Seattle Times’ Capitol Hill ‘culture clash’ by the numbers

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 9.15.37 AMThe Seattle Times is the latest to try to explain change on Capitol Hill — Cultures clash as gentrification engulfs Capitol Hill:

Incidents like Cônnére’s illustrate a growing culture clash on Capitol Hill, a formerly blue-collar neighborhood that became a home for artists and the gay community decades ago and is now in the throes of yet another transformation.

Gleaming new condo buildings and posh eateries, big dance clubs and craft cocktail lounges have replaced quaint auto-row buildings and inexpensive restaurants.

Again with the condos — they’re apartments! But it’s a worthy read even if you don’t buy some of the simplifications like “If Capitol Hill were a high school, it’d be a classic showdown of jocks and prom queens versus freaks and geeks.”

Here is some of our favorite empirical evidence included in the article:

  • “Together, Capitol Hill’s bars and restaurants can hold more than 19,000 people…”
  • “There are more than 200 restaurants and bars on the Hill below 15th Avenue…”
  • “Once the province of the starving artist, a fifth of the neighborhood’s households now make more than $100,000 a year…”
  • “Anti-gay crime has been on the rise; 2014 had 55 reported bias incidents in the police precinct covering Capitol Hill — a 28 percent increase from the year before…”
  • “… between 2000 and 2012, the number of Capitol Hill’s same-sex households dropped 23 percent…”
  • “Capitol Hill Housing has 25 buildings with 747 units on the Hill. There are no current vacancies.”
  • “In the current market, tony eateries and high-volume bars are the businesses able to afford rents, which run as high as $44 a square foot — twice the average rent of a decade ago, according to national real-estate research firm CoStar Group.”
  • “… according to the city planning department, since 2010, approximately 89 new buildings have been built with more than 4,600 residential units…”
  • “Seattle is the second-highest-paying city in tech, with an average salary of $99,400…”
  • “When Derschang recently renegotiated Linda’s lease — one that includes a “demolition clause,” meaning the landlord has to give her a year’s notice if he plans to sell it — the rent doubled, she said.”

Beyond the numbers, the Times piece also dropped this line for you to chew on the rest of the day: “Many of those who lament the Hill’s changes helped instigate them.”

UPDATE: Owner of the Comet and lots of other fun things for boys and girls and their friends to do in Pike/Pine and beyond Dave Meinert responded to the Seattle Times article via Facebook — and the Comet is holding a little contest in honor of Capitol Hill, yet again, being declared dead:

The Comet is, by the way, a CHS advertiser.

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38 thoughts on “Seattle Times’ Capitol Hill ‘culture clash’ by the numbers

  1. First-hurray! As a decades long resident of the Hill I have been planning on and expecting the gentrification of the area for decades, starting especially with the announcement of the long delayed light rail stop.

    Next, they may be apartments now, but I would bet a lot of them will be condo conversions as soon as possible. Starting as apartments is a great way to get around any warranty issues and in many cases the financing is easier.

    Finally, transformation is a natural part of city growth. Just look at the early 20th century mansions as one example. Capitol Hill is not becoming trendy. It’s becoming trendy again. Eventually these new buildings will become seedy and outdated and the cycle will repeat.

    • I dare say you’re missing the point.

      Need one be particularly “important” to afford their home, to feel like they belong, to be invested in a place, to do things other than drink, and to walk down the street without being harassed and beaten?

      • Seattle’s Capitol Hill is where one goes to ignore and to be ignored.

        Come down to SLU. The people are the same, but the sidewalks are cleaner.

      • Actually there are 3 alternative clubs in SLU (Victory Lounge, The Black Lodge & Lo-Fi) and El Corezone and soon to be Fun House are nearby.

  2. Thanks for the link — interesting but somewhat silly article in the Seattle Times. I am glad that CHS’s standards include not authoring such hyperbole.

      • “If Capitol Hill were a high school, it’d be a classic showdown of jocks and prom queens versus freaks and geeks.”

        If that’s not silly hyperbole, I don’t know what is.
        Actually, “silly” is too nice. It’s just stupid.

      • Silly analogies aside, the Times story accurately reflects my beliefs, observations and perceptions of what the Hill is undergoing. My main gripes are cost of housing and loss of diversity.

      • Seems more like a Geeky Freak vs Freaky Geek thing. That being said I love all the freaks, geeks, jocks, and queens. Not that any of them like to be classified. -RD

  3. I really like this comment someone left for the Times article:

    “This is a very well written piece. I can be a dick and state the obvious of supply and demand and change….just….happens. A neighborhood doesn’t own you anything…blah blah. But that would totally ignore the human condition of this piece. Until you’ve experienced the scenario where you are simply priced out of the neighborhood you lived in for so long and hold such a strong connection to, you really can’t be so cold and obtuse to what gentrification is and what it feels like. I feel for these people.”

    I’ve lived half of my life here. I think more sensitive development of the area wouldn’t have hurt the place so much. But since our whole society views making the most money you can as being the most important thing in life, I don’t suppose that could ever really happen.

    • Way to give up on the hope of greater social justice and income equality. So glad you’re part of the neighborhood. Because Capitol Hill needs to be all about your idea of giving up. Maybe you could open a sort of cross fit boot camp gym where you kick homeless people. It’s a great workout.

    • I too feel for those people who must move out of a neighborhood they love and have lived in for a long time. But I am skeptical that this is happening on anything like a large scale, as is so commonly believed. Are there any statistics on this issue?

      Also, I think there are quite a few efforts to provide more affordable housing on Capitol Hill. One example are the apodments (as much as I dislike them), and another is the upcoming development over the light rail station, which will supply a significant number of affordable units.

      • I lived on the same block on the Hill for 11 years…until last summer. I had fantastic connections there that extended beyond acquaintances. I experienced a sense of community there unlike anywhere else. Having to move due to a massive rent hike (prompted by redevelopment) was jarring. I could no longer afford to live on the Hill and it severed part of the social and support network I’d spent years building. Mine is one tale of hundreds. I do not think that the concerns are over-exaggerated. I am a parent and an apodment is not an option for us. “Affordable” is subjective. I have a professional job and make too much to qualify for subsidized housing, but not enough to pay for market rate in a neighborhood like the Hill. Double-edged sword.

      • I’m truly sorry that you had to leave. I do not question that this is happening, only if it is happening in significant numbers.

        Just curious: Did you look into Capitol Hill Housing before you decided to move? That organization provides less-than-market rate rents, and at least theoretically would help people like you. If you did apply to CHH, why didn’t it work for you?

  4. The Times article has a point about the 200 bars. Does Capitol Hill wanna take a stab at any other business model? Other cities that have either by planning or default created “entertainment districts” have had nothing but problems stemming from them. And if one fifth of the city population reflects tech level salaries how does it make economic sense to base everything around just them and their disposable income when four fifths of the city isn’t? I know Capitol Hill elite love to bash the Times but their article is not without several important points.

    • When the Ama-drones spend all their money at bars and gyms, why, as a business owner, would you want to open up any other business?

  5. My perception is that the Times article conflated two different populations. The techies driving up rents are by and large not the bros/woo girls, who generally travel from all over to come to the most happening areas of the regional nightlife. Used to be pioneer square then belltown now here. The bar scene may have grown recently due to the perception of pike pine being a cool place, which is fed by new residential development, but the population needed to support all those new spots is not predominantly local. At any rate, the are two different problems, with the nightlife being the more insidious of the two, in my opinion.

    • Exactly! There’s a difference between a neighborhood watering hole and Rhienhaus. When people are driving in from the far suburbs this is what we get, a bunch of drunk transplants who think they are back at Penn State…

  6. When I read the story yesterday it felt like there were TWO stories confused into one.

    The first is the rise of the Apartment/Condo and the new residents it is bringing, these people seem reasonable citizens, no concern

    The second was the drunk dickheads generally making Pike/Pine unlivable 2 days a week.

    The first “problem” is normal city change, the second is something we shouldn’t tolerate and can be fixed.

  7. The problem of Capitol Hill Pike/Pine becoming soley an “entertainment district” can best be addressed by allowing more day time activities, ei. more office space. I know there are some folks working on this, (Chamber?) so looking forward to them getting something passed.

    • Josh – the zoning allows a bigger building to be built if it is mixed use (residential over retail) than if it were office space. The cities idea is that we live, eat, drink, grocery shop in NC zones and commute to work downtown. Hub and spoke transport system. I think the unintended consequence is exactly what you describe.

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  9. Hello Hill Folks;

    As a Canadian visitor to your neighborhood, my wife and I were very impressed by the comfortable feel and variety of shops and businesses that were in the area. The one thing that stuck out was the ugly new buildings! I understand the gentrification process and it seems sad that long time residents are being forced out due to increased costs, especially in an area so close to downtown, Belltown, the Market and Pioneer Square. We love Seattle and hope long time residents of the hill will continue to work for managed change. Some design parameters would at least give the area some visual consistency. Say what you like about Starbbucks but their new building looks great and does a lot to keep your heritage alive.

    Good Luck.

    • Sometimes it takes an “outsider” to see the truth about what is happening here. Thanks, Curtis!

      There are some examples of fine new buildings, but unfortunately they are few and far between.

      • Hear hear! We should have learned from our design-review mistakes in South Lake Union. Talk about ugly, mono-culture architecture . . .

      • Indeed, it would be great if more people paid attention, attended public design review meetings and conveyed objections/concerns to officials in charge while things are developing. Much is beyond the control of individuals, but there are opportunities to give input before the late complaint stage that are generally underutilized.

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