About Bryan Cohen

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

Capitol Hill, CD property owners cited for fair housing violations

A property owner on Capitol Hill and another in the Central District were among 23 owners recently cited for violating Seattle’s fair housing law.

Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights has filed “directors charges” against owners at 23 properties after testing revealed alleged discriminatory practices against prospective renters based on familial status, disability, and use of a federal Section 8 voucher.

Test sites were selected at random and conducted by email and phone by the Northwest Fair Housing Alliance in Spokane. The specific citations for individual properties were not immediately available.

Owners of Langston Manor at 424 19th Ave E and a 4-plex apartment at 718 21st Ave were among those cited for fair housing violations. The 19th and Republican apartment complex is owned by Langston Manor, LLC and managed by Northwest Apartments. A representative for the management company said they had not yet been notified of the violation.

The 21st and Columbia property is owned by Xiaonan Song and Xiaobing Zhu. Hanneman Family Properties, LLC was also cited for violating the fair housing law at building in Eastlake, located at 2020 Minor Ave E.

“These test results are not isolated incidents – they demonstrate patterns of behavior that have profound impacts on people’s lives,” said SOCR director Patricia Lally. The SOCR constructors conducted 97 tests and found a troubling number of violations:

  • Familial status (32 tests): 2 charges / 31% of all tests showed evidence of different treatment.
  • Disability (33 tests): 6 charges / 64% of all tests showed evidence of different treatment.
  • Section 8 voucher (32 tests): 13 charges / 63% of all tests showed evidence of different treatment.

SOCR also field two additional charges for discrimination based on marital status and national origin.

In the familial status test, some property owners gave less information to testers who said they had children than those who said they did not. One manager advertised for “professional tenants only.” Testers also found landlords advertising for maximum occupancies below the true limits.

In the disability tests, some property owners refused to allow service dogs while other repeatedly hung up on testers calling from the Washington State relay service. Some landlords illegally rejected applicants who mentioned using Section 8 vouchers.

Last year two Capitol Hill-area apartment buildings were among 13 in Seattle given “director’s charges” by the city alleging rental housing discrimination following random inspections last year. Overall, 64% of tests for “Race” discrimination “showed evidence of different treatment” and 63% of “Sexual orientation” tests also resulted in unfair treatment.

For more information on Seattle’s fair housing law, visit SOCR’s website.

Help design a lid over I-5 connecting Capitol Hill to downtown

One plan from Patano Associates would be 40 acres larger than Freeway Park

One plan from Patano Associates would be 40 acres larger than Freeway Park

Imagine a big, blank lid extending over I-5, connecting Capitol Hill to downtown. How would you fill it in? Trees and green space? Affordable housing? More streets with busses connecting the neighborhoods? A public meeting on Saturday to gather ideas could produce the design groundwork for the real thing.

Over the past several months, members of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council have been working to convince policy makers and the public that now is the time to plan for such a project. The reason is that developers for the Washington State Convention Center Addition, planned for the base of Capitol Hill, could kickstart a nearby lid project as part of a required community benefits process. Whether or not that happens may depend on how much the public wants it.

“We’re almost guaranteed to have lids over I-5 given the past precedents,” said PPUNC chair John Feit. “This isn’t just some academic exercise.”

The Lid I-5 campaign’s design charrette will take place at 12th Ave Arts this Saturday, May 7th, from 8 AM to 1 PM (coffee and High 5 Pie provided). Attendees will be armed with markers and tracing paper over a blown up image of the I-5 corridor to draw up their best ideas for a lid. Organizers have also complied packets of materials reviewing existing lids in Seattle and around the U.S., and will have nifty Lid I-5 buttons for anyone who attends.

Pine Street Group developers will next go before the Seattle Design Commission on June 7th, where public benefits for the WSCC addition will be discussed. Commissioners are not expected to take any action. However, the commission will consider materials submitted by the community ahead of the meeting, creating an ideal opportunity to present the results of Saturday’s charrette.

“We have a chance to influence their decision and say the community is organized and here are some ideas on what we think,” Feit said. Continue reading

Bar Vacilando wanders onto Capitol Hill

We can't show you much of Bar Vacilando but we can show you this

We can’t show you much of Bar Vacilando but we can show you this

The versatile bar, good for an after-work cocktail with a shared plate of food or a dinner date, enjoys quite a bit of popularity on Capitol Hill. After refining one version of the concept with Black Bottle in Belltown and Bellevue, a trio of owners are nearly ready to open another take on the “gastrotavern” with a venture on Capitol Hill.

Chris Linker said his intention for Bar Vacilando at 15th and Harrison is not to open a fancy restaurant, but a bar with really nice food.

“We want people to feel like they can disarm … let time slow down a little bit,” Linker said of restaurant slated to open in mid-May. “It’s more of an analog restaurant than a hyper-digital restaurant.”

The Bar Vacilando owners are not quite ready to reveal how they have changed the former 22 Doors space, but CHS was able to take a peek inside. While no major transformations have taken place, the space has been peeled back to a more raw form. The dropped ceilings are gone, revealing the old building’s original wood slatted ceilings. The bar top has been replaced, but Door 22’s impressive wooden back bar remains. The 2,374-square-foot space is also known for having one of the best patios on the Hill, and Bar Vacilando will continue to put the intimate outdoor space to good use with some small upgrades.

Bar Vacilando’s name is also rooted in the analog. In his 1962 book Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote, “If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.”

The patio in 22 Doors days

The patio in 22 Doors days

That sense of world travel inspired co-owner Judy Boardman chef Brian Durbin when developing a menu for the new restaurant. Bar Vacilando will offer a mix of the light and indulgent, including slow cooked pork cheek and Tokyo turnip, salt cod croquettes, and king trumpet mushroom salad with watercress and spinach. Most plates will be made to share.

A medium-sized wine list, handcrafted cocktails, and a several local beers on tap will round out the drink offerings.

Linker said he and the other owners were drawn to 15th Ave E because of its neighborhood within a neighborhood quality. “There’s such a strong sense of community and cooperation and familiarity on 15th Ave.”

Opened in 2005, 22 Doors shuttered on New Year’s Eve 2013 after apparently dealing with financial troubles for years. Sandwiched next to Rione XIII and The Wandering Goose and the old-timer Tim’s Barbershop, the space remained vacant for two years. CHS first wrote about the Black Bottle crew coming to the block in November.

Earlier this year, Linker and Black Bottle caused a stir when they joined Seattle restaurant heavyweight Tom Douglas in adding a 2% surcharge to offset the city’s new minimum wage law. Both restaurant groups eventually backed off the plans after backlash. Douglas has since begun the process of eliminating tipping and raising wages at his fleet of restaurants.

Bar Vacilando will be a tipped-based restaurant, at least for now. Linker said he still has concerns about how his company will sustain the increasing minimum wage, though it clearly has not stopped them from expanding. “I think the restaurant model will continue to evolve and what that looks like precisely, I don’t know,” he said.

Bar Vacilando plans to open in May at 405 15th Ave E .

As Capitol Hill Housing turns 40, ‘the need has never been greater’

Capitol Hill’s largest affordable housing organization is turning 40 this year and, for better or worse, the organization has never been more relevant.

Launched in 1976, Capitol Hill Housing began by acquiring old buildings to turn them into income restricted housing. As the organization grew, it moved into rehabilitating midsize buildings. When the housing pressures around central Seattle mounted, it lead CHH to embark on ambitious new construction projects under the mission of creating “vibrant and engaged” communities.

“The work has never been more important than it is now,” said Michael Seiwerath, CHH’s director of community programs. