Pike/Pine business owners bemoan ‘culture clash,’ construction impacts as Mayor Murray tours neighborhood

(Images: Bryan Cohen/CHS)

These days, most Capitol Hill business owners can point to at least two or three giant cranes above — and two or three construction projects directly impacting their business in some way. Neighborhood growth hasn’t come without growing pains. Mayor Ed Murray got an earful about those effects and the impact of the area’s growing nightlife economy from a handful of business owners during a little publicized Monday evening stroll through Pike/Pine.

The issues raised during the scheduled meet-and-greet probably won’t come as a surprise anyone living on Capitol Hill, but it gave business owners an opportunity to speak directly with the mayor on home turf.

Inside Retrofit Home, co-owner Lori Pomeranz explained how the neighborhood’s already limited parking has been inundated with construction trucks and worker’s personal vehicles. “Every single spot is taken up by construction trucks,” she said. Pomeranz proposed writing parking restrictions into future construction permits and timing construction projects across different blocks.

Wildrose owner Shelly Brothers said her weekday business has taken a big hit in recent years because of the lack of parking. “People don’t stop in after work for a beer anymore,” she said.

A block down E Pike, Mike Meckling has been dealing with a slightly different parking issue. The Neumos and Barboza co-owner told the mayor construction crews often claim they have parking permits for work trucks that are at odds with permits obtained by Neumos.

“When they show up and say they’re going to tow our tour busses, it’s infuriating,” he said. “I’m not anti-development, I’m anti-shitty communication.”

In order to help improve that communication, Cafe Pettiroso’s Robin Wright Miki Sodos suggested the city provide a nighttime contact for nightlife establishments to call if construction is impeding business.

Last year, the city launched the Construction Hub Coordination Program to help ease the impact of construction in the area.

The need for more daytime businesses was another common refrain heard on the tour. Pomeranz pointed out that many second-story offices in older buildings have disappeared with new developments. Brothers said she was excited about the Castle Megastore sex shop moving in downstairs, but she’s eager to see more daytime activity.

Public safety was a mixed bag issue on the tour. Several business owners complimented the police for their increased foot patrols, saying it made Pike/Pine’s streets feel considerably safer. Bill Taylor, manager of the 11th Ave Value Village, said he’s felt the impact of more foot patrols, but shoplifting and non-customers using his bathroom are persistent problems. Tayor proposed installing a public bathroom in the area. “It’s a big deal for our homeless population,” he said.

Still, Brothers said it only takes one or two belligerent bigots to unsettle the neighborhood. “People just don’t realize where they are,” she told Murray, who later beamed with pride when he found out his 31 years on Capitol Hill put him one year ahead of the Wildrose.

“The return of this is pretty remarkable,” said the mayor regarding recent reports of gaybashing in the neighborhood. “The question is ‘how are we going to prevent this culture clash?'”

The caravan — which included representatives from the Capitol Hill Chamber of CommerceCapitol Hill Housing, and Capitol Hill Community Council — was supposed to stop at the Broadway Shell gas station, but one mayor’s office staffer said the owner never responded to the invitation.

The neighborhood walk-though was considerably more low-key than the mayor’s Find It Fix It walks — though one man couldn’t help showing he was a fan when he yelled out “Hey, it’s Bill Murray!”

UPDATE: There’s no word yet if the East Precinct will see a similar deployment, but SPD is rolling out a new Neighborhood Response Team to take on “persistent, low-level” crime downtown:

Neighborhood Response Team Tackles Low-level Crime Downtown

A new seven-member police squad is patrolling the downtown core to tackle persistent, low-level crime that can make streets and parks feel unsafe.

The Neighborhood Response Team, created last month, is focusing on so-called “street disorder” crimes, such as shoplifting, public urination, defecation and drug use. Downtown businesses and community groups have increasingly raised concerns about the problem and pushed for the city to take action.

The officers are helping connect people to social services, as well as giving warnings and issuing citations to repeat offenders.

While the new emphasis should make a difference, it would be a mistake to think seven police officers can eliminate street disorder, West Precinct Capt. Chris Fowler said.

“This is a very complex problem throughout the city,” he said. “This squad is really charged to affect the most critical areas downtown. They aren’t going to solve it throughout the city. They aren’t going to solve it throughout the West precinct. But they might be able to help in some of the worst areas.”

The squad, comprised of six officers and a sergeant, began foot patrols the first week of December. It operates out of the West Precinct office, at 810 Virginia Street, and concentrates on persistent problem areas, including around Westlake and other downtown parks. The officers generally work from 6:30 in the morning, until 3:30 in the afternoon.

They have one job — reducing street disorder, Fowler said. “They will not be called away to routine 911 calls,” he said. “This is their assignment and unless there is a true emergency, they are not going to be pulled away from their core responsibilities.”

The officers will become experts on the complex web of rules and regulations covering street disorder.

The city, for example has an ordinance that says people can’t sit or lie on sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in an area that stretches from Denny Way to King Street and from Interstate 5 to the water.

