About Bryan Cohen

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

Northwest Film Forum tabs next executive director

unnamed-1There is hope, graduating art students of 2016, that those series of unpaid internships will eventually land you a dream arts organization job and Courtney Sheehan is living proof.

Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum announced Tuesday that the 27-year-old one-time college intern, who got her first full-time gig with the 12th and Pike nonprofit in 2013, has taken over as the new executive director.

“Courtney is really good at building relationships, understanding the importance of new ideas, and celebrating the kind of art that draws people together,” said NWFF board president Peter Vogt.

Sheehan’s appointment comes a year after Lyall Bush stepped down as the forum’s previous executive director. Bush, who had been involved with the forum since it opened 20 years ago, now leads the film program at Cornish College of Arts.

The NWFF stands out among film organizations in that it not only screens a wide variety of independent film, but also offers filmmaking classes, rents equipment, and funds local projects. In addition to expanding those elements, Sheehan said she is excited to program more events that mix film with performances and speakers. Continue reading

Own a piece of Rodeo Donut — or another Capitol Hill food+drink startup, soon — thanks to federal law change

A platform allowing ordinary people to invest in startups launched this month and a Capitol Hill donut operation is among the first companies to have its shares up for sale.

Rodeo Donut opened last year as a popup project inside Cupcake Royale. Since then Rodeo has expanded to Cupcake Royale’s Ballard location and developed a diehard donut following with creations like apple bacon bourbon fritters, and caviar and cream donuts.

Now owners Nicki Kerbs and Jody Hall want to venture further into the donut frontier by opening a brick-and-mortar shop with a focus on “fresh fried buttery brioche donuts, fried chicken and strong whiskey drinks.”

To do it, Rodeo is taking advantage of new crowd investing platform called WeFunder and a federal law change allowing startups to raise capital from non-credited investors (typically defined as those who make less than $200,000 a year). In October, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules for crowd investing, first approved in the 2012 JOBS Act.

In other words, you can now buy shares of Rodeo Donut and throw your financial lot in with Seattle’s cowgirl donut slingers. The popup donut shop will also be offering its employees stock options.

“We’ve had so many that have wanted to take us to other cities or other states or wanted to invest,” Hall said. “We like that this kind of levels the playing field.”

The minimum investment is $100. So far Rodeo has raised just over $7,000 towards its $50,000 – $100,000 goal. The Rodeo owners are currently shopping around for their first location. Hall said Capitol Hill would be a “no-brainer,” if they could find the right space.

WeFunder was one of the first companies out of the gate to offer crowd investing, where investments and contracts are all drawn up and exchanged on the site. The company selected Rodeo as one of the first companies to feature on its new platform.

Of course the risks with startup investing are substantial and even more so for those who can’t afford to loose all the money they put in. According to WeFunder, “Startups either win big or go bankrupt. You could lose all your money. Consider them more like socially-good lottery tickets.” Existing crowd fund platforms like Kickstarter allow fundraising, but do not facilitate investing. You can read more about WeFunder investing here.

Meanwhile, Hall is privately fundraising to expand The Goodship, her marijuana edibles company. Since marijuana remains illegal the federal level, you’ll have to wait for WeedFunder to become a reality.

Seattle Central pursues rare opportunity to expand Broadway campus

The Site D development will tower over Capitol Hill Station's western Broadway entrance (Image: CHS)

The Site D development will tower over Capitol Hill Station’s western Broadway entrance (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill’s community college is currently negotiating a deal that could bring a new technology center or on-campus faculty housing to its Broadway campus. It’s a rare opportunity for Seattle Central College to expand with building height departures already in place, made possible by the arrival of light rail on Capitol Hill.

Five sites surrounding Capitol Hill Station were acquired by Sound Transit for construction of the light rail facility — what’s left is to be transformed into dense “transit orientated development.” Four of those sites will be developed into housing, retail, and community space by Portland-based firm Gerding Edlen. SCC was given a right of first refusal to develop the fifth property, known as Site D, which surrounds the west entrance of the Capitol Hill Station at Broadway just south of Denny Way.

Representatives for Sound Transit and SCC have confirmed the two sides are working on a deal for the college to acquire the property, but offered few details on the status of the negotiations. In a 2015 report on its “major institution master plan” SCC said it was also working with developers to explore options for the site.

Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, who was confirmed as SCC president in May, recently told CHS that creating faculty housing on Capitol Hill was a major priority. “Most faculty and staff cannot afford to live on Capitol Hill,” she said, According to Edwards Lange, the average faculty member at SCC makes around $57,000 a year. Continue reading

Proposal would allow dogs to roam free in Cal Anderson Park

Dog parks inspire a special kind of divisiveness within Seattle’s civic skirmishes. With limited public park space, opponents of expanding off-leash areas say human activities should get top priority in park planning. Off-leash supporters say their interests deserve equal consideration.

