Tech bros, affordability, and mental health — ‘the end of the line for Seattle’s gay neighborhood’

This ‘Not one more’ march against anti-queer violence on Capitol Hill last June showed there still some fight left in the gayborhood (Image: CHS)

This ‘Not one more’ march against anti-queer violence on Capitol Hill last June showed there still some fight left in the gayborhood (Image: CHS)

As “My husband Michael and I were recently out on a Saturday night and were walking around the Pine/Pike Corridor. And we looked at each other and said: my God, what happened to the gays? Literally, who are all of these straight people in our neighborhood?”

That’s from a Capitol Hill resident most of us know as Mayor Ed Murray quoted by a US-based writer for British newspaper The Guardian in a story headlined Violence in Capitol Hill: is this the end of the line for Seattle’s gay neighborhood?

It’s a bummer read:

Although Seattle is one of the “gayest” city in America – recently released census data shows the city of Seattle saw a 52% increase in same-sex couples from 2010 to 2012 – the Capitol Hill neighborhood saw a 23% decline of LGBT people living there during the same period. Meanwhile, rents have also gone up by more than 33%, according to Zillow.

As much as it is a story about hate crime, it is also a story of economics:

Sandberg, who has faced homelessness and has once been attacked by a couple who used a skateboard as a weapon, is part of a growing group of LGBT people in Seattle who believe these new efforts only protect well-off Capitol Hill residents. “I don’t think queer people feel any more comfortable reporting the hate crimes now,” Sandberg said in regards to the shuttle service and the police working intentionally on this issue. “I think it’s more of an attempt by SPD [Seattle police department] to endear themselves to the more privileged white, higher-income queers that are [still] moving into the neighborhood.”

As the legal proceedings for the horrible New Year’s arson at Neighbours finally drew to a close in 2015, Mayor Murray has lead the city to do more to address anti-gay and trans violence by shifting policies and procedures for reporting hate crimes and setting up an LGBTQ Task Force.  As much as critics have made fun of the mayor’s rainbow crosswalks as a strategy for strengthening gay culture on Capitol Hill, the task force has actually recommended more rainbow paint, by the way.

One additional element not included in the Guardian story can only get better as homeless outreach workers are now part of regular East Precinct patrols. Many neighborhood hate crimes CHS reports on includes suspects who are in crisis — either due to drugs, mental health, or homelessness… or some combination of the above. This conviction in a federal hate crime case in November is only one example. According to police, the convicted suspect had been living in shelters, is addicted to drugs, and was on Capitol Hill to sell meth the night of the crime.

Tech dude bros and woo! girls might need a lesson or two in neighborhood history and culture, but the end of the gayborhood is also about affordability and mental health.

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34 thoughts on “Tech bros, affordability, and mental health — ‘the end of the line for Seattle’s gay neighborhood’

  1. man, i sure wish the city would do something. like, put up fences, gates and signs to let me know which neighborhood i’m allowed to call home based on my skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation and/or career vertical.

    i would love to be cataloged, issued my city-sponsored identity orientation card and be shuffled off to a compound where i can go and not have to face anyone else or worry about change.

    let’s not worry though that the most violent crimes of late, haven’t been by tech bros and woo girls (no matter how annoying they can be).

    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/11/three-shot-at-harvard-and-pike/

    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/12/central-district-artist-teacher-killed-in-belltown-shooting-sunday/

    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/11/man-struck-in-leg-in-e-cherry-shooting/

    but hey, what’s a few random bullets here and there when the neighborhood you once remembered has changed – just like everything else?

    • A couple of things worth mentioning before anyone gets their overly-sensitive panties in a wad over this:

      1. Just because Murray said it, doesn’t mean he speaks for The Gays®. So don’t assign any more weight to it than the random personal opinions of one couple.

      2. The dilution of Capitol Hill’s gayness has as much to do with changes within the gay “community” itself as it does external factors (i.e, influx of more straight people, douche-bros, woo-girls, whatever). You can see the changes in gay bars. With greater social acceptance, the need is less for separate safe spaces which tended to define Gayborhoods. Gay people themselves don’t confine themselves to specific neighborhoods like they used to, because they don’t feel like they *have* to.

      3. The change in vibe of Capitol Hill isn’t just owing to sexual orientation. It does feel totally different now, and it’s not related only to sexual orientation. I’m sure there are a lot of straight long-time Capitol Hill residents who also miss “how it used to be”. And when they think about what they miss, they’re probably not mourning the loss of gayness, but an overall vibe that’s different now.

    • …did *anyone* suggest that techbros and woo! girls are the people committing the most violent crimes? That seems like an intentional distraction.

      I think the problem is when someone moves into an area, whomever they are, and they reject the established identity of their new environs. If you are rich and intolerant, don’t move somewhere poor and diverse. At the very least have the good grace not to try to displace or marginalize your ‘new’ neighbors who gave the place the qualities that brought you there in the first place.

