rent control are also not the answer as those kinds of protected apartments merely ended up passed from friend to friend or family member to family member in a “perverse” twist on the housing market.
What can be done, then? Boiling down the group’s moments of consensus, the answer appears to be continue to build more housing in a more regulated environment that either creates incentives or requires affordable development. Attention City Hall: Get on that.
The forum also roamed, at times, beyond affordability. A question about the potential of a Capitol Hill Cultural Overlay District brought mostly a collective blank stare — read up on CHS, panelists — but panelists batted around questions about whether Capitol Hill is still gay — it is, kinda — whether we have a nightlife problem — we do, “sidewalks are full of vomit and broken glass” — and whether the massive investments in public transit will help — it will, cars are expensive.
Numbers and more “big picture” takeaways are below.
There Goes the Neighborhood?
Moderator: Michael Wells, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce
+ Sally Clark, Seattle City Council Member
+Stephen O’Connor, Director of the University of Washington Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies
+ Liz Dunn, Principal of Dunn + Hobbes, LLC
+ Knute Berger, Columnist at Crosscut.com
+ A-P Hurd, Vice President of Touchstone
- 2,816 – Number of new apartment units under construction or in planning stages across Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons said in his introduction to the session.
- 1 — Number of Capitol Hill apartment projects currently being built with “affordable” units. That project? CHH’s 12th Ave Arts
- 14 years — Time Persons said it took his organization to develop the 12th Ave Arts project
- $700 million — CHH’s estimated value of multifamily housing currently under development on Capitol Hill
- $86,000 — Median income for a Seattle family according to UW’s Stephen O’Connor. “ You can’t tell me that you can’t build workforce housing.”
- 1 — Times recent transplant from the East Coast O’Connor asked “Where are all the black people?” pointing out Seattle’s — and the forum’s — lack of diversity.
- 60% — Percentage of housing stock built before 1980 in Seattle according to A-P Hurd.
- 37% — Percentage of Seattle workers Hurd says actually live in the city according to the Office of Housing
- $600 — Average monthly cost of car ownership according to Hurd as she cited one study which showed foreclosure rates were higher in areas without transit
- 7 to 9 years — How long O’Connor says economic cycles last
- 3 to 5 years – How long O’Connor says memories last. Cities boom and bust –”very difficult to do anything to block momentum.”
- 329-7303 — CHH’s phone number today and in a copy of the group’s 1980 newsletter shown Tuesday night
- Several — Times Crosscut’s Knute Berger reminded the crowd he was “born in Seattle.”
- 0 — Times issues “apodments, transit overlay, upzoning, affordable retail” were raised by moderator Michael Wells of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce during the night
The Seattle Channel will air the forum on TV starting next week at which point, we’re told, it should also be available online.