About Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is a CHS reporter. Reach him at chasecohen@gmail.com and @bchasesc

District 3 candidates differ on ways to reduce homelessness

When asked about the most important issues facing Council District 3, CHS readers have twice put homelessness near the top the list. Focus on the issue is well deserved: There has been a 21% increase in King County’s reported homeless population this year. The number of people camping along I-5 is also believed to be on the rise.

One comment in response to the CHS Council District 3 candidate forum earlier this month drew considerable attention for laying out solutions for addressing homelessness, specifically in Cal Anderson Park. But as many who work day-to-day on the issue will say, simple answers are few and far between.

“Causes for rise in homelessness in Seattle and in the nation at large are complicated and difficult to pinpoint,” said Katherine Jolly, spokesperson for the city’s Human Services Department. “In Seattle, the cost of housing has not kept pace with wages, this combined the with effects of the dismantling of mental health and substance abuse systems over the past 30 years contribute to the increases in homelessness. Any solution to the homelessness crisis in Seattle must take these issues into account.” Continue reading

With ‘the big one’ looming, Capitol Hill neighborhood preparedness lags

The recent New Yorker article about how “toast” the Pacific Northwest will be after the big one hits wasn’t exactly earth shattering news in Seattle. Some were even quick to point out that the Cascadia Fault earthquake fretted about in the article isn’t even the worse earthquake scenario, as a Seattle Fault earthquake may pose a far greater risk.

Still, it was a chilling reminder of the geological forces beneath the city’s surface, as well as the importance of community emergency preparedness. In many ways, Capitol Hill has been better prepared than it stands today.

In June, the group Capitol Hill Prepares announced it would dissolving its earthquake preparedness activities as a city-identified “Hub” and shutting down its website and social media accounts, which were the most active in the neighborhood. In a message announcing the group’s suspension, organizers Karin Baer and Jessica Coleman encouraged residents to continue to “plan for emergencies, to develop community self sufficiency, and to coordinate a way to communicate in times of disaster or emergency when normal communication means are unavailable.”

Neighborhood Hubs and Seattle Neighborhood’s Activly Prepare groups are intended to be the main units of organizing emergency preparedness in the city, developed by the Office of Emergency Management. Hubs are organized around pre-determined locations where neighbors agree to meet to share information and resources. SNAP groups are typically at the block level and lead by a person who’s taken the city’s SNAP training — oftentimes a block watch captain. The idea is to practice how to divvy up responsibilities and conduct tasks in an emergency situation so that residents can react quicker when the time comes for the real thing.

Currently Capitol Hill has no active Hubs or SNAP groups mostly due to a lack of involvement, according to OEM’s community planning organizer Debbie Goetz. There were three Hub locations active on Capitol Hill according to the volunteer run Hub map — Cal Anderson Park, Volunteer Park, and Miller Playfield — but there are no longer groups actively associated with the sites after volunteers with Capitol Hill Prepares stepped down. Additionally, only two people have identified themselves as SNAP organizers in the neighborhood, according to the city’s map. Continue reading

Woman seriously injured in Pine/Belmont bicycle crash

A cyclist was hospitalized with life threatening injuries Monday morning following a crash near Belmont Ave and E Pine, according to Seattle Police. Medics were called to the scene at 4:39 AM and the adult female was taken to Harborview Medical Center.

Police arrived at the scene to find the rider down and unconscious after the incident was reported to 911. The rider suffered serious head injuries after crashing into a building on the northwest corner of the intersection. According to SPD, it did not appear the woman was struck by a car. “The bicyclist was riding westbound on E Pine St attempting to make a right turn on Belmont Ave. She failed to negotiate the turn and ended up colliding with a building,” a report from SPD on the incident said.

A Seattle Fire spokesperson tells CHS the victim is an adult woman who was transported to the hospital in critical condition. A hospital spokesperson confirmed that the woman was in critical condition this morning but could not provide additional information.

Detectives from the Traffic Collision Investigation Squad were working the Capitol Hill scene, which was cleared around 7 AM.

Report: Seattle campaign cash disproportionately flows from ‘rich whites’ on Capitol Hill’s eastern slopes

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.19.53 PMJust 1.5% of Seattle residents gave to political campaigns in 2013, and much of that money came from residents of predominantly wealthy, white areas on Capitol Hill and Lake Washington’s shores.

In its recent report, Sightline Institute mapped campaign giving in Seattle and found neighborhoods like Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi to be among the most prominent “big money” zones in the city. The Seattle researchers also found one of the largest, high density areas of political giving fell squarely on Capitol Hill.

