About Ari Cetron

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

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

With John/Thomas corridor work underway, 2019 will bring $2.2M Safe Routes to School pedestrian improvements across Capitol Hill

Guess what? What’s safer for students will also be safer for everybody crossing 15th Ave E (Images: CHS)

Students walking to Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary and Meany Middle School should be greeted by a number of safety improvements on their way to school next year.

The Safe Routes to School program is administered by the Seattle Department of Transportation with an eye toward making it easier and safer for children to walk and bike to school. In a 2016 report, program officials touted 18 projects at schools around the city. Projects range from installing speed bumps to rebuilding or installing sidewalks and other pedestrian safety enhancements.

In the coming year, SDOT projects it will make improvements at 31 schools around Seattle. Capitol Hill will get in on the program with a grab-bag of safety measures on streets and at intersections around Lowell and Meany, which may begin construction in the summer of 2019. Continue reading

Seattle has a school bus problem

Families around Seattle may soon see some relief from the persistent problem of late school buses. The public school district has announced it has found a second bus company to help deliver children to and from school, which will add 15 new buses, and drivers, into the mix.

Problems began last year. Labor troubles with First Student, the company which runs the bus system, began shortly after the beginning of the previous school year, with drivers going on a one-day strike in November 2017, followed by another strike in February that lasted eight days.

Even after the strikes ended, First Student struggled to find enough drivers. Some routes in the previous (2017-18) school year were so chronically late that district officials took to giving secondary school students ORCA cards, acknowledging that school buses simply couldn’t do the job. The issue has continued this year. Since the first day of school, some routes have run one or even two hours late, leaving parents worried and frustrated, and children milling around waiting for a bus to show up. There is no district policy on how, or whether, to provide supervision for children waiting for a delayed bus. Continue reading

Toughest problem on November’s ballot for Seattle voters? Maybe the new school levy

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King County Elections says that early ballot returns are on pace for a big turnout for the November 6th election — it received 60,000 ballots in the mail Wednesday morning, more than twice what it expected. That likely means at least a few Seattle voters have already sorted out one of the stickiest problems on this year’s ballot — what to do about the new school levy.

If approved, Seattle’s proposed Families and Education Levy would expand services for the city’s school-aged children. And in this case, the term school aged would mean people from preschool to college. The project would fund a laundry list of services within those grade levels, but some education activists are pushing back on the proposal.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has championed the levy as building “a school to opportunity pipeline.” “The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said in April as she rolled out the proposal.

It will not come cheaply. The levy, proposed by the city, not the school district, would raise about $619 million over seven years. In 2019, it would mean a property tax rate of up to 36.5 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. A citywide median home of $665,000 would pay $242 in taxes. Continue reading

Here’s your chance to help shape new Pike/Pine protected bike lanes

Planning is underway for new protected Pike/Pine bike lanes, and a community group wants to hear from residents about it.

The idea of protected bike lanes along Pike and Pine streets, connecting existing lanes on 2nd Ave and Broadway has long been in the city’s plans. Earlier this year, there had been some mixed messaging about how high a priority the lanes were, until the City Council in July voted to make them a priority.

The city is hoping that connecting these two sections will help increase bike ridership by forming a connected bike network throughout the core of Seattle.

The plan now is for the lanes to be operational, if not entirely permanent, by the end of 2019. The plan recognizes that there are some complications likely with the western portion of the lanes. Construction on major expansion of the convention center will begin relatively soon. And the “Pike Pine Renaissance” project will reshape the downtown portion of the corridor.

For those reasons, the city is hesitant to spend too much money on bike lanes west of the freeway, only to have them torn up during one of those projects. But there will be something, with plans for interim lanes generally between Bellevue and 2nd Ave.

The Capitol Hill portion of the lanes is likely to be a more permanent section, said Brie Gyncild, who is working on the project with Central Seattle Greenways. The group is sponsoring a workshop to discuss options for how the new lanes might be designed. Continue reading

Why save Capitol Hill’s Roy Vue? ‘A lot more to it than just the number of units’

An effort to extend landmark protections to the Roy Vue building marks the Capitol Hill Historical Society’s first foray into preservation, but it won’t be the last.

“This is a sign of our involvement in the community,” said Rob Ketcherside, vice president of the society and a CHS contributor on Capitol Hill history. He said the nearly two-year-old group is hoping to do more such work, as long as members of the all-volunteer organization can find the time for it.

“It’s not about trying to control every property in the city. It’s about holding on to the heritage properties we have,” Ketcherside said. Continue reading