About Ari Cetron

Ari is a Seattle-based writer and editor. Find out more about him at www.aricetron.com

Despite belt tightening at City Hall, Seattle Police returning Community Service Officers to the streets

Seattle is revising its Community Service Officer program that aims to send non-commissioned police to help with situations that don’t have immediate public safety implications.

“This has always been a part of our history,” said Sean Whitcomb, Seattle Police Department spokesman.

The unarmed community police officers will work Seattle streets to “handle non-emergency incidents such as neighborhood disputes, investigations, and crime prevention.”

The Community Service Officers program had run for 34 years before being discontinued in 2004 due to budgetary constraints. In 2016, under then-Mayor Ed Murray, the city budgeted $2 million that was supposed to have restarted the program by late 2018.

The long-planned revival comes after a wave of gun violence across the city including deadly shootings on Capitol Hill and in the Central District. In May, Mayor Jenny Durkan toured Capitol Hill to talk about her response to rising concerns about street disorder and her focus on adding more budget for more police and first responders as well as trying to bootstrap social service efforts beyond policing. Continue reading

‘New buildings should support and enhance places as they grow’ — Seattle to set new guidelines for Capitol Hill development

The Seattle City Council is poised to approve a new set of guidelines that will shape what Capitol Hill looks like in years to come.

The Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines are essentially recommendations to developers of what neighborhood residents would like to see in new buildings. The neighborhood-specific guidelines were adopted in 2005. The update began in 2017, and was undertaken by city staff in conjunction with a 14-member working group of residents and representatives of various groups around the hill.

A draft was printed in May 2018. But the update was shifted to the back burner as the city wrestled with adopting the Mandatory Affordable Housing program. A new draft was released in January of this year.

Monday afternoon, the full council is prepared to approved the update. Continue reading

‘Where does it go?’ — No big changes for Seattle recycling… yet

Inside a Seattle sorting facility (Image: CHS)

The short version: After a study, there will be no immediate changes to Seattle’s curbside recycling program — even though your “aspirational recycling” efforts are gumming up the system.

The long version is more detailed.

Seattle and King County are loving recycling to death. People are so excited about putting items in the blue bin instead of the black one, that it’s become a problem. The two main culprits are not properly cleaning items before recycling them, and putting things in recycling that aren’t actually recyclable – a phenomenon called aspirational recycling.

Residents are putting items in so often that China, which had been the market for about half of our recyclables, pulled out of the market. (It’s not just us. China is refusing recyclables from across the country.) The problem, say experts, are that items like plastic wrap, individual plastic bags, and soiled glass and plastic among others, gum up the works in the recycling machinery. Continue reading

A Capitol Hill look at Olympia 2019: secure scheduling, vaccine exemptions, crosswalk traffic cams

Rep. Nicole Macri (Image: Rep. Macri)

The 2019 session of the Washington Legislature is in full swing, with lawmakers considering thousands of bills. February 22nd was a key deadline for bills to pass out of their policy committee; any which did not get committee approval are considered dead (except the ones that aren’t, there are still ways to revive them). From there, bills with a financial implication are routed through a fiscal committee (Senate Ways and Means; House Appropriations) before going to the floor of their house of origin. Bills must clear their house of origin by March 13 before moving to be considered by the other house. This year’s session is set to end April 28.

Here is a roundup of bills moving through the Legislature that may be of interest to Capitol Hill with a focus on efforts from our state elected including Sen. Jamie Pedersen and Rep. Nicole Macri.

Anyone interested in discussing these, or any other bills, with Capitol Hill’s legislators can attend a town hall with the District 43 lawmakers at 1:30 PM March 16 at First Seattle Baptist Church:

43rd Legislative District Town Hall

  • Statewide secure scheduling: Rep. Macri is the prime sponsor of legislation that would “ensure that people who work for large fast food, coffee, restaurant, and retail chains in Washington get schedules that are more predictable and balanced.” Macri says, “I’m working closely with business and labor representatives to find the best way forward to support workers and ease impacts on businesses.” The bill would is modeled after Seattle’s law and would help eliminate things like “clopenings” — when a worker works a late-night closing shift and is also directed to work a early-morning opening shift with only a few hours in between. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s upzoning on track to stay intact as Mandatory Housing Affordability enters final stretch

The Miller Park neighborhood could see more projects like the Julia Place Apartments (Image: CHS)

Upzoning plans around Capitol HIll’s Miller Park neighborhood will not be removed from the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability effort as the legislative process to shape the program enters a final phase with a public hearing this week.

Proposed amendments to the still-pending MHA legislation had been identified by council members, city staff, citizens and others. After the first set of proposals was released in January, each district council member had been left to decide what changes they’d like to see move forward within their own district boundaries.

Among the January proposals had been plans to remove some blocks near Miller Park from the program, but those didn’t make the cut. In District 3, which covers Capitol Hill and the Central District, council member Kshama Sawant’s office only advanced four proposed changes to areas in the Central District –- all of which add density.

Keeping all of Madison Miller area in the program is just what affordable housing advocates were hoping for.

