How will new apartment dwellers mix with Pike/Pine nightlife?

The Capitol Hill Block Party's Vera stage had a new background in 2014

The Capitol Hill Block Party’s Vera stage had a new background in 2014. By 2015, there will be hundreds of residents in the new building at 11th and Union. “There is poignant juxtaposition… residential development and music festival. Next year there will be people living in those apartments,” CHBP producer Jason Lajeunesse told CHS. (Image: Jim Bennett/CHBP with permission to CHS)

If residents in new Pike/Pine buildings weren’t aware of both the fun and the noise of the nightlife-focused neighborhood they moved into, they certainly got a full dose of it during the weekend’s 18th annual Capitol Hill Block Party. With hundreds more apartment units slated to come online in the dense nightlife corridor, existing bar and club owners are hoping their new neighbors will be down with the sound. Even with soaring rents, turns out building developers aren’t doing much more than hoping the same thing, too.

Architects and other experts tell CHS that few, if any, new developments within Pike/Pine are especially equipped to dampen street noise from rattling inside units. With few affordable solutions and no regulatory mandates, there seems to be little incentive to equip units with high performance windows or soundproof insulation or to design the buildings to better serve the existing neighborhood.

Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos, who’s currently working on plans for the Rancho Bravo property at 10th and Pine, told CHS that most people moving into Pike/Pine will know what to expect when it comes to noise from the area’s active street life. “People self-select where they want to be,” she said.

The city’s design rules don’t provide any guidance on what architects and developers could do to mitigate outdoor noise. East Design Review Board member Dan Foltz, who also designed the Pike Motorworks project, said developers may choose to add higher-end windows, but most of today’s mixed-use buildings are not built with materials that are especially soundproof.

“Most of these projects … are not getting esoteric building materials. It’s not that type of construction,” he said.

The future Pike Motorworks, like many new Pike/Pine buildings, will not have special materials to dampen outdoor noise.

The future Pike Motorworks, like all new Pike/Pine buildings we looked into, will not be built with special materials to dampen outdoor noise.

How well will the Pike Motorworks residents living above like the buzz from Linda's beloved patio below?

How well will the Pike Motorworks residents living above like the buzz from Linda’s beloved patio below?

The city’s building code has no regulations aimed at dampening outdoor noise, either. However, the city code does set rules about noise levels between units. Mohamed Ait Allaoua, managing partner at SSA Acoustics, said indoor noise is usually a far greater nuisance, even in busy nightlife areas.

“With exterior noise, many people adjust to it,” he said. “People tolerate it much more than interior noise between the units.”

At SSA, Allaoua consults with architects and developers to mitigate noise in residential units, and has worked on several in Pike/Pine including the Pike Motorworks project. In order to make recommendations, Allaoua will take sound level readings from inside and outside apartments. In projects that need additional noise mitigation, he said about 80% will upgrade windows and only 20% will also upgrade exterior walls.

“Windows are the weakest link,” he said. “Exterior walls always perform higher than then the windows.”

Seattle Police spokesperson Drew Fowler, who used to work out of East Precinct, said the city’s noise ordinance does not differentiate between different types of neighborhoods or zones, and officers respond to all noise complaints regardless of neighborhood.

It should get especially interesting on 11th Ave where four new residential buildings are being built or planned.

“Anecdotally, I saw more of noise complaints where your going from that dense area to residential, like 15th and Denny,” he said. “Some neighborhoods are going to be quite loud.”

In the end, it seems bar owners, developers, and police alike are hoping common sense prevails among Pike/Pine’s new residents.

“I don’t think people living on Capitol Hill are looking for dead quiet spaces,” Allaoua said. “I think living in the neighborhood is more important.”

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22 thoughts on “How will new apartment dwellers mix with Pike/Pine nightlife?

  1. Some of us do value peace and quiet where we live. Fortunately, there are many areas of Capitol Hill where this is possible.

    Regarding the possible problems in Pike-Pine, no one should move there who wants a reasonable amount of quiet. If they do, and are unhappy with the noise, they will have no one but themselves to blame.

    • Yes but…. *most* of the housing added to CHill, indeed to Seattle generally, is in these `urban nightlife’ corridors. Lots of people just need someplace to live and the available places have been declared `loud’.

      That’s bad planning, or lazy zoning; if we’re trying to get two purposes out of one block (noisy entertainment, dense residential) we should require better building codes to keep the apartments desirable for a long time. There’s a lot of research on how bad noise is for us, and how poorly we adapt — we think we will, but most people don’t.

  2. I can’t help but think this post is just trying to create a controversy where none exists. I don’t think anyone chooses to live a block off Pike Street because it seemed like a quiet nook of Seattle to read Hemmingway on Friday night while sipping earl grey.

    And even if they complain, so what? Seattle PD are going to shut down the 2015 Block Party because someone in a random new apartment building said it was too loud? That’s the beauty of leases, you can leave after a year. They can go to South Lake Union, which essentially becomes a ghost town after 6pm.

    • Don’t have links for it, but there were issues several years ago in Ballard IIRC, where people bought into shiny new housing near existing nightlife and spent a LOT of time complaining about the noise. I don’t think there will be problems for the Block Party in 2015 or even 2016, but I do think all the added dwellings right in the think of the Pike/Pine corridor will create tensions.

      How about street parties that erupt after joyful elections or even the Superbowl (who knew Cap hill cared about a football game?), with cops quietly standing by but ultimately allowing civic revelry. What about the street parties at Pride? These are events that don’t have the pull of CHBP and will likely get impacted first.