“The disparity in political giving between poorer neighborhoods home to more people of color and wealthy, white neighborhoods is stark,” said the report’s author, Sightline executive director Alan Durning.

To level the playing field, the report’s authors are backing Seattle’s Honest Elections Initiative. In addition to reducing the maximum donation amount from $700 to $500, I-122 would institute an opt-in system of public campaign financing funded through a small property tax levy. The program would give voters $100 “democracy vouchers” that they would then give to candidates to fund their campaigns.

Sightline’s report showed the Capitol Hill-centered Council District 3 to be the biggest geographical source of major campaign giving in local elections, followed by parts of downtown and Upper Queen Anne. Half of total donation dollars in 2013 came from just 1,683 contributors, or 0.3 percent of the city’s adults, according to the report. Not surprising, the report also found a strong correlation between political giving and homes with views.

Council District 3 recently became the most moneyed race among the nine City Council races this year. A June spike in donations to City Council member Kshama Sawant and challenger Pamela Banks helped push the total contribution amount in the race to just over $500,000, according to data from the city’s Ethics and Election Commission. Sawant’s campaign has repeatedly pointed out that her average contribution size — currently at $114 — has remained significantly lower than Banks’ $261.

UPDATE: This mapping of contributors who gave more than $500 to campaigns in 2013 gives another view of the Hill’s money influence:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 10.04.57 AM

Capitol Hill Block Party a little more Capitol Hill as festival turns 19

(Image: Ashley Genevieve/CHBP with permission to CHS)

(Image: Ashley Genevieve/CHBP with permission to CHS)


(Image: Ashley Genevieve/CHBP with permission to CHS)

(Image: Ashley Genevieve/CHBP with permission to CHS)

This year, Capitol Hill Block Party won’t be competing with the Timber Outdoor Music Festival in Carnation, as the 2015 edition of yet another Pacific Northwest music festival took place last weekend. Still, CHBP owner and producer Jason Lajeunesse said the flood of music industry cash into festivals — one of the few highly profitable corners left in the business — is increasingly having an effect on CHBP. “It’s been challenging to book the types of acts that we want to attract,” he said. “Overall, expenses have doubled over the past five years.”

In response, CHBP is looking a little more Capitol Hill in 2015. It started in March, when organizers rolled out new branding for the festival’s 19th installment, featuring a map-inspired logo representing CHBP’s Pike/Pine venue.

Some familiar neighborhood groups are also playing a bigger role in this year’s festival. In an effort to bring back visual art elements to the weekend, CHBP is teaming up with Capitol Hill Art Walk and Capitol Hill Arts District. CHBP commissioned a large mural that was unveiled during this month’s Art Walk and supported a poster show at Grim’s, which featured 40 different prints inspired by CHBP bands. The festival is also earmarking $10,000 to support the neighborhood Art Walk.

“We found it challenging (in past years) to do scalable art that would work in the festival setting,” said Lajeunesse. “It’s important that we don’t lose it.” Organizers are meeting the challenge this year with a 25-foot inflatable installation dubbed “The Lone Ranger.” UPDATE: Due to installation issues, CHBP is postponing the giant inflatable cowboy. Better luck next year, partner.

IMG_5824Of course, Block Party will also have some spiffy new Capitol Hill crosswalks coloring the festival streets.

In the meantime, Lajeunesse told CHS on Wednesday that everything was on pace for the weekend festivities. Without any major logistical changes over the past few years, organizers and regular festival-goers should more-or-less know what to expect. Continue reading

20 things CHS heard during Monday’s *hot and heated* Seattle rent control smackdown

“We don’t need trickle-down economics… We need affordable housing.”


“Rent control does nothing to create new housing. We need solutions now … There are people homeless and sleeping in their car tonight.”

Forgoing Seattle’s usual non-confrontational forum-style political events, Monday evening’s debate on rent control was a heated affair. Around 1,000 people tried to pack into a balmy Town Hall at 8th an Seneca to hear City Council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata argue the merits of rent control with Republican Rep. Matthew Manweller and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. There was a large crowd outside unable to enter the at-capacity venue.

The event ostensibly centered around four questions posted to the debaters but was mostly a relentless back-and-forth on rent control more broadly.

1. What has caused housing-affordability crisis in Seattle?
2. What have been the affects of rent control where it has been adopted? 
3. Without rent control can the market make housing affordable?
4. What will be impact of rent control on Seattle?

The answers were broad and there was, of course, no clear winner other than the idea that rent control — in some form or fashion — remains a popular ideal for Seattle residents struggling with affordability.

