City to release Pike/Pine street closure report

As summer approaches, the city is ready to release a comprehensive report of its analysis of the Pike/Pine pedestrian zone pilot project. And, while we don’t know yet what official tack the city is taking on the project, it’s looking like there probably won’t be another street closure in 2016.

“We asked that they not do a street closure this year,” Sierra Hansen, the new director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, told CHS.

City Hall is mum on the contents of the report for the time being. But real estate and business interests critical of the street closure have told the city they don’t want to see a street closure in 2016 until local concerns about the pilot can be addressed.

Since 2015’s string of street closures as part of the city-sponsored and EcoDistrict-lead Pike/Pine project — a tactical urbanist attempt to address concerns of public safety and civility on weekend nights in the Pike/Pine nightlife core through crowd management, as well as raise LGBT visibility with in-the-streets community programming due to last summer’s increase in hate crimes — the Office of Economic Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation have been studying the trial-run using survey results, stakeholder feedback, video footage of the street closure, as well as crime stats and local business data. This report, along with city’s final word on the future of the project, is expected this week.

The pilot project run by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict was designed to test a three-block pedestrian zone between Broadway and 12th on E Pike as part of a month-long trial of the concept hoped to alleviate street violence and make the area easier to patrol for police. In the first phase, the E Pike pedestrian zone between Broadway and 12th Ave focused on simple crowd management and releasing sidewalk pressure. Things got more festive on August 22nd with street yoga, a drag show, and late-night street performers, while dancing in the streets got a rain check on August 29th. The pedestrian zone project was funded through $30,000 of a $160,000 city grant the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce received earlier in 2015.

The project faced criticism from local businesses and property owners who said the nighttime street closure perpetuated the public image of Pike/Pine as a nightlife-only party district, that day-time oriented retail businesses weren’t benefiting equally, and that the project didn’t achieve its goal of increasing public safety in the area, criticism which was conveyed to city in the midst of the street closure implementation and during the post-pilot input gathering process.

According to both Hansen and Jill Cronauer—a broker at Hunters Capital (a major Capitol Hill property owner, including properties along Pike/Pine), co-chair of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and previous critic of the street closure—OED director Brian Surratt solicited input from them and other members of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce board (including the manager of Elliott Bay Book Company, Tracy Taylor, voiced concerns about the project last year), regarding the street closure and if they would be open to implementing another one this year the end of a meeting two weeks ago regarding the city’s Only in Seattle Grant program of which the Chamber is a recipient ($30,000 of a $160,000 Only in Seattle grant funded the street closure pilot). (UPDATE: We have corrected this paragraph — Taylor attended the meeting on behalf of Elliott Bay, not owner Peter Aaron. Sorry for the error.)

“We sent a loud and clear message that another street closure this year might be done in a way that doesn’t benefit everybody,” said Hansen. “We made an in-person request to OED staff asking them to work with us on any future street closure plans to engage the various stakeholders, and we asked that they look at 2017 to give us that time.”

“I haven’t been contacted by anyone who is clamoring for the street closure again,” Hansen said.

Cronauer with Hunters Capital gave a similar line to the city. “My call would be that [a 2016 closure] feels a little rushed,” she said.

Daytime?
Cronauer added that while she’s open to doing another street closure in the future, it would need to look different than the 2015 pilot, possibly during the day time and paired with other events and public space activations.  “We don’t think doing the same street closure is a good idea.” Michael Malone, head of Hunters Capital, told Seattle Met last year that the street closure created an “open environment that can lead to panhandling and aggressive behavior” due to increased loitering.

“We’re known as a nightlife destination but we as a company are trying to make it a good balance by making our buildings a mix of nightlife and retail,” said Cronauer. “If it [a future street closure] felt like it was promoting the vibrancy of the neighborhood in the day and the night and wasn’t just a targeted response to nightlife.”

“I think doing something like that as a community building event that is all ages during the day would be great,” Hansen said, imagining a potential street closure linking with Cal Anderson park and widespread public space activations.

There’s no guarantee a daytime event would do any better from a business relations standpoint. Planners originally wanted to try a Sunday daytime closure during the 2015 trial but said retail businesses were hesitant because they didn’t want to mess with a reliable, good summer day of revenue.