    • @bill

      my comment about violence had to do with what we need to be focusing on vs. (per the very last line in the blog post) “Tech dude bros and woo! girls might need a lesson or two in neighborhood history and culture…”

      i never once suggested that it was tech bros/woo girls that were causing the violence.

    • I think Jim98122x hits the nail on the head, but I also see this as a generational issue. For those of us born before 1980, “reality” is simply much more tangible than for those born later. Capitol Hill was a gay/alternative neighborhood, there was a Seattle “sound” and friendships weren’t measured by numbers of clicks.

      As self identity becomes ever more virtual, it’s oddly understandable that newcomers are less and less connected with the Hill’s past, and I would argue, its future too. I’m not saying that ignorance of a neighborhood’s past is an excuse for bad behavior, but I do think the issue is much larger than Tech Bros, Capitol Hill or the balancing act between “gentrification” and maintaining the spirit which made this neighborhood desirable in the first place.

      This challenge isn’t exclusive to Seattle, so I’m curious if other cities/neighborhoods have come up with solutions to similar problems?

  2. Seattle’s gay scene is pretty boring for some reason. Compared to other cities at least. The last two new gay clubs I remember opening were Q and the Social. Both went straight pretty quickly and the Social eventually when straight/thug and closed not long after that shooting.

    So apparently the issue is Seattle’s gays aren’t willing to spend enough money to keep the places open and/or gay-oriented?

    • As far as I know, I don’t think Q was ever intended to be a gay bar (despite the misleading name) and I haven’t heard much about Social. It’s hard for a lot of gay bars to thrive when a lot of gay/queer people can’t afford to live on or near the hill anymore. I would not chalk it up to the gay scene being boring. There are a lot of cool underground parties and pop-up dance nights that are worth checking out.

    • Adam, my man, you’re doing it all wrong. Q and the Social were terrible from the jump and if they had succeeded as gay bars (for some wicked and incomprehensible reason), they would have contributed two rather forgettable points to what is otherwise the best gay bar scene in the universe.

      Here’s what I, a longtime Capitol Hill homo who’s been drunk since 2005, recommend: GET THEE TO THE FUCKING PONY, YOU NITWIT! The staff and patrons will be mean to you (let it slide—you probably deserve it!) and you may come into contact with unknown and unknowable liquids (let it slide—you absolutely deserve it!), but the music is on point, the drinks aren’t too pricey, and while the people and things with dicks on them are plentiful, I’ve noted a few people and things sans dick as well. You should not be bored. If you are bored, take drugs. If you don’t have any drugs, go to one of the other non-boring homo-themed establishments/nights around this hood, the gayest and densest north of San Francisco. Examples include but are not limited to:

      Diesel (The staff won’t spit in your face like at Pony, which some people find desirable.)
      The Crescent (I saw Jackie Hell there once. Enough said.)
      Re-bar (This shit is very queer at times.)
      Kremwerk (Sp?)
      Madison Pub (OK, so this one can be pretty boring, but it’s very close to Pony.)
      R Place (have you been kicked out of here yet?)
      Neighbours (Thursday night is something called “Stripper Circus.” It’s no Rock Lobster, but a drag queen will happily serve you popcorn out of an old timey machine while you watch buff straight dudes sway from side to side for your amusement.)

      The diversity of gay bar offerings (for gay men anyway) is what makes the scene so great to me. Now pick yourself up, dust (and dry) yourself off, and go get drunk already, YOU NITWIT!

    • Well said, Asa. I’ve been here since 2005, and I was kicked out of R Place the first, and really only time I was there! :) Glad to hear that they’re known for that, apparently.

    • ASA: Oh no! You just gave a list of cool gay (men’s) bars to the tech bros…..

      Tech Bros: Please disregard Asa and don’t visit our bars!

  3. Worse Gayor EVER! As he admits, in his own words, how he is unaware of how his policies are impacting communities. Here’s a tip Ed, walk around, more, if you want to get the real understanding of what needs help in Seattle.

  4. First those tech guys drive up rents, then destroy all vestiges of civility in this city, and now they’re gay-bashing! Is there no underhanded atrocity these computer industry workers will sink to??

    Sigh.

    Keep it up. We’ll keep paying your taxes, we’ll keep supporting your local businesses, we’ll keep Seattle from becoming another Detroit or Camden.

    And by the way, I thought it was just “dude bros”. The “tech” appendage is new to me. Guess I need to start wearing my baseball cap backwards and act like an asshole on Pike and Pine. Just to keep up stereotypes. I wouldn’t want to threaten your moral superiority based on phantom demographics.

    Next group to bash: All cyclists are deranged assholes!

    • Tech bro here!

      When I’m up late doing a code push, I love nothing more than beating up queer people on my way home from work in SLU.