But it’s not the answer to lower rents, the anti side argued Monday night. “Rent control does nothing to create new housing,” Valdez said, a common refrain from the opposition. “We need solutions now … There are people homeless and sleeping in their car tonight.” Continue reading

Rep. Walkinshaw asks how you would #ChangeOneThing in the 43rd District

changeonethingimageThe state legislature ended a record long session earlier this month, which included passing a $38.2 billion, two year operating budget. Changes to the recreational marijuana system and a transportation package that paves the way for a host of Sound Transit projects were just a couple of the actions CHS covered in 2015.

To prepare for next year’s session, Capitol Hill resident and 43rd Legislative District Rep. Brady Walkinshaw wants to know your priorities. As the name might suggest, Walkinshaw’s #ChangeOneThing survey asks residents to identify the single most important issue facing the district. You can take the survey here.

Two of Walkinshaw’s most notable accomplishments in this year’s session had direct Capitol Hill ties. Joel’s Law, inspired by the 2013 death of Joel Reuter on Capitol Hill, would strengthen involuntarily commitment guidelines for people suffering from mental illness. Another Walkinshaw bill expanded access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose.

Sawant keeps rent control debate alive after rejection by mayor’s affordability committee

A 1980 Seattle Daily Times headline captures the uncertainty surrounding rent control, even during a time when it was up for serious consideration. (Image: Seattle Public Library Archives)

A 1980 Seattle Daily Times headline captures the uncertainty surrounding rent control, even during a time when it was up for serious consideration. (Image: Seattle Public Library Archives)

20150612SeattleOverallRentTrendByBR-600x360There were 60+ recommendations included in the Mayor Ed Murray-commissioned affordable housing study released last week, but rent control wasn’t one of them.

It was mentioned in a little noticed section in the back of the report, where the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee said its members couldn’t agree on the issue:

“The HALA could not reach consensus on the issue, even despite proposed amendments and changes.”

According to Jon Grant, committee member and at-large City Council candidate, a majority of the 21-member committee did support adding a call for rent control, but there weren’t enough votes for an official recommendation. The report notes that opponents argued it would “only divert attention from other more feasible strategies that can achieve more affordable housing.”

“It was on the table from the start,” HALA co-chair Faith Li Pettis told CHS. “The HALA could not reach consensus on the issue, even despite proposed amendments and changes.”

While the committee’s deliberations on rent control were conducted in secret, the public will get an opportunity to witness some of that debate during a Monday night event at First Hill’s Town Hall.

Arguing in favor of rent control will be City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant and her Council colleague Nick Licata. Opposing rent control will be Republican state Rep. Matthew Manweller of Ellensberg and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck will moderate.

Seattle Channel will be live streaming the event here.

Continue reading

Hidden in plain sight, Richmark Label owner says he won’t be leaving Capitol Hill any time soon



It is the largest manufacturer on Capitol Hill hidden in plain sight. Everyday Richmark Labels prints millions of labels, mostly for consumer products, from its warehouse in the heart of Capitol Hill at 11th and Pine.

Maybe it was the beige exterior — now in the midst of transformation — or the large maple trees that camouflage the building’s true size, but, for 45 years, Richmark has been churning out labels at all hours of the day and night, relatively unnoticed.

The company’s creations hide in plan sight, too. Safeway tuna fish sandwiches, Elysian’s Split Shot beer bottles, and Fuel Coffee packages are just a handful of the thousands of products that wear Richmark labels.

In 1970, owner Bill Donner moved the business from downtown to the former auto garage on the southeast corner of Cal Anderson Park. He has been running the business since he was 22 after his father started it decades earlier. The company originally printed buttons and award ribbons, transitioning to adhesive labels after they were popularized in the 1950s.

“It’s not because we make things nobody else can make,” Donner said of his longevity in the business. “We’re just faster than anybody else and… I’ve developed systems for manufacturing and selling.” Continue reading

Sawant and Licata will face-off with pro-development duo in rent control debate

11017071_997832463595084_4462568534337995994_oIt won’t be the decisive bout on the issue of rent control, but a Monday evening debate will be the first major event in Seattle to focus on the policy.

In the left corner, City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant and her Council colleague Nick Licata. In the right corner, Republican state Rep. Matthew Manweller of Ellensberg and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck will officiate.

Rent control has been a key campaign issue for Sawant in this years election. She elucidated some of her ideas on the issue here, including why many of her economist colleagues oppose the policy.

At the developer-backed organization Smart Growth Seattle, Valdez has spent much of his energy advocating for pro-density policies at the city level. He’s also written about how the city should use affordability policies already in place instead of pursuing rent control. Manweller is also not a fan: Continue reading