Chamber ramps up campaign for expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

A campaign to create a $1.6 million program to address clean streets, public safety, and business growth across Capitol Hill’s commercial districts will begin a new phase this week with the first in a series of planned open house sessions to gather support for an expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area and a new, larger charter for the organization behind the campaign, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Open House – Capitol Hill BIA Expansion

In February, when chamber director Sierra Hansen officially announced the campaign to form a new Business Improvement Area, she said the organization had received commitments from about half of the 60% of 650 commercial property owners needed to move the proposal forward to the City Council for approval.

As the petitions have been circulating, Hansen said much of the past month has been spent following up with those committed owners, gathering official signatures and scheduling meetings with other stakeholders.

“Our list of supporters is strong,” she said, noting it includes Capitol Hill real estate developer Hunters Capital, faith-based organizations, Capitol Hill Housing, and residents.

Hansen declined to say what gains in the percentage of needed signatures the chamber has been able to secure in the early days of the campaign.

Not everyone is buying into it. Morris Groberman, who along with an investment partnership owns Harvard Market, says the current, smaller BIA focused only on Broadway already doesn’t do enough to clean up the neighborhood and keep crimes down — and he says his taxes are high enough already.

“I can only pass so much on to the residents before it hits my bottom line,” he said.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 8.25.57 PMHansen said those involved in outreach are taking a lot of questions about the value of the BIA that would include Broadway, 12th Ave, 15th Ave E, 19th Ave E, Melrose, Olive/Denny, and Pike/Pine. The expanded Capitol Hill BIA would be similar in structure to ones in Pioneer Square, SODO, University District, Ballard, West Seattle, and downtown, the chamber says.

Groberman has also already invested in security at his properties, but items still get stolen and the properties get vandalized, he says. He says the homeless population is responsible for many of the break-ins and theft, as well as  defecating and urinating on his properties. Those among them who are drug users need to go and those who are mentally ill need to be cared for, he told CHS.

“If we didn’t have the homeless population, we wouldn’t need the BIA,” he said.

Outreach and education about the proposed BIA that is estimated to bring in $1.6 million to help fill empty stores, attract visitors, expand street cleaning, improve public safety, advocate for affordable housing, and improve service from city hall, continues with the first of three planned open houses on the subject on Monday.

The open house will run from 6 PM to 8 PM at The Summit, 420 E Pike. The other open houses will be on April 29 and May 23.

Prior to the circulation of the formal petitions, the chamber had been speaking with stakeholders about the proposed BIA for the past few months.

Some property owners who were against the expanded BIA have since changed their minds, Hansen told CHS.

“We spent quite a bit of time doing outreach in the community to ensure the plan being proposed was aligned with the needs in the community,” Hansen said.

Because the proposed BIA is essentially made up of seven different smaller neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, those needs differ from each area, and the budget can be split to address those needs in each.

Those needs are also expected to change over the years, and the governing board overseeing the BIA will be able to make adjustments to meet different needs.

“The BIA proposal is very comprehensive and with an ambitious mixture of services needed on Capitol Hill. It kind of knits us all together in a way we haven’t been knit together before,” Hansen said.

Hansen’s goal for the new BIA’s formation is mid-2017. The expanded organization would bring in an estimated $1.6 million based on property assessments. Roughly 70% of those funds will go toward street cleaning, hot-spot patrols and district-wide social worker outreach. Marketing, of course, will also be a focus.

Hansen said the chamber is also in the process of finding people who are interested in being part of a future rate payer advisory board or the Capitol Hill Alliance that would be formed and powered by the new BIA. An application form is expected to be posted this week. You can learn more about applying and more about the BIA proposal at


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37 thoughts on “Chamber ramps up campaign for expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

  1. Hmm, sounds like another way to bring Broadway’s blandness to the Pike and Pine corridor! Be like us and emulate Ballard!

    • If you mean streets that are relatively clear of litter, graffiti, and old/tattered posters….then, yeah, I guess Broadway is “bland.” But I like it that way, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    • If ‘blandness’ means a lack of human feces on the sidewalk and fewer occurrences of putrid urine smells from commercial entryways, then bring it on.