Nevertheless, dogs are here to stay and Seattle Parks and Recreation is working on a plan to determine how best to accommodate them. Seattle’s canine population has reached an estimated 150,000 with no signs of slowing. The city is now reviewing its 19-year-old policy governing dog parks and considering some new ideas, including adding unfenced, off-leash areas inside public parks.

The idea is backed by Citizens for Off-Leash Areas, who say parks like Cal Anderson could implement the policy already working in other cities. “Dog owners are being pushed into scofflaws because they don’t have options,” said COLA executive director Cole Eckerman.

According to Eckerman, allowing dogs to be off-leash during certain times of the day at certain parks could reduce dog bites by increasing opportunities for exercise, create legal solutions to accommodate the city’s growing dog population, and yes, even deter nighttime crime. Eckerman also said allowing “multi-use” dog areas is an equity issue as many lower income neighborhoods lack traditional off-leash areas.

Portland has 24 unfenced, off-leash areas which are restricted to certain areas and times — a model COLA says could be replicated in Seattle. Typically, new dog parks are first piloted by the parks department and then approved by the City Council. Dewey Potter, the parks department’s unofficial off-leash expert, said a similar process would likely be used if the city decides to move ahead with unfenced dog areas. It’s unclear how many dog parks or off-leash areas Seattle could add in the near future, Potter said.

Seattle currently has 28 acres of fenced off-leash areas spread across 14 parks, including around Capitol Hill at Plymouth Pillars Park and the I-5 Colonnade. City policy recommends placing new dog parks away from playgrounds or adjacent to residential properties, which could be difficult to maintain if the city allows dogs to roam in unfenced areas.

Some of those criteria were actually developed in response to Seattle’s early experiments with off leash areas on Capitol Hill. In the late 1990s the parks department piloted two dog parks in Volunteer Park. One was scrapped because it was too muddy while the other received too many complaints from nearby homeowners.

The city’s dog parks report will not include any specific site recommendations, Potter said, but it will offer some suggestions for how to better accommodate dog owners as demand for all types of park space continues to grow.

Other recommendations include how to improve existing dog parks. The parks department plans to release its report June 11th at a date to be determined.

Images courtesy facebook.com/capitolhilldogs

With squatter houses an issue across Hill, owners at 12th and John say demolition is coming

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Police checked a charred 12th Ave house for squatters Wednesday morning (Images: CHS)

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It didn’t take long for squatters to find the three vacant houses at 12th and John after the properties were purchased by a Lynnwood developer in late 2014. Once the rent-paying tenants moved out, complaints and property violations started stacking up. Two fires broke out at houses during one week in January, apparently caused by trespassers. The latest property complaint was filed on Thursday.

City inspectors met with the Hardy Development Company last month to discuss ongoing issues at their properties, which are slated for a new 51-unit apartment building at 121 12th Ave E. Hardy promised to secure the houses and clean up the properties, but didn’t act soon enough.

It’s a problem across Capitol Hill. Since May 2015, paperwork for demolition has been filed for 41 different addresses on and around the Hill. 20 of those have been issued but the rest remain in process. Of the 20 permitted for demolition, many like the 12th and John properties still stand — empty except for the squatters that sometimes call the houses home. Continue reading

Washington Hall nonprofit owners seek $300K from city to complete restoration

10644867_881201198580902_1892594002608393627_nIn 2009, Seattle nearly lost a giant among the city’s diminishing stock of culturally significant buildings. Washington Hall, built in 1908 by the Danish Brotherhood, was a cornerstone of the Central Area community through much of the 20th Century. Past performers at the 14th and E Fir space have included Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and a young Jimi Hendrix.

Rescuing it from demolition, the preservation nonprofit Historic Seattle acquired the building in 2009 and have been slowly been restoring it since. In 2014 the nonprofit secured a $300,000 city grant to add an elevator. Ultimately the group found a cheaper solution that did not require use of those funds.posters_wahall

Now the nonprofit is proposing to use the grant to complete its restoration efforts and enter into a new memorandum of understanding with the city on how those funds will be used. Washington Hall plans to use the $300,000 from the city to finish an exterior restoration and interior buildout of the building, which it says it cannot do without the grant. The full restoration will also include new nonprofit offices.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s affordable housing committee moved the proposal to a full council vote. It will be introduced to the full council on Monday.

A grand re-opening of Washington Hall is scheduled for June 1st.

City, State take steps to clear Seattle’s decades-old ‘Jungle’ encampment

City and state officials outlined a plan this week to clear a longstanding homeless encampment along I-5 where two people were fatally shot in January. By deploying outreach workers offering social services to those still living at the “The Jungle,” officials hope to relocate campers and clear the sprawling East Duwamish Greenbelt in the coming weeks.

“This is a person-centered approach with the necessary supports to shift people into more stable housing,” said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement.

Outreach teams from the Union Gospel Mission will work to relocate those living at the encampment by offering shelter, motel vouchers, and travel assistance. A city assessment of the camp in February found “tragic, unsanitary conditions” (PDF).

