About Ari Cetron

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

Work wraps up on Capitol Hill’s Summit Slope Park enhancements and ‘pedestrianized’ street

Summit Slope Park — and its P-Patch — will get a little larger next month but some of the biggest changes from its most recent round of construction are already in place and in use.

The $260,000 project renovated the park at Summit and E John which first opened in 2011. Construction wrapping up to begin 2018 including preparing space for trees and turf patches to be installed along an extended sidewalk cut into half of the block. Vehicle traffic on E John will remain open, but parking in front of the park has been removed. Continue reading

Seattle’s new small business council has big Capitol Hill presence

Durkan and Taylor on a neighborhood small business tour in November (Image: CHS)

After Amazon announced it was going to open a second headquarters, the Seattle City Council decided it needed to start meeting with the behemoth corporation, carefully orchestrating  who would attend so they didn’t run afoul of open meetings laws.

Small businesses around town haven’t yet gotten the same sort of attention.

“I feel like small business has lost its voice in this city over the last few years,” said Tracy Taylor of Capitol Hill’s Elliott Bay Book Company.

That will change in the coming months. Mayor Jenny Durkan has convened a Small Business Advisory Council and the group plans to have its first meeting this week on Wednesday, February 21st. Taylor is one of the council’s four co-chairs.

Taylor’s comments about the loss of a voice were echoed by others with strong Capitol Hill connections on the council. Continue reading

Spring groundbreaking planned for Capitol Hill Station development

Development on the four, seven-story mixed-use buildings surrounding Capitol Hill’s light rail station is proceeding toward a groundbreaking this spring, possibly in late April, according to Jill Sherman. Sherman is head the project for Gerding Edlin, the Portland-based developers leading the project.

The date has some community members ready to celebrate. Brie Gyncild of the Capitol Hill Champion group said her organization is hoping to host some festivities to coincide with the start of construction.

“We’re just excited we’re going to have a groundbreaking,” Gyncild said.

Sherman expects the construction to take about 21 months, assuming there are no significant delays, putting the opening in early 2020, as has long been planned. Continue reading

If Seattle is going to build its way out of affordability crisis, why aren’t there more Capitol Hill design reviews?

If Seattle is to “build its way of out” its affordability crisis, the market seems to be indicating that Capitol Hill, for now at least, has done enough. Design review, the most public component in Seattle’s development process, has slowed to a trickle in the East District covering Capitol Hill and parts of the Central District. There is only a single project on the East review board’s calendar this month; last year there were six. After a small pulse of activity in January, looking ahead, the calendar doesn’t appear much more robust. In 2017, there were more than 30 reviews scheduled for major projects in the area.

The simplest explanation could be that we’re simply built out. Liz Dunn, the Capitol Hill-based developer behind Chophouse Row, said she wasn’t sure what might be behind a slowdown, except that all the sites just might finally be built.

There are other indicators that also point to a construction slowdown. The number of active cranes dropped over the past six months. We still have more than any other city in the US, but this is the first time the number has gone down in years.

Seattle has built more than 300 new apartment buildings since 2010, many of them in this area. Recently, some analysis suggests rents have stabilized, and even dropped in parts of the city, a possible indicator that supply has finally caught up with demand.

And the supply is going to keep going up in the neighborhood in the near term. The development at Capitol Hill Station, the Bonney-Watson project, a building on what used to be Piecora’s, new development at 23rd and Union and more at 23rd and Jackson, mean there will be hundreds of new units available in the next couple years.

Only time will tell if this is a blip or the start of a trend, but people who study development issues across the city and on Capitol Hill point to a number of possible reasons. Continue reading

Employment and education opportunities the plan for youth homelessness center at Pine and Broadway

To the right, Seattle Central’s South Annex building YouthCare’s facility is planned to someday call home. The parking lot is also hoped to be replaced with an affordable housing project. Capitol Hill Housing’s Broadway Crossing building rises in the background. (Image: CHS)

It will be months before YouthCare knows exactly what it will do with the building at the corner of Broadway and Pine Street; right now they’re happy they get the chance to do something.

“We are just breathtakingly excited to figure it out,” said YouthCare’s Jody Waits.

The building in the 900 block of E Pine, owned by the state since 1995, has been used by Seattle Central Community College. The school no longer wanted it, and it seemed the building might have ended up going up for sale until state Rep. Frank Chopp stepped in. Chopp, Speaker of the House and one of Capitol Hill’s representatives in the legislature, convinced the college to wait and see if there might be a group that might use the property for homeless services. Continue reading

On Capitol Hill, Seattle’s People Streets may have come to an end

Seattle learned a lot during three years of turning E Pike over to pedestrians on summer Saturday nights, but the program may have reached its end, at least here.