      Nothing beats the stress of working 70 hours a week like an evening gay-bashing. It gets hairy sometimes because often the gayboys in Cap Hill are my coworkers. I always worry that I’ll crack the skull of my UX designer — if that ever happened we couldn’t actually ship and my VP would get really pissed.

      I also travel about 30% for work, and really miss out on those gaybashing opportunities when I’m out of town.

      After all, I have nothing to lose, not my job or my house or my family or my reputation or the career I spent a full decade of my adult life ramping up.

      Yup. You’ve caught us. Tech bros are the enemy.

    • Reality Broker: thanks for the laugh. Please know that not all of us old-time neighborhood homosexuals see the newcomers as one big undifferentiated mass of enemies, nor use the derogatory term “Tech Bro”. That term makes me feel like I’m back in high school, with the jocks vs the nerds vs the art fags. Stupid.

      Like Asa, I still see a whole lotta funky-ass homo-joy on the Hill, if you know where to look. Just cause it’s mixed in with other things doesn’t mean it’s gone. The area’s getting denser – more space for everyone to do their thing side by side.

      And yes, I know about the uptick in hate crimes. This is not inevitable, and even if it coincided with the arrivals of the new neighbors, if they’re not doing it (as the vast vast majority of them are not), then it’s not their fault. Period. And telling people who aren’t responsible for it that they can’t live where they want as a result is not OK.

    • Absolutely, if you personally are not an asshole, then one can’t complain at all about anyone else who is like you. So, if Amazon hiring 30,000 people in one year is obviously directly linked to certain changes in your neighborhood, just ignore it, because this one guy isn’t like that, so that settles it.

    • @JohnG: If this guy were the only non-asshole, then sure. But most of the newcomers I’ve gotten to know are nice interesting people as individuals. Maybe the fact that I’m both a flaming homosexual and a geek myself makes me feel more connected to the newcomers than others do. Regardless, it’s one thing to feel nostalgic for the positive aspects of one’s community that are being lost. I get that. What I’m responding to (and I see now that it wasn’t obvious, sorry) are the statements I hear from folks about how the newcomers don’t belong here, or shouldn’t be allowed to move here, or something similar. Much as we may wish otherwise, nobody gets to own something as dynamic as an urban neighborhood in perpetuity. And telling people who are perfectly fine individuals that they don’t belong somewhere because they are part of a group that you consider too numerous is odious.

    • “we’ll keep Seattle from becoming another Detroit or Camden”

      Aw, no, no credit for that. Seattle during its crash (Last one turn out the lights!) was about as well off as a lot of cities are during their booms. We were attractive to tech companies because we were already a pleasant place to live with good schools.

  5. Neighborhoods that are ethnically distinct are a vanishing artifact of the 20th century. In the 1970s, the “gay neighborhood” was the center of life for a distinct cultural group in the same way that an Italian, Polish, Jewish, or Black neighborhood was once founded around a parish church or synagogue.

    In 21st century Seattle there is much neighborhood stratification, but it is based around economic class. To a 21st century Seattle family in an upscale neighborhood, it doesn’t matter whether neighbors are Asian, Latino, gay, lesbian, or whatever. Instead, neighborhoods seek a new homogeneity that is economic. Keep your house and garden up to our standards, and help us fight off the builders of affordable housing, say the neighbors in their neighborhoods.

    • Then why did you think that?

      It’s true, gays DO have these great incomes.
      Unless they don’t.
      Just like straight (or otherwise non-gay) people.

  6. Does the “23% decline” in LGBT people living in Capitol Hill from 2010 mean percentage wise? Or 23% less number of people?

    If the percent of people who identify as LGBT in 2012 is 23% less than those who identfied as LGBT in 2010, it may be that the actual number of people isn’t 23% less (as overall population has grown). Other factors are how that survey was done because it really matters to whom a person is being asked to self identify. Not exactly safe to tell everyone, especially considering violence and discrimination.

    Plus in what age groups?

    I don’t need Capitol Hill to be something it’s not (anymore). I want affordable housing throughout the city, and safety throughout the city.

    • Basically, Seattle LGTB population grew by about half, but Capitol Hill’s gay population fell by about a quarter. Given the population rise, one way of looking at this shows that more new “straight” folks moved to the Hill than new “gay” people, thus driving down the overall percentage of LGTB on the Hill. Another way to see it is that new gays want to live in places like Ballard or Belltown as much as Capitol Hill (yay diversity). The opposite side of the coin is that gays can no longer afford the Hill, so are moving to less expensive areas like Rainier Valley, or God forbid Kent (boo gentrification). Long story short is the total number of LGTB peeps on the Hill might have remained relatively constant over that time period, but you’d have to do more math to be sure….