  2. As I just e-mailed Sierra, the inclusion of the residential block of 11th between Denny & John on this map (as part of the highest-tax Broadway zone) is concerning.

    Our primarily single-family home street definitely does not remotely share the same needs as Broadway (e.g 7 day/week cleaning), and probably should not even be part of a BIA.

    We are rarely tagged with graffiti (my property is at most tagged annually), and there is very little garbage left by pedestrians, which we already clean up ourselves.

    As a small property owner currently on a fixed budget, I’m afraid I do pass along all tax increases to my tenants. My taxes have literally doubled in the past 2 years. It would be unfortunate to have to further increase their rent this summer, for services that our block does not even appear to need.

    I will be absolutely attending any City Council meetings to oppose the current plan if our block is included — as well as organizing any other concerned neighbors.

    • Eli, do your residents ever leave your block and enjoy other parts of the neighborhood?

      Your taxes have likely gone up in large part because your property value has gone way up in the last few years.

      I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t benefit from this in the long term – you have an investment in a neighborhood that’s getting more and more livable. And this is part of it. It doesn’t come for free.

      The amount in question is 0.2%. Have you done the math to figure out how it would actually affect you?

    • Just to close – I spoke with Sierra – who was really friendly and helpful.

      Small multiunit buildings (<4 units) are exempted from the BIA taxes.

      So my above concerns are inapplicable.

    • I’m pretty left of liberal on most issues, but the continued pocket-picking of property owners is leaving me increasing angry.

      I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. In that time, Broadway is increasingly littered with trash, human waste, graffiti, etc. If the current BIA cannot handle the problem on Broadway (and it’s clear they can’t), then they have no business whatsoever taking more money to “service” an expanded area. Clean up Broadway first and keep it that way, then we can talk about an expanded BIA area.

    • Max, the company that cleans Broadway (formerly CleanScapes, now Recology) is not perfect, but I think they do a pretty good job. Just imagine what the street would look like if they weren’t working there on a daily basis!

    • Bob, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Broadway’s cleanliness has gotten worse over the years which is one reason the Chamber’s proposal for an expanded BIA should be voted down. Other areas, such as Miller Park and 12th Avenue seem to be solutions in search of a problem.

    • Max – As both Bob and Eli know (and pretty much anyone else who has reached out to me), I am happy to discuss the current BIA, proposed BIA, the Chamber’s work in the neighborhood and pretty much any other issue in Capitol Hill. My email address is

      If you are curious about the current BIA’s work, I encourage you to check out the past year of electronic newsletters with service updates I launched last February. I did notice that the March one is wrong, and we will correct the link today. The website is:

      I’ve lived, worked and spent a lot of time in Capitol Hill since I moved here 23 years ago, and I think we all can help make it a strong, vibrant, funky business district. Again, I encourage you to email me so we can find a time to meet and discuss your concerns and find out how we can bring your energy into our various efforts.

  3. The 19th Ave East business neighborhood looks marooned on the proposed map. It is distinct from the rest of the proposed district and does not require the services offered by the Association. It should therefore not be included. The costs of inclusion will be increased rents for the small businesses and residential tenants who occupy the affected properties. At some point costs become relevant to these small, local businesses, and each and every additional burden should be very carefully considered. I think the services offered by the Association are a solution looking for a problem when it comes to the 19th Ave area, and I oppose its inclusion in the plan.

    • One important point about 19th. While there are less intense cleaning services than other areas, key business and property owners – Cone & Steiner, Fuel Coffee, St. Joseph’s, etc – are supporting the initiative for two reasons. First, it recognizes that 19th is part of Capitol Hill and a growing business district that would benefit from increased advocacy, marketing and promotion. Second, there are growing public safety issues (smash and grabs, car thefts, for example) and this BIA will give us the resources to do education, advocacy and outreach to help out the businesses, neighbors and community members in the area.

      If you have questions, please email me at

    • Here’s the crux of the problem. You want to tax residents for “advocacy, marketing and promotion.” If Cone & Steiner, Fuel, etc. want marketing and promotion for that business district on 19th, they are free to contribute to the Chamber’s marketing fund. Taxing residents for that purpose crosses the line.