The wooded greenbelt below the confluence of I-90 and I-5 is on land owned by the city parks department, but includes emergency access roads that will be improved by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The relocation and cleanup effort will be funded through a $1 million state budget supplement passed earlier this year. Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who introduced the measure, stirred controversy when he suggested the money should be used to build a barbed wire fence around the encampment. Critics, including City Council District 3 rep Kshama Sawant, said a fence would not keep people out and failed to address the underlying issues of the camp.

It appears a fence will not be part of the cleanup effort. Once the camp is cleared, the city will convene a stakeholder group to determine what should be done in the area. According to a statement from Mayor Ed Murray’s office, “the goal of access management is to allow maintenance crews and law enforcement to better serve the area, not to create an impenetrable barrier or fence.”

The city’s practice of clearing and cleaning homeless encampments sparked a heated debate between City Council members and City officials earlier this year. CHS previously wrote about the many homeless encampments along Capitol Hill’s I-5 shores, how they’re affecting some residents on First Hill, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars the state spends to clear the camps only to have campers return hours later.

How to best help those living in The Jungle has been a sensitive issue since three teenagers were charged for the January shooting that left two dead and three injured in the camp. Just two months earlier, the mayor declared a state of emergency on homelessness in Seattle which help help put into motion $7.6 million to be spent on alleviating the crisis, in addition to the $40 million already budgeted for homeless services in 2016.

Value Village development could become next Capitol Hill ‘marketplace’

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Capitol Hill, the land of Seattle’s new ‘marketplaces,’ could be getting another indoor retail experience in the heart of Pike/Pine.

Thanks to its landmarks designation, current development designs for the former Value Village building on 11th Ave call for maintaining the expansive open floor plan in the building’s street level space. Developers from Legacy Commercial are exploring the possibility of transforming that 12,000-square-foot area into the type of food and retail destination most recently popularized by Chophouse Row just up the street.

“That is one of the options that has been discussed, but there is no decision on what type of tenants will occupy the space,” said Phillip Bozarth-Dreher, an architect on the project with Ankrom Moisan.

It has been over a year since plans to redevelop the The Stranger and Value Village buildings were stalled due to the 11th and E Pine buildings winning landmark status. Since then developers have ditched plans to build over The Stranger’s White Motor Company building and have focused on a 5-story office and retail project next-door at the 1918-built Kelly Springfield Motor Truck Company building. Continue reading

Seattle U students vow to continue sit-in until dean resigns

For the past week, a group of Seattle University students have been occupying a campus building home to offices of the Matteo Ricci College to demand the ouster of the college’s dean and a more diverse atmosphere at the school.

Students say dean Jodi Kelly is an impediment to the radical changes they want to see at the humanities-focused college, which include creating a “non-Eurocentric, interdisciplinary” curriculum and more diverse faculty. The university’s president has rejected the calls for Kelly to be removed from her position. On Tuesday students and faculty packed into the occupied Casey building to hear from organizers of the Matteo Ricci College Student Coalition.

“Our demand has always been a liberatory education,” said Fiza Mohammad, a senior at Seattle U. “We are truly hungry for a decolonized, transformative education.”

Mohammad said she and other students enrolled to the college under false pretenses and that they want the university and college to live up to its promotional materials. The group has vowed to continue occupying the building day and night until its demands are met. So far, the university has allowed the students to stay in the Casey common space. Offices in the building remain open.  Continue reading

Police: Suspect high on meth in attack of 72-year-old woman on Capitol Hill

The man arrested in the Saturday, May 7th attack on a 72-year-old woman told police he was “out of his mind” on methamphetamine.

According to Seattle Police documents, the suspect admitted to entering the victim’s 17th Ave and E Denny Way apartment to rob her for money to buy drugs. He said he targeted her because he thought she would be easy to rob. Police say he also admitted to “imagining” having sex with the victim as he attempted to pull down her pants during the attack.

Willie Sorrell, 46, was arrested on Friday for burglary, assault, attempted robbery and attempted rape. A King County judge found probable cause to hold Sorrell until his bond hearing, set for Monday afternoon. Sorrell has not been charged with the crime.

Sorrell was arrested six days after the attack when police tied him to the victim’s apartment by taking fingerprints collected at the scene and checking them against a national database. Sorrell, who had a warrant for his arrest in a separate assault case, has a lengthy criminal history that includes multiple arrests for theft, burglary, and one previous assault.

Police arrested Sorrell at 16th and E Olive’s Sound Mental Health clinic, where he regularly visits a case manager.

The victim, who did not know Sorrell, told police she had just entered her residence after shopping when she saw a man standing at her door exposing himself. She told police the suspect knocked her to the ground, attempted to sexually assault her, and struck her several times. The victim said the man left after she elbowed him in the face. The woman was transported to Harborview Medical Center with serious injuries.