Crunch time for effort to expand Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

Community leaders seeking to expand a Business Improvement Area to advance clean streets, public safety, and business growth across Capitol Hill are looking for a special person to drive creation of the possible $1.6 million program. The candidate needs to be detail oriented and tenacious, able to connect with small business owners and landlords in every nook and cranny of the Hill, and able to track down every single loose end. Sorry, I already have a job.

“People are busy,” says Jeff Peletier, architect at 15th Ave E’s Board and Vellum and spokesperson for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the efforts to create an expansive Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area. “This economy is insane.”

In these boom times, the job listing for a new campaign manager to wrangle the expansion process is a good sign for those behind the proposed expansion. CHS reported on the February launch of the Hill chamber’s campaign to expand the existing Broadway BIA to encompass Broadway, Pike/Pine, Melrose, as well as 15th and 19th Avenues. The new manager will help drive the day to day to prepare petitions for the City Council as the campaign shifts into an all-out effort to gather signups from 60% of property owners within the proposed boundaries of the expansion. That includes “owners of business property, multi-family residential property, and mixed-use property.”

Earlier this year, the chamber thought this would include around 650 owners. But Peletier says they’ve found the Capitol Hill landowner environment to be much more complicated than expected and that it is taking a lot more time to track down who owns what and then get the expansion petition information to them. “Right now, it’s really feet on the ground, one on one,” Peletier said.

At the launch of the campaign in February, the chamber said it already had support from about 30% of the property owners to be impacted by the assessments which could run between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for most of the 850 or so properties involved. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area must vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then each BIA agreement must be approved by the Seattle City Council. The expanded Capitol Hill BIA would be similar in structure to ones in Pioneer Square, SODO, University District, Ballard, West Seattle and downtown.

Philip Sit, the City of Seattle’s advocate for BIAs who helps groups form the proposals, tells CHS that the Capitol Hill expansion process appears to be on track. The City Council can take up action on BIA formation or changes in either the January/February timeframe or June/July, based on the city’s fiscal and budget calendar. The BIA process can take from 14 to 20 months, according to Sit. “There isn’t a set timeline,” he said.

In addition to hiring a new campaign manager to grind out the BIA petition gathering process, roles are shifting at the chamber. Sierra Hansen, who took over the Hill nonprofit in 2015 after a career in PR and starting her own firm representing clients including the the Downtown Seattle Association, has stepped aside and now heads the current Broadway BIA. At a roundtable this week with the group’s board, Hansen touted the BIA’s 2017 accomplishments including some hard stats on just how much trash and clean-up the group’s funding supported:

# bags of trash removed: 1346
# graffiti tags removed: 668
# sanitary clean-ups: 855
# sharps removed:415
# public can overflow clean-ups: 338
# illegal dumping clean-ups: 43

Hansen also said the current Broadway-focused BIA is on track to raise more funds than expected thanks to the robust economy — somewhere around $190,000. But that’s a far cry from the nearly $1.6 million Hansen and the expanded BIA could eventually pull in.

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13 thoughts on “Crunch time for effort to expand Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

  1. I listened to their presentation and it sounds appealing. Hey, who doesn’t want cleaner streets and public safety. Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t the city supposed to supply this already? Well, yes it is. Should I pay from “$2,000 to $5,000” for something that should be provided through all the other taxes I already pay? This is why I didn’t sign.

    • Sure…the city should be providing these services. But if you don’t want the BIA, then are you going to help get Sawant and the rest of the city government that doesn’t care about this stuff out of power?

    • I agree that the city should be doing more to address the chronic issues, but unfortunately that is not the case and is not likely to be anytime soon. Expanding the BIA is the best option to make the neighborhood a great place to shop, live and visit. I hope it passes.

  2. The City should and must take of these items. This is what the city is required to do. Why must property owners pay Additional property tax for these services. Additional property tax will only increase rents
    for commercial and residential users. Property owners should take
    good care of there property. I strongly suggest Not to vote for the
    expansion B.I.A. We do not need to have another large property
    tax increase Vote NO
    Frank B

  3. Is it only certain types of property owners who will pay the assessment? What about small business owners who lease their spaces from landlords….will they have to pay too?

    I can certainly understand the reluctance to pay for services which the City SHOULD be providing, but the reality is that the City will NOT do so. I hope the expanded area passes. The BIA has made a huge difference to Broadway.

  4. The ability with which the City will be able to address the needs of small neighborhood zones will inversely change with growth. If you would like to see less and less done over the coming years, then vote no.

    This decision is as important as the consideration so many years ago of whether to invest in a mass transit system for Seattle. We are all experiencing the outcome of the failure to decide that back then.

    It is frustrating to think of establishing a BIA as just a “new tax.” However, the City of Seattle is growing and transforming so quickly, there is no possible way of getting all the attention needed for areas such as Capitol Hill which need even more attention—the same rapid growth and transformation is just more focused here on a few blocks.

    I am a fan of Thoreau and therefore realistic about larger government entities. They tend to provide structure but not efficiency.

    I say this as a former small business owner on the Hill and one who works here still: the BIA structure is a way to create a smaller organization to work with more effectively than the City. As a business owner, I could call the City to complain or ask for something—and that City office is processing hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of emails, calls, and other requests. A BIA representative could be one person—someone who I could realistically get in front of to talk about my needs.

    The rate of growth and change here on the Hill has overtaken many. The BIA is a way to get back in the race.

    • I disagree, Tom. Your first statement that “if you would like to see less done over the coming years, than vote no.” I think is absolutely false. It’s the same problem we have had with funding education on the state level. The local areas have passed levees to fund education in their more affluent areas, so they had better schools, while the other less fiscally able areas’ schools suffered. But the state then didn’t do anything, because, hey, the affluent areas’ schools were still pretty good, so not a loud enough squeaky wheel.

    • I think the way to maintain our neighborhoods is to definitely have the local businesses and residents care about their neighborhoods and take some responsibility to do this. But not to add more taxes here. Hold individual property owners responsible for graffitti removal. I’m on an HOA board for our building and we already fund this and do this. It’s too easy to create this bank account of other people’s money and then spend it.

    • HTS3, you work with an initial quote, but do not respond to the rest.

      Let’s quote you: “I think the way to maintain our neighborhoods is to definitely have the local businesses and residents care about their neighborhoods and take some responsibility to do this.”
      How do you bring about what you suggest? How do you “definitely have” (make? force?) “local businesses and residents care about their neighborhood”? Please be sure to respond. Do you fine them (like a tax) when they do not comply?

      Also, have you owned a small business in Capitol Hill? An HOA is a completely different thing.

  5. So housing co-ops whose property taxes already threaten to drive out lower income members will have to shell out thousands of dollars to further gentrify the neighborhood? Fuck that, thank you very much. It’s a solution in search of a problem.

  6. these bia taxes do nothing they did one in university district as well and its on of the most unclean areas in seattle. please please vote do not charge us thousand to do this also it will make rents higher as well.

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