    • Max – This is my last response to you. I suggest you educate yourself about the law regarding BIA’s, the actual work of the current one along Broadway and others throughout the City. You seem to have no direct knowledge of the purpose and governance of BIA’s and you are clearly unwilling to become informed or help solve neighborhood issues. If you decide you want to be part of the solution, please feel free to reach out.

  4. I am fully supportive of expanding the BIA because we need to improve the area. That said, it is frustrating that Murray and Sawant’s complete and total impotence to deal with these issues necessitates it.

  5. I am opposed to the expansion of the Capitol Hill BIA. We should not have to pay additional taxes for what the City is responsible to do. The city must protect its citizens, and clean the streets.If the area needs to be more fully developed. Let investors do it. I should not to have to pay for it.
    This last year I had a substantial increase in my property taxes.
    The Capitol Hill BIA is asking if I am willing pay an additional 10% tax increase with a 2 to 3 % annual increase. I have been keeping my rents low and affordable. With this years large property tax increase it has difficult to do. Now if I have another
    tax increase and more to come. I will be Forced to raise my rents which I don’t want to do. Therefore I am against the
    expansion of the Capitol Hill BIA We don’t have much problems where I am and the landlords do keep the area clean
    F. Buono

    • You will have to wait until the proverbial cows come home for the City to do its job and keep our streets clean and safe. Most of the responsibility is (theoretically) SDOT’s, and it is a VERY dysfunctional department.

    • Then the answer is to put pressure on SDOT to do its job rather than to excuse its incompetence. Businesses and residents already pay taxes for most of these services. This proposal is double-dipping.

      Moreover, it would seem a more pragmatic and logical approach would be to require business and residences to remove graffiti and clean up garbage in front of their property within 48 hours, subject to fines.

  6. @btwn- Eli and others whose properties have risen in value so they pay more on property taxes. They are not enjoying being located in the area for free, as you seem to say. The maintain their property, manage their tenants, and contribute to the well being of the neighborhood. These proposed assessments are in addition to contributions already being made to the city tax base. And the city should be providing many of the services offered by the Association. That is the real problem here, not the reluctance of property owners to contribute to their neighborhoods.

    • @glenn – I’m not sure where you got the idea that I was suggesting they’re here for free – I said the same thing you did about taxes rising because of rising property values. And of course there’s there’s work to do for tenants, just like any service provider.

      So – if we all agree we want these services — cleaner streets, etc — they have to be funded somehow.

      So either we lobby for more services (and higher taxes) from the city as a whole, or we move on and decide to tax ourselves, in our neighborhood, to get what we want.

      Taxes in Seattle (property, income) are MUCH lower than in many other major cities. Have you compared at the tax burden in NYC?

  7. Where is Capitol Hill’s “9 square blocks”??? Seattle has chased the homeless out of encampments and out of their valued ‘downtown’ area and they have flocked to Cap Hill. Now WE get to pay to deal with them? Thanks Seattle!! The BIA is talking to property owners, not small business owners, why is our opinion not solicited? Not valued? Yet we are the ones who will have to pay! Seattle has done less than nothing to assist small business in the wake of their rape and pillage of Cap Hill, yet they have made millions, where is that money? Why is it not being spent to help the neighborhoods under siege by massive construction and the influx of homeless? Where the hell is the city of Seattle?

    • The map outlines for these areas is very suspect. The doughnut created by 12th, Pike/Pine and 15th means those residents literally cannot go anywhere without benefiting from the “improvements” but are not required to pay for them. There’s also no correlation on this map with how the city zones properties. Many properties included in the area are prohibited from building anything other than residential buildings, but in this plan are treated like businesses. So, condo owners get higher property taxes on one block, while their neighbors across the street and single family owning neighbors next door don’t. Arbitrary special taxing districts don’t make sense for this very reason.