      As for CHBP – I did not go through Cal Anderson, but other than the sounds of stage construction Fri morning I didn’t hear a thing (2 blocks away) from the Block Party, and walking on Pike today the street was very clean.

  3. We just moved from SF and bought a 9th floor condo on First Hill. Yes, the Pike/Pine/Broadway area is very noisy and the configuration of our windows seems to channel it right into our bedroom. The sounds of people having a good time doesn’t really bother me, and when that’s not going on, the white noise from the air units on top of the shorter buildings lulls me to sleep.

    That said, it does seem that the emergency services of this city LOVE their sirens. To me it seems that they turn them on, and keep them on no matter where they are driving through. For me this is more disruptive to sleep than the constant white noise that comes from Pike & Pine. My impression of the way things were done in CA was that the lights came on and as they approached a crowded intersection, then the sirens would be used more like a very loud horn.

    Anyone else find the same thing?

    • I think you’re probably just getting most of the siren noise because First Hill has all the hospitals. It’s called Pill Hill for a reason!

      • I understand being on Pill Hill, but it’s not the frequency of the sirens, it is the fact that once they are turned on by a vehicle, I can here the siren travel halfway across the city. I haven’t really noticed a siren building in volume coming towards me which is what I would expect being on Pill Hill. It’s not TERRIBLE, but it just seems foreign/odd to me.

    • I totally agree. I really question the need for emergency vehicles to sound their sirens between intersections in the middle of the night when there is hardly a car on the road. It’s most likely a training issue with the drivers of the vehicles. Totally guessing here, but there is probably zero to little guidance for drivers to adjust behaviors during nighttime “quiet hours”. So what results is drivers making their own judgement call on when and where to run the sirens. Without formal input/rules from the city, each driver and agency will continue to operate as they see fit. I doubt these agencies will take kindly to being told how to do their job, and I don’t blame them. But if we as residents can show enough desire to work collaboratively on something like this, maybe we could make some progress.

      This is something the Capitol Hill Community Council could be a good forum for. If you think you might like this to be a topic at a future meeting, send an email to If there’s demand, we could make it a meeting topic and could probably invite people from SFD and ambulance agencies to chat about it and get more info.

      Mike, Capitol Hill Community Council – Treasurer

    • i’ve been living on the hill for 8+ years and the sirens are a constant. it seems to be the worst at pike & pine on 12th. the police and fire hq are there. for anyone who lives on pike or pine going from the hill to downtown, sirens have been a constant.

      i can’t leave my windows open at night because of the homeless people who scream and break glass all hours of the night.

    • Sirens are probably more preferable than being awakened at 2 am with sounds of gun shots (12th @ Marion)

      • I agree with you on that. I do hope that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Having just moved in, I am not out to try to change everything, but I am hoping to understand an already awesome area to live.

      • they probably leave them on because it always seems like seattlites never get out of the way of emergency vehicles. i constantly see people just freeze in the middle of the road, not pull over, not know what to do etc. im just glad i never needed an emergency vehicle that had to fight its way through clueless congested traffic

      • FWIW, I spent the last week up north around Marysville & Granite Falls and saw exactly this same behavior; I’ve seen it driving in other parts of the state and elsewhere around the country as well. It just seems that, in general, drivers aren’t educated regarding the need to provide clearance for emergency vehicles, and doesn’t really seem to be a local or regional problem alone.

  4. I live on pine street between Broadway and I 5. It’s really not that noisy, even with the windows open I can sleep over the occasional obnoxious girl from issaquah who can’t stop yelling woo because this evening in seattle is the most excitement she’s had in about 3 months.

  5. I can handle the noise, it’s the garbage that gets on my nerves. If you’re old enough to get in the bar, you’re old enough to understand garbage belongs in a garbage can, not on the street or in the bushes of my house.

  6. If future Block Parties are run like this year’s, everyone will be good. The crowd sizes were totally sane and security was excellent. Nice work finally.

  7. The garbage in Cal Anderson this morning was insane. They should extend the clean up of the block party into the neighborhoods surrounding it. And before someone complains about me taking action, yes I pitched in and cleaned up in front of my place yesterday, even though I did not attend block party. This morning I could not as I was on my way to work.

  8. I have been living in this neighborhood for years, and it used to be much more quiet. It’s only become so loud and party-like in the last few years. I live on Pine, but it’s only for another month and a half. I’m really looking forward to moving to another neighborhood. Let someone else enjoy the screaming drunks, poorly behaved barely legals and “anarchists”. I’m done.

    • I agree to some degree, but not all of the problems should be accepted as “part of living in a city.” Some problems can be addressed and at least mitigated, if citizens care enough to work for change. One example is rampant graffiti on our public and private spaces….that is unacceptable, and can be lessened by reporting it to the city for cleanup.

  9. Developers may choose to add higher-end windows, but most of today’s mixed-use buildings are not built with materials that are especially soundproof.

    “Most of these projects … are not getting esoteric building materials. It’s not that type of construction…”

    esoteric building materials = quality building materials

  10. I live in a moderately loud part of the Hill, and generally it’s fine with the windows closed – it’s when it gets so hot that you need to open windows that noise is really a problem. I don’t see why the doofus building designers don’t specify windows that you could actually install an air conditioner in, it would make a big difference in many parts of the neighborhood and city.