  7. I guess my awareness timeframe might be a wee bit short, since although I’m a Seattle native, my adult years in the CH hood have been from the early 2000s (I can vaguely remember REI being here as a youngster). Anyway, I just don’t perceive (from my dude loving perspective) the neighborhood to be any less “gay” than it was 1.5-ish decades ago (or from earlier memories of visiting here). Maybe the ‘mo’s that bunk here now are just more bro-ey themselves? Plus, I think that Madison Valley and the CD are taking the gay overflow.

  8. Anyone who wants to see this change in the broader context, including how similar Seattle is to lots of other cities on this front, what all the different factors are driving it, both inside and outside the queer community, and ultimately what some of the positives may be in addition to the negatives, should read “There Goes the Gayborhood” by Amin Ghaziani. They have it at Elliott Bay books, so you can support an independent Capitol Hill business in the process.

  9. This gay 11-year home-owner on the Hill and 16-year Seattle resident thinks there is still plenty of gay culture and gays-holding-hands on the Hill. This gay 11-year home-owner on the Hill and 16-year Seattle resident thinks also that the gay bar scene here has always been tragic in comparison to, say, Chicago, but hey, SF has a tragic bar scene too. This gay 11-year home-owner on the Hill and 16-year Seattle resident further thinks this gay mayor of ours is USELESS.

  10. So, here’s the deal with what is going on with the “Gayborhood”.

    We wanted and fought for equality for decades. We have been “awarded” equality by being allowed to get married. With equality that means we are JUST LIKE THEM and they are JUST LIKE US. There aren’t gay neighborhoods or straight neighborhoods. We wanted this, fought for it, and now we have to sleep with it.

    The old chant now rings true: “We’re here, we’re queer, get use to it.” Now it should be chanted: “We’re here, we’re equal, get used to it.” Moral of the story….. be careful what you wish for.

    I, for one, being a life long resident of Seattle/Capitol Hill, I like the gentrification and being a mix of gay, straight, bi, trans, etc. It’s a great energy and now there are no longer gay bars, straight bars or anything really… But it is becoming a big city and more people are moving here. So, just embrace it, have fun with it and be welcoming. We wanted tolerance and now we have to practice tolerance.

  11. I have been a Capitol Hill resident for 8 years and worked on Capitol Hill as far back as 1999.

    People have been bitching about how much better Capitol Hill was “back in the day” for literally decades.

    Crimes are a problem and should be addressed. How closely tied they are to any specific *group* of people is perhaps up for debate and arguably could use more hard data. I will say that I very much appreciate the message sent by the rainbow crosswalks and the people who bitch about their costs are frankly missing the point.

    I fully recognize that I could change my tune about this if I were to get attacked myself (though I don’t, you know, go walking through Cal Anderson Park at 2 in the morning). But I continue to live in *and* love Capitol Hill and I am GAY GAY GAY.

    That’s all.

    • Yep, it’s (apparently) forever been “this place is going to hell” here on CH. There was an earlier post about that restaurant/club where the new LR station is, and according to a quote from somebody in the 1970s, it was already overrun by rich a-holes who were driving the LGBT out.

      I guess that’s the one thing that never changes: the beautiful places of your youth are always being destroyed by today’s reality (which, in turn, will be someone else’s beautiful memory).

  12. Tech boys only show up after the developers have left, complaining about them is pointless, after all someone has to rent the overpriced new apartments now that they are built.

    The woo girls and Douche boys are the ones that show up just to go bar hopping and get drunk. They cause a lot of problems and Seattle’s response has been to cater to them, going as far as closing streets for them. I would ask if they ever looked into who is over serving these people that they are so drunk?
    Downtown Seattle’s 9 block program was a huge success, pushing all of the homeless and drug dealers out of the downtown core. But did they ever consider where these people would go? I can tell you, the Hill! They were all pushed out of downtown and onto the Hill where every doorway now smells like piss and people are ODing on the streets and sleeping in the doorways.
    Many of the people who used to live on the Hill were either priced out (30% rise in rents) or asked to leave buildings slated for demo. The sheer number of mega construction allowed to happen simultaneously on the Hill also forced a lot of business to close, ending jobs for people who also lost their homes.
    The Mayor painted the crosswalks to make a grand statement that Capitol hill is still Gay, even though his own policies have forced many out. The Safe Places program is also a farce, as I found out when I called 911 myself to report an assault and no one ever showed up! The funding for Safe Places ended with the posters, there is no police support behind it.
    This Mayor has been in the pocket of developers and more interested in publicity than actually serving the citizens of Seattle. A huge disappointment.

  13. It’s not just affordability, it’s a lack of comparable options for those of us doing the gentrifying. This is one of very few neighborhoods in Seattle where you don’t need to own a car and that’s why I (a straight gentrifier) am here.

    If you don’t want us moving here, support the development of more dense urban centers with great transit so we have other places to go.