  8. Btwn, you said “this is part of it. It doesn’t come for free.” I pointed out that Eli already pays for many of the services to be provided by the expanded Association. The problem is, the well funded city government fails to deliver the services he has paid for. This is akin to hiring private police forces because your city cannot manage to provide such an essential service.
    In addition, I just don’t think the geographically orphaned 19th Ave business district belongs in the Association. It’s needs are not the same as the other neighborhoods and the benefits received will not justify the increased costs. That is my opinion but I appreciate other perspectives. As for relative tax burdens, I don’t live in NYC for a reason.

  9. Property taxes going up A LOT every year, condo fees going up every year. No raise in years. Landlords pass these rises along to their renters, people who actually live here just absorb the rising costs. Yes this means my property is worth more, but if it keeps rising what choice do I have? Sell and move out of the area and commute in for work.

  10. Run away and poorly thought out growth combined with inept local government. Its only going to get more painful and destructing to workers, renters, home owners, and property owners who were here when Seattle used to be a livable city. Why isn’t anyone suing the city for not fully providing services people are already paying for? And as far as local organization goes, advocacy is fine. But marketing? Is that so a business district can become 11 bars per block and one dry cleaners and a Subway sandwich shop? We’ve seen that template all across Capitol Hill.

    • Sorry I missed the dreaded auto correct or whatever happened on what should have been destructive, not destructing. My bad.

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your comment. When we refer to marketing, it is usually a combination of online and print advertising and promotional activities (events, coupons, etc). One of the primary concerns we hear from our small retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, etc, is a struggle to reach a larger audience to help ensure they remain profitable. Oftentimes, the smaller folks, like Elliott Bay Book Company, Oddfellows, Lifelong, Witness, Revival and Lionhead don’t have dedicated marketing staff. The Chamber, and the future Alliance, can pool resources to help market them and other neighborhood businesses. A good example of a neighborhood promotion that the Chamber led was last year’s Zombie-fied Pub Crawl. We recruited 23 restaurants and bars throughout Capitol Hill (19th to Melrose) to participate with drink and/or food specials. It was our first year, and we learned a LOT, but it encouraged people to check out different places they might otherwise not think of when making plans. I personally went to 10 establishments and each had a customers from the promotion.

      I also agree – a bunch of dry cleaners, Subways and bars gets boring, and this plan would help ensure we continue to have a great mix of unique retail, dining, and drinking establishments through out the neighborhood. Economic development does not happen by accident.

      Feel free to email if you have thoughts, suggestions or ideas.

    • Thank you, Sierra, for your tireless advocacy for Capitol Hill issues. You obviously care a lot for the neighborhood and are trying to make it better.

  11. Sierra,

    If I recall correctly, the strong majority of the Associations budget is spent on clean up of graffiti, sharps, etc., rather than on marketing and advocacy. I could support an Association whose primary goals are advocacy and marketing because those are not services which should be handled by the city within its general taxation budget. They are best handled by a business association. But the majority of what you do is done because the city isn’t handling its responsibilities requiring supplemental private taxation to fill the gap. I am not a supporter of that approach but I do appreciate your passion and clear minded approach.

    • Hi Glenn,

      I appreciate this feedback and I want to point out that the budgets for clean and safe related services will differ between subareas, based on needs (for example, Pike/Pine and Broadway vs 15th & 19th), and these are services that the city has never really provided (ie sidewalk sweeping or biohazards) or provide on a very slow basis (graffiti removal), which is why 10 different neighborhoods have formed BIA’s throughout the city. These services are not set in stone, either. As needs shift and change in the neighborhood, the BIA can change programs and services to reflect that.

      The best part about a BIA is that it is governed by neighborhood stakeholders, presumably such as yourself. We are actively seeking folks to work with our group to potentially be board members. I would like to talk with you about this work and see if there would be a way to bring you into the conversation. Please email me at if you are interested. Thx!

  12. @glenn, sierra,

    That’s kind of my point. Seattle, for instance, doesn’t consistently clean the streets or sidewalks like other cities do.

    Whether or not it “should” be handled by the city is clearly a matter of opinion and negotiation. We pay less in taxes than many other cities that *do* provide those services, and we get fewer services in return.

    I think it’s totally fair game for us to advocate that the city handle those things within its general budget – but in some ways, there might be wisdom in doing at the neighborhood level, for reasons of both speed and local control.