For weeks across the summers of 2015 to 2017, the Seattle Department of Transportation ran a People Street program. SDOT blocked off Pike between 10th and 11th avenues, and 11th Avenue between Pike and Pine streets on Saturdays during the summer, and during a few Thursday art walks. The program experimented with closure times like Saturdays from 6 PM to 2 AM, or Thursday art walk closures from 4 to 10 PM. People, in general, loved it. Business, in general, did not.

SDOT recently released a report summarizing data it collected from the program, and is now offering up that information, and technical assistance, to neighborhoods throughout the city which might want to do something similar.

No groups have yet applied for the program, said Mafara Hobson, of SDOT. If any do, the city plans to step back from its role in organizing. Continue reading

Broadway Bonney-Watson developers back with new plan to better connect project to Cal Anderson

A second attempt at a design for the development which will rise from Broadway’s Bonney-Watson funeral home seemed to impress members of the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council last week. The design review board will consider the new plan this week.

Project architects from the firm Weber Thompson presented a plan at PPUNC’s January meeting last Tuesday night and showed off a different take on the market-rate apartment buildings set to rise where the funeral home and its parking lot stand today. The architects had come before the council in October 2017, and then before the East Design Review Board in November but the board wasn’t entirely happy with what they saw and sent it back for more work on the project’s connections to nearby Cal Anderson Park.

Design Review: 1812 Broadway

Continue reading

What’s next for Seattle’s new era floating bike shares

It’s a bit of a chaotic test. They get dropped almost everywhere — some literally dropped, for real — and by the end of January, the first electric-assist versions will be on the streets of Seattle. With the city allowing the multi-colored “floating” companies to operate during a Wild West trial period, It’s not a question of whether Seattle will continue to have a bike share program, it’s just a question of what the final rules will be.

“I cannot see a world where Seattle does not have a bike share system,” said Mafara Hobson of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Jasmine Marwaha from City Council member Mike O’Brien’s office agreed. O’Brien chairs the council’s transportation committee, and be turning the cranks on what the final program looks like. Marwaha said that while there have been some concerns about parking the bikes, there has not been anything severe enough to merit ending the program.

Seattle had first tried owning its own bike share system using docking stations similar to those found in some other cities. But the system ended up failing to attract enough riders to make it viable. In July, the city embarked on a new system of dockless bikes. Three different companies — LimeBike, Spin, and Ofo — began scattering brightly colored bikes around town to be rented by the minute. Continue reading

Why Roy Street Commons, a short-term rental exception, stands alone on Capitol Hill

When the Seattle City Council passed a set of regulations designed to boost affordability by reeling in short-term rentals, one Capitol Hill property owner got very lucky.

The regulations passed in December generally restricted the number of housing units a person can operate as a short-term rental to a unit in their own home, plus one more unit. There were a couple exceptions which allowed for grandfathering operators of properties to continue doing so, with some restrictions which vary by where in the city the units are. The rules will go into effect January 1st, 2019.

But there was one more exception.

A very carefully worded exemption which seems to apply only to a single building in Seattle — the Roy Street Commons at 621 12th Ave E. Continue reading

Capitol Hill small businesses ready for 2018 bump, preparing for coming minimum wage jumps

An estimated 80,000 people who work in Seattle will be getting a raise January 1st as the city continues its long march to a $15 per hour minimum wage. That accounts for nearly 15% of the city’s workforce of 540,000. Even more could see other new benefits surrounding sick leave.

The wage increases are only part of the good news for workers. In 2016, Washington voters approved I-1433 expanding mandatory sick leave statewide. Some benefits in the initiative are more generous than those granted under city regulations, explained Karina Bull, of the city’s Office of Labor Standards.

Some of the new benefits include allowing people to take sick time to care for children of any age (the old rules only allowed for time to help minor children) and also to help siblings and grandchildren. The waiting period to qualify for paid sick time will be reduced from 180 to 90 days. Caps on the use of sick time will be forbidden. There will no longer be an exemption for employees engaged in a work-study program.

In some cases, the Seattle benefits are more generous, and will remain in place.

Bull said the City Council will likely soon consider an ordinance to implement the more generous state standards, where appropriate. Reviewing the city’s charts laying out the various changes (PDF) have become an end of the year Seattle small business tradition.

Meanwhile, in 2018, more workers will be getting more money. Continue reading