“We are hopeful that Council will honor the existing plan for MHA without amendments to the Madison Miller Urban Village,” wrote Erin Fried of Capitol Hill Housing. Continue reading

A year from ‘the big, scary jump,’ Capitol Hill small businesses take step by step approach with Seattle’s rising minimum wage

Minimum wage workers at Seattle’s small businesses continue to see their wages rise. At Elliott Bay, that can also mean people have more money to spend on books.

(Source: Seattle Office of Labor Standards)

Contrary to popular belief, Seattle does not have a $15 per hour minimum wage. At least not for every business. But the march toward $15 continues this year, and is being met with a collective yawn from many business owners around Capitol Hill, though some are looking nervously at 2020.

The slow, step by step march to $15/hour has helped.

Tracy Taylor, of Elliott Bay Book Co. said her store is managing to keep up with the increased cost of labor. She was grateful for the gradual pace of the increases so far. Moreover, she said that the increased wages have created a virtuous cycle by giving her customers more to spend.

“It appears the minimum wage is, in theory, increasing sales and consumer demand, at least from what we’ve seen. Hopefully other small businesses are finding the same,” Taylor said.

When the city implemented the minimum wage law in 2015, it started creeping toward $15 in increments, depending on the size of the company, and whether or not the company offers its employee’s benefits and/or they receive tips. Continue reading

In event of catastrophe: Study recommends Volunteer Park reservoir remain ready to serve Capitol Hill and beyond

22 million gallons of Cedar River water is waiting atop Capitol Hill (Image: CHS)

A recent study recommends that Volunteer Park’s reservoir will remain exactly that — a reservoir. Even if it were to stay unconnected to the city’s drinking water system, as it is now, the water could prove crucial in the event of a major earthquake. There is a 15-20% likelihood that such an earthquake will hit Seattle within the next 50 years.

Back in 2013, the city began studying the reservoir, along with one in Roosevelt, to see if it was still needed. Federal safety guidelines about protecting the water supply mandate expensive upgrades (basically putting a lid on it) in order to continue using the reservoir as a source of drinking water. So the city considered decommissioning it instead. Continue reading

Save the Broadway Performance Hall? You have a few years but Seattle Central planning major overhaul

(Image: Broadway Performance Hall)


If Kshama Sawant wants to save a Seattle performance venue, we’ve found one closer to Capitol Hill than the Showbox to work on. Time is gradually running out for the Broadway Performance Hall at Seattle Central College. College officials hope to overhaul the building and end its days as a venue for local plays and performances, but state budgeting priorities mean construction isn’t likely to start for at least five or six years.

The building is more than 100 years old though it was “modernized” in 1979 and rates the lowest on the campus in terms of facilities, said Barbara Childs, spokesperson for Seattle Central. While it met standards when it was built, it is no longer up to code in terms of energy efficiency or seismic standards. Additionally, the sandstone keeps absorbing water, causing more problems, Childs said.

Beyond the need for physical upgrades, the school is in need of more library space, and more space for open studying, in order to meet accreditation standards. The school hopes to meet all of those goals with one large project. Continue reading

More parking? How you can help answer Seattle Central’s next big development question

SCC also has hopes of expanding north (Image: CHS)

Anyone who wants a say in what will happen to the built environment along Broadway around Seattle Central College now has their chance. The community oversight committee which reviews proposed changes to the college is looking for a new member — or two. The school’s reach extends farther into the neighborhood than you might think. And there’s a massive decision on parking on the horizon.

Seattle has a master plan which governs land use on a large scale all around the city. Some places, generally hospitals and colleges, have their own separate plan which fits into the larger plan. Typically, these institutions are in what would otherwise be a residential area, and so need a degree of special treatment.

“We kind of give them a bubble,” said Maureen Sheehan, of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Each of these institutions has a corresponding advisory committee, made up of people who live or work in the neighborhood. When the institution wants to make a change, for example, to build or demolish a building, the plan is presented to the committee. Continue reading

Tutu’s Pantry and the Backpack Brigade help keep Capitol Hill school kids fed

Can by can, donations help Tutu’s Pantry keep kids fed (Image: CHS)

Hundreds of students at local schools don’t have reliable access to food, particularly on weekends, and a network of volunteer-run organizations has stepped in to assist them.

There are a number of programs in place to help students from lower income families get meals during school. Most common is the free and reduced meals program administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The federal government helps provide funding that gives children from families below a certain income threshold (this year in Seattle, for a family of four, it is an annual income of less than $46,435 for reduced price meals and $32,630 for free meals) access to breakfast and lunch every school day. Across the district, 34% of students qualify for the program.

Then the weekend comes, and that assistance dries up.

So Seattle schools have developed a patchwork of parent-run groups to help fill the gap. Typically, the programs provide needy students with a backpack full of food on Friday to help get them through the weekend, though the specifics can vary greatly by school.

At Stevens Elementary, which serves children in North Capitol Hill, the program is known as Tutu’s Pantry.  Tutu’s Pantry provide backpacks on Fridays and larger boxes of food in advance of longer breaks. They also try to accommodate dietary restrictions.

It might be difficult to imagine that a school flanked by multi-million dollar homes has children in it who are food-insecure. “A lot of the families that we serve are struggling,” said Lori Bugaj, who runs Stevens’ program.

Continue reading