What will we remember about 2014 on Capitol Hill? Below, we’ve looked through the most-read, most-commented, and most-shared CHS stories from 2014 to get a better understanding of what it was that mattered most to CHS readers in the year past. There are some bigger stories that fall into the fog of time. There are some smaller stories that somehow attracted the attention of the Hill’s social network and made their mark. We did our best to explain them, below.
Thanks, again, for reading and being part of CHS. We look forward to having more Capitol Hill stories to tell in 2015.
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Capitol Hill’s 2014 started with a shocking, awful act of hate. CHS was one of the first to report on the Neighbours New Year’s Eve arson. In the first hours of the new year, it wasn’t yet clear what kind of evil act had been committed. By the second day of 2014, the depth of the evil was made obvious:
Last night, at approximately fifteen minutes after ringing in the new year, someone or a group of people committed arson by dousing the steps nearest the Broadway Street entrance of Neighbours with gasoline and setting them on fire. The assailant(s) left behind a plastic 1 liter gas container at the top of the stairs. What could have been a catastrophic loss of property and lives was diverted by the quick thinking and professional actions of the Neighbours staff.
Police and FBI arrested former Capitol Hill resident Musab Masmari following a month-long investigation into the New Year’s Eve arson. According to police, Masmari had a one-way ticket to Turkey and was carrying both his Libyan and United States passports at the time of his arrest outside a Bellevue home. Police say “numerous” people called in to identify Masmari as the man seen in images from surveillance video recorded at the club the night of the attack. After his plea agreement in a federal arson case, the judge doubled the sentence agreed to by both sides in the case, saying it was an exceptional case of arson that was clearly premeditated. Prosecutors told CHS that they believed Masmari had an anti-gay bias but they asked the judge to not raise the sentence based on hate crime motivations because it would open the possibility of appeals. Masmari’s attorney has since appealed the 10-year sentence. Masmari ended 2014 serving the start of his sentence and owing nearly $90,000 in restitution for his crime in the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Memdota, California.
While a sort of justice was served in the Masmari case, the verdict has yet to be rendered in another act of evil that started with a night out on Capitol Hill. Seattle Police say “extremist beliefs” drove Ali Brown to shoot to death two men he met while out at R Place during a nationwide crime and murder spree. Police say Brown killed 27-year-old Ahmed Said and 23-year-old Dwone Anderson-Young in a “premeditated” and “unprovoked” June 1st attack at 29th and King after a night out on Capitol Hill. He was eventually apprehended on the East Coast and is suspected in at least four murders.
The two high profile cases brought renewed attention to hate crime in Seattle — and on the ever-changing Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, late summer brought a new wave of crime to the streets of Pike/Pine and hit victims LGBTQ, straight, etc. Club owner Jason Lajeunesse’s letter to police and City Hall about a gang “terrorizing” Capitol Hill helped draw a quick response. SPD responded with gang units and emphasis patrols. CHS even found new Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole on the beat on Broadway. By the end of the year, some serious charges were brought against some of the people hauled in during the emphasis patrols and some of the people who were allegedly preying on Capitol Hill victims. But, by the end of the year, many of the street robberies on and around Capitol Hill had been chalked up to teen suspects.
A new kind of gentrification
With the pall of deadly hate crimes and irritation of dangers on the street as a backdrop, Capitol Hill’s 2014 was also challenged by recognition of, if not solutions for, the decaying cultures of the neighborhood and increasingly unaffordable living conditions. One of CHS’s most-read stories of the year was a profile of John Criscitello, a homosexual artist who channeled his anger and frustrations about Capitol Hill’s special version of gentrification into the Woo! Girl and pitch-perfect street art statements on the state of things on Pike and Pine:
It’s not that rich people aren’t welcome, he says; they just need to occasionally leave their gilded bedrooms and walk among the common people. The Hill has become a “young, straight kids’ drinking destination,” Criscitello said. “It’s like Mardi Gras every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. It breeds this sort of malaise in the people who actually live here.”
The year featured other types of economic-focused protest including some small but buzzworthy SF-inspired blockades of corporate shuttles on Capitol Hill. In the meantime, the gayborhood continued to pay the price for booming nightlife in Pike/Pine. And the cost of living in Seattle rose faster than anywhere else in the country — and even faster on Capitol Hill. Add to that an ongoing parade of much-loved hangouts being sold off and readied for new uses on a much different Capitol Hill — goodbye Harvard Exit, goodbye Piecora’s, hello Whole Foods — and you’ll begin to wonder why you’re even here. Well, for one, there may be some solutions on the horizon…
But we also have some amazing people and amazing projects in the neighborhood. One glimmer of hope came in the opening of the 12th Ave Arts project from Capitol Hill Housing that transformed a former East Precinct parking lot into affordable apartments, live performance spaces, restaurants, non-profit office space, and, yes, SPD parking.
Honorable mention should also go to SIFF which swooped in as the only possible savior to continue the Egyptian Theatre’s long run as a Capitol Hill movie house.
It’s antithetical, to say the least, but a massive $20 to $30+ million project from a massive global chain might be the year’s best example of some of the other reasons people love Capitol Hill despite their better judgement. You can try to hate the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room until you step inside and find out they’ve built the EMP of coffee right here on Capitol Hill. The Willy Wonka thing is a gimmick — every Sonics fan knows Howard Schultz is less about the heart than the head — but, in 2014, Starbucks created a new Capitol Hill landmark at a time when we’ve already built over most of the old ones.
The Willy Wonka of Pot
Maybe someday 23rd and Union will have its own craft facility celebrating the artisanal, small batch strains. But in 2014, it was Uncle Ike’s, CHS’s first I-502 advertiser, and the Seattle Inner City’s first legal recreational marijuana store. It opened on September 30th — at high noon, of course — if you’re keeping track for the history books. Its first months brought protest and legal challenges… and lots of sales. City officials have said they are looking into better local management of the I-502 process. In the meantime, Capitol Hill may see its first store in 2015.
It’s been three years since Occupy Seattle pulled up stakes on its camp at Broadway and Pine. The nationwide Ferguson protests against police violence and the killing of Michael Brown brought a fresh wave of activism to the streets around Capitol Hill following November’s grand jury decision not to file charges in the Brown case. That night marked the first of protests and marches to cross and rally on and around — and pushed up to — Capitol Hill and the Central District. “This is a peaceful rally and anybody that’s going to be part of this is gonna be peaceful,” an organizer shouted as one rally calling for federal investigation of the Brown shooting crossed the Hill on its way downtown. There were more than 20 arrests of protesters in Seattle though some marches drew hundreds of participants. Meanwhile, damage when things did get out of hand was limited to burning eyeballs and sore eardrums from SPD crowd dispersal techniques, graffiti, a few busted fences, and a couple busted windows including the oft-targeted Ferrari dealership on 12th Ave. The Justice Department investigation of the incidents surrounding officer Darren Wilson’s actions reportedly continues.