Even the proponents of the street closure aren’t banking on another street closure happening this year, though it seems by design. Alex Brennan, senior planner with the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, the main collaborator with the city on implementing the pilot project, said that a 2016 street closure “isn’t in their work plan” for this year, and that they expected the city to take the lead after the pilot.

“We had a major role in the pilot, but ultimately the decision as to whether to continue to do this is a city decision and a neighborhood decision,” said Brennan. “Obviously we put a lot of work last year into the pilot and I’d really like to see something come out of that that has broad support in the neighborhood.”

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

30 thoughts on “City to release Pike/Pine street closure report

  1. This article is bullshit. The street closure was a huge success. It has nothing to do with the balance of nighttime business vs. daytime. The Chamber is being dishonest and is not representing the interests of the whole neighborhood.

    This is an idea that has worked well in other cities. One that not only promotes community and enhances public safety, but is also good for business. It’s obvious the Chamber is speaking for a select group of businesses, and not the majority of businesses in Pike Pine. Maybe it’s time for a Pike Pine business association.

    Nighttime businesses – from restaurants, bars, and yes, nightclubs, employ hundreds of people in Pike Pine, pay tons of taxes, and drive the neighborhood. There is no conflict between support that night time economy, while also supporting the day time economy. We need both, it’s not one against the other. In fact most businesses open at night are also open during the day, and totally support more daytime business.

    The idea that the pilot wasn’t successful is being driven by people who didn’t go to it – I was there, Jill Cronauer and Sierra were not. It’s odd how they can speak against something they didn’t attend.

    We have a legitimate night time economy in Pike Pine. It has some issues. These issues need to be addressed by better policing. The police asked for the street closures, and in other cities the police have reported a decrease in crime with similar street closures. We need smart, innovative ideas. If the Chamber is going to hamper those, and believes that things should remain the same, they have their heads in the sand.

    There are a group of businesses who will be asking for more street closures this summer, as well as more social services, and more police foot patrols, and we will have other ideas to both increase business and reduce crime. I guess we won’t be involved with the Chamber in doing so.

    • Dave – I am a big fan of advocating for more services and police patrols, and I have been advocating for both. You have my phone number, and you’ve cancelled numerous meetings. If you want to sit down and talk about this, I’m always available. And, folks are welcome to email me at the Chamber, Sierra@caphillchamber.com, if they want to discuss this or any other concerns or ideas for the neighborhood.

    • as a non-business owning resident of capitol hill i think the street closure idea is a good one and should continue. let’s face it, like it or not, for the time being, that stretch of pike is about nightlife. if hunter’s capital and the cap hill chamber want something different then they need to entice different businesses to that part of the hill.

      to my way of thinking, the decision makers in this are businesses (how many of those business owners live in the neighborhood) and NOT the residents. it should be residents, not some business entity that should be steering policy for the neighborhood. whether it’s multi-national conglomerates or the small mom-and-pop, neighborhood policy shouldn’t be dictated by a small minority.

  2. Close it to cars at night and during the day. Close it all the way to Madison. I’m tired of almost being run over by cars trying to rush through intersections. We have light rail in Capitol Hill. We’ll soon have BRT on Madison. Let’s stop relying on drivers and street parking for business.

    • It’s brave of you to sacrifice area businesses without any knowledge of their reliance on people from outside-the-area for their business. Screw them, right? It’s your world! Their livelihoods aren’t of your concern!

      You’ll then moan about high rents driving out all of your favorite “cool” businesses, never making any sort of connection to the need for customers, some of whom may not be from areas with easy access to rail or the BRT.

    • I agree Dave! I wish we would think of the closure as less of a novelty, and more of just a way of life. The call to pair it with more “events and public space activations” horrifies me! I walked by during the yoga class happening in the street and thought it was ridiculous, along with people just lying in the street taking pictures. Why not actually use the space, and let the restaurants bring seating out into the street. How about a beer garden. I always enjoy pedestrian-only areas whenever I come across them, and I’m also tired of nearly getting hit by cars in the crosswalks all the time.

  3. This is really disappointing to read. As a participant in the street closures and neighbor who lives here, I really didn’t get the feeling that it “created an “open environment that can lead to panhandling and aggressive behavior” due to increased loitering.” Instead, it felt quite the opposite, with increased people in the streets activating the streets- playing games, socializing, and meeting their neighbors, it instead felt like it discouraged panhandling and aggressive behavior. People were playing in the streets, taking them back, and making it feel like our neighborhood again. It actually felt really safe- something it doesn’t feel like on a regular basis.

    As one of the busiest areas of the city, especially at night, I think we really need to take a hard look at the usage of the street and how it can best be utilized for all people. Closing it down to cars doesn’t mean that business will suffer. There are so many good business cases and examples of this- look at Broadway/Times Square and Madison Square Garden in New York for quick examples. Getting people out of cars and on foot allows for more opportunity for spending money (good for businesses), interaction, and neighborhood vibrancy.

    Before the closure is put on hold, is there any more opportunity for public feedback? Or is it just business owners and the Chamber who get to decide this?

    • Seriously, we created more community in the first night of the closure than anything the chamber of commerce has done in the past year.

  4. Well, it’s already the beginning of April, so it only makes sense that we should probably hold off for at least three quarters of a year before trying this again on a single night, in true Seattle fashion. ?

  5. Disappointing to hear. It could be a big success if SPD doesn’t make it look like a crime scene like they did last time.

    • To be clear, the Chamber is not opposed to a street closure, and we are eager to see the findings from last year’s pilot project. Once we have the report, we will be convening a group of stakeholders to discuss what to do next, and this will include nightlife, daytime, residents, property owners and others. Folks can email me at sierra@caphillchamber.org to share thoughts, concerns and input on last year’s closure.

  6. First to address Sierra, who wasn’t at any of the street closures.

    Sierra claims ““I haven’t been contacted by anyone who is clamoring for the street closure again,” Hansen said. ” And yet she know I and others support it. I personally met with Jill Cronauer and expressed my and other’s support for the project.

    Again, no one from Hunter’s Capitol got involved in the very public process, or several public meetings leading up to the project. They were invited. I invited them myself.

    The idea that street closures encourage loitering could only be pushed by someone who didn’t see how the street was activated by many residents, artists, musicians, as well as a massive police presence on foot patrol, ironically something the Chamber has been asking for for years.

    Elliott Bay books, my favorite bookstore in Seattle and generally a great neighbor, closed before the street closures took place. They also as general policy oppose anything that costs even one parking space. Even though they closed the entire block for their own street party, one that the neighborhood supported.

    The City should not wait to continue this process. They should not listen to a very small group of people who oppose urbanist policies. We should as a city continue a process that was open to all of the stakeholders, including residents (there were meetings with tons of both). The city has already invested a bunch of time and money into this project. We shouldn’t let that go to waste.

    I hope the City is listening. You started a process, one that was inclusive and successful. To be fully implemented it needs improvements, which is why last summer was a pilot. We gathered info on it in order to make improvements. The experience, as you are hearing from people who experienced it, was positive. Not perfect, and it could be better, which is why there is a process. The city should not allow a small group of people who chose not to be in involved in the pilot, who on the surface would oppose anything that does away with any parking, even if it increases public safety, stop this community process. One big developer should have a voice in the process, just not the only voice. And definitely should not be able to stop a public process many others participated in.

    • i agree, dave.

      i loved this quote from the post above, ““We asked that they not do a street closure this year,” Sierra Hansen, the new director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, told CHS.” why not do another closure and gain more data this year to add to the report coming out this week? why can’t we continue to iterate on a live program?

      why do we need to wait until 2017 (or longer) to take the next steps? this whole “wait and see” attitude sounds like a polite way of saying, “we don’t really want to do this again.”

      i get it, sierra’s job is to represent the chamber of COMMERCE not residents. her concern is for the vocal minority of businesses that, for whatever reason, oppose this. but businesses do not represent the actual people that live here. and judging by the majority of the comments that i’ve read on this blog, around the street closure, the RESIDENTS actually want this to continue.

  7. My comments are completely unrelated to my involvement with the Chamber and I made this clear when speaking with Josh Kelety. Many of our business tenants occupy buildings within the closure area and on the periphery. Closing the street effects businesses in both positive and negative ways. All of our tenants I spoke with were unaware of the street closure until it had been decided upon. These businesses have good ideas on how to improve upon the model and increase the benefit beyond the late night crowd. Some question if the effort is worth the reward. We are only asking that future conversations regarding a street closure are proactive and include a diverse group of businesses.

    • Jill – all due respect, you do a lot of good for the nieghborhood and I love your boss. BUT, I know several of your tenants did know about this pilot, and support the street closures. I also know you were invited. And while you might not have spoken in this article in your role as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Chamber, but as the CEO of Hunter Capitol, it seems a little hard to believe those two roles are distinct.

      If all you want to do is make sure the model is improved, then I suggest you wait to see the report before commenting, attend the public meetings you get invited to on the project, and help improve the model for this year, as there is plenty of time to do it.

      One of my criticisms of the pilot is that it was done in August, a slow month for the neighborhood since many people are on vacation, and school is out. It should be done in September. So we have 5 months to analyze the report, make improvements and try again. I invite you again to be part of that process, go out late night on E Pike, and then actually go out during the pilot street closures. If you want to have a credible informed opinion that’s the least you should do.

      Also, encouraging a safe, vibrant nightlife in Pike Pine is not in opposition to having a safe, vibrant day time economy in Pike Pine. In fact they support each other. I personally have as much interest in creating a sustainable daytime economy as night. And making the night time safer helps do that. So instead of opposing a good idea, why not propose a good one to encourage more daytime activity?

  8. They’re probably just holding out for “mitigation funds” so Ed can give them more corporate welfare.

    We’ve conditioned business owners to bitch until the city’s giving them a check. The waterfront and 23rd Ave got paid out, and I remember the Melrose Market area was trying to get a taste.

    • That’s a lovely axe and grinder you have there.

      23rd Ave didn’t receive corporate welfare, none of those businesses are corporations.

      Yes, the waterfront did receive corporate welfare.

  9. I live in this stretch of Pike and would love to see this program continue and expand — this year, not in 2017. Is there someone in city government that I can contact to show support?

  10. Close the street every Friday and Saturday night to start. Bring in outside $ to the neighborhood with tourists and those from the suburbs. Furthermore, permanently close 11th or 10th and create a park corridor from Cal Anderson to Seattle U.

    30% of our land is taken up by roads and we have a shortage of open space and greenery. Close even just 10% of roads and we can fix our problem immediately.

    Talk about hating corporate welfare and the 1% as I often hear on this website. We are giving away our public lands to a select few car owners that park their cars in PUBLIC right of way. And we subsidize inefficient private vehicular transport at the expense of efficient public transport on key corridors.

    Lets maybe try using our legs for a change in this country of beasts.

  11. I’m just bummed that the article is so biased. I love CHS and read it almost every day. I feel it’s grown to be an important part of the fabric of the hill. This article is just wrong though. Just looking at the comments, which this is good amount compared to other posts, seem to want the street closures.

    The Police loved that they could have the crowd spread out and see what was actually happening. It helped spread folks out so they didn’t actually bump into anybody causing any friction. All I saw those weekends was success. There was no aggressive panhandling or anything threatening. It was one of the more celebratory feelings on the hill in sometime.

    Give the people what they want. CHS, please talk about the other side of it. Sierra, if you are still open to it, then did they misquote you or did you change your mind after getting more responses disagreeing with your original comments. Either way I don’t have a problem with it as long as you’re doing what’s best for the city and what the people want. Just don’t succumb to a few powerful individuals because they haven’t found a way to profit off of it. It shouldn’t always be about $ folks.

    Let’s have an open dialogue and not have all this get done behind closed doors so the people don’t get what they want.

    • Again, like I told you before, you’re confusing bias with the aim of this report which was to find out what the plans are for the pilot. As the chamber and the eco district both financed and operated the 2015 plan, that’s what we focused on in this article. As I also told you, we’ve covered this story more than anybody and will continue to do so. You and David Meinert doing anything to make 2016 happen?

    • Steven, my comment was cut to be a lot more controversial than it should have been. I repeatedly said we needed to have the data to begin working on the issue, and with upcoming neighborhood summer programming and no one leading the effort, the timeline seems aggressive. I realize this nuance is not as interesting.