However, it is legal for people to sit and lie in city parks and, in some cases along the waterfront, park boundaries include the sidewalks. So officers have to understand where they can and can’t enforce the ordinance.

Enforcing laws surrounding smoking marijuana, or drinking in public, also can differ depending on where the offense is taking place.

In the end, though, it’s not just about writing tickets.

Lisa Daugaard, policy director for the Public Defender Association, hopes the squad will spend much of its time connecting people with drug addiction and mental health issues to services that can help them, such as the Crisis Solution Center and the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, LEAD, program.

The LEAD program, for example, gives officers the ability to connect low-level non-violent drug dealers and users with treatment and services as an alternative to taking them to jail.

That’s a much better approach than just directing people to shelters, Daugaard said, noting “People know where the shelters are.”

SPD officials say the squad has a large toolbox to work with, including connecting people with programs like LEAD. Ultimately, the success or failure of the squad won’t be based on how many citations they write. “it’s going to be on how the behavior has changed,” Virginia Gleason, the police chief’s lead strategic advisor.

In many cases, just having officers patrolling problem areas can make a difference.

“One of the things we see at Occidental and Westlake parks is there are groups of people who specifically go there because they know those are places to buy and sell drugs,” Gleason said. “If a police officer is there, they are not going to engage in criminal behavior.”

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27 thoughts on “Pike/Pine business owners bemoan ‘culture clash,’ construction impacts as Mayor Murray tours neighborhood

  1. In regards to how to make the area safer embracing the police and belittling and undermining them would be a good start. Stop behaviors that make the homeless want to congregate on the hill is a second step. More capitol hill q patrols and gun owners for when the welfare addled Somalis and other african imigirants decide to be predators and bigots is also a good way to go.

    • your comment is unnecessarily bigoted and clearly not rooted in what it looks like to be in and creating shared community. homelessness is a city-wide problem, people have tried to revive Q patrol (to no avail, yet), and “welfare-addled” Somalis is the most repugnant language and broad descriptor of a valuable part of our city’s cultural and social ecosystem.

    • this is classic strawman logic! shelly, of wildrose, obviously does not support drunk driving, she’s making the point that folks who might typically have an inclination to grab an after-work/happy hour drink are finding it increasingly more difficult to justify the headache of finding parking (or navigating the multiple construction projects) just to patronize her establishment which hurts her business and ultimately the cultural preservation of our neighborhood

      strawman: http://i.imgur.com/aTi7B.jpg

      • We should also consider an underlying issue that is impacting the Wild Rose’s business: gentrification and the lack of affordable housing in the Capitol Hill area.

        Capitol Hill used to be the GLBTQ cultural center because it was once easy for GLBTQ Seattlites to actually find an affordable apartment in the neighborhood. Less Seattle lesbians live within walking distance of the Wild Rose today for a variety of reasons (including positive reasons like the general acceptance of lesbians across the city). However, one big reason is the income gap that many lesbians face as both women in a city with a widening gender pay gay and sexual minorities. With the gentrification of our neighborhood accelerating and many neighbors, who once added to the culture and fabric of our community, being locked out by higher rents it will be harder for patrons to stop by the Wild Rose without access to a car or access to cheap alternative transportation, especially on weeknights.

        For similar reasons major black institutions in the Central District, Like Zion Baptist Church, are having trouble holding on to parishioners and patrons who can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood. Increasing access to affordable housing in historically GLBTQ and minority neighborhoods may actually do more to help these cultural landmarks survive than adding a few extra parking spaces.

  2. Enough with the parking already. There is no parking. That’s it. Capitol Hil businesses need to stop crying about it. And if they are so concerned about the loss of a few parking stalls, maybe they can focus on how much the density has increased and how many more people live here now???

    • Agreed. We need to focus more on buses, rapid transit, safe sidewalks, and bike lanes. There should be a bigger focus on bringing in people who live or work in the capitol hill/central district/first hill neighborhoods by creating safe spaces rather than inviting the bros and woo girls from Bellevue, SLU, etc. to drive over here after work. Honestly, I’d be fine if more parking spots convert into parklets to encourage people to carpool/rideshare/take public transit. Hopefully city council will take note of our growing population and make our bus system something to be proud of…unfortunately the absurd bus fare (soon to be among the highest in the country) is a step in the wrong direction.

      • What’s wrong with people from Bellevue or SLU? Do they smell? Aren’t they not white enough?

        I’m all for removing all parking and replacing it with light rail tracks and bike lanes. Parking on the street shouldn’t be allowed (I can’t understand why we keep insisting in building housing without parking, they just leave it on the street. If you want to convince people they don’t need a car make owning a parking spot the only option).

        Parklets are nice, but our weather doesn’t help, and they usually pop up in streets with lots of traffic. I like that they raise awareness to the point that streets are for people, not cars, but I don’t think they are very pleasant.

      • I agree with your last paragraph, but the idea of removing all parking is unrealistic and is not going to happen. Owning/renting a private parking space would be expensive for many, and it would increase the cost of housing in our neighborhood even more.

    • That’s the key: density. We need people living here, for the local economy to survive, otherwise retail is going the same way as downtown. Transit helps a lot, and I am super excited for light rail, but won’t work without density.

      • I’d argue there’s a 1000X greater ROI on investing in our neighborhood for THOSE OF US WHO ACTUALLY LIVE HERE vs. people driving in every now and then.

        Let’s say each new an Amazon worker brings in $40,000/year to the local economy between rent, food, going out, shopping etc.

        It would take about 1,000 people driving from Bellevue or Renton to Capitol Hill each month to spend that same amount of money.

        Hopefully we aren’t just about well-paid Amazonians — but I’m really glad we’re investing in improving our neighborhoods for the people who actually live here. Bikelanes, parklets, traffic calming, you name it.

        I’d rather try to make just 100 new Amazon employees happy than cater to attracting 100,000 people driving in from the suburbs once a month, whining that that they have to pay to park.

      • Spoken like true straight hipsters entitling themselves to the fabulousness of a formerly gay neighborhood. Realize: A lot of the LGBT community lives in the suburbs, some to be near to work, others against their wishes as rent keeps going up. We don’t have the privilege of finding welcoming nightlife nearly everywhere we go – Capitol Hill has traditionally had the critical mass to keep a vibrant and diverse string of gay and lesbian bars going. Why don’t we just come in on the bus? Because Sound Transit operates on banker’s hours and stops running as the party is just getting started.

      • Oh, please. The 49 bus runs until well past 2:00am on weekends. A couple of the eastside buses (550 and 545, I think) run late into the night, as well.

      • Ditto, let’s be real — it’s $950/month for a 30-year mortgage on a typical $250K 1-bedroom apartment on the Hill.

        Seriously, you can afford a car (which I certainly can’t) but you can’t afford to get an apartment here?

        Or do you just choose to live in the suburbs and feel entitled to externalize a big portion of your car ownership expenses onto the health, safety, and quality of life of us who DO chose to live here?

  3. Yes. There is no parking. What I believe is most frustrating is that the city does not respond to what has been taken away and not returned via increased density. As an example: Zone Parking permits, that are provided to tax-paying property owners, and now entire swaths of those Zones have been replaced with no zone/pay only. I love Heckling’s quote: “I’m not anti-development, I’m anti-shitty communication.” That’s the problem. The city takes in investment from developers and does not deliver that back to the community in a visible way. Instead we get told, density will make everything better for your business, for your safety, etc.. Well… where’s that data showing that? And, to be fair – these are inherited problems for Murray and should rest on the shoulders of the Council and past administrations. Glad Murray is taking the pulse – but the new district elections for Council members should be decided on these kind of issues.

    • Totally agree about zone parking – I have a zone 7 (or is it 4? I don’t even know what zone I’m in lol) guest parking pass for visitors, and the area covered in that zone got halved in the last year.

      • Residents should have a parking spot off the street, or not have a car. Street parking should be for visitors and people with disabilities.

      • I agree, but unfortunately the city’s regulations apparently provide for approving more and more multi-family buildings with umpty-zillion new dwelling units but requiring zero parking spaces.

      • These developers don’t include parking because it’s not a profitable endeavor. The bigger issue is people that expect cheap/free/subsidized parking, including visitors, residents, AND business owners. At a time when homelessness is on the rise, low income people are getting priced out of our neighborhood, and climate change is becoming more real, accommodating people’s cars should be the least of our worries. Yet it always comes up as some sort of sacred cow. It’s freakin weird.

  4. I’m a little surprised that the manager of Value Village is calling for a public restroom when there’s one just across the street in Cal Anderson Park. Sure, it’s full of junkies, but I don’t think adding another public restroom would be any different.

    I do think the concerns about construction crews and parking (and particularly the parking permits near Neumo’s) are valid. Construction workers gotta park somewhere, right? I don’t know that it’s realistic that entire crews are going to commute via transit. but that should be part of the discussion around allowing so many development projects in close proximity to run concurrently.

    • That’s a very overly-simplistic “summation” of the general response. All one has to do is look at the sheer volume of development, most of which is occurring within a relatively small geographic footprint, and happening all at once, to understand how existing businesses are being negatively impacted. With dozens of lots eliminated due to construction, entire blocks of street parking temporarily unavailable, and what little is left frequently co-opted by crews who park there for entire days at a time, all of which has been going on for a couple of years now, and it’s pretty easy to see why they might have some perfectly legitimate complaints.

      • Aren’t they expanding? Bauhaus also ended up expanding. I think when they saw all the community support they decided to open one in Ballard. Now Bauhaus is opening a 3rd location in Greenlake. So as you can see all this new development seems to be helping local businesses. I honestly don’t know where most of the complaints are coming from. So many chain restaurants have closed recently. While a few chains have opened in their place it seems like it’s mostly independent local restaurants opening. There’s also a small bunch that lumps chains and asian restaurants in the bad category. Guess they think everyone should only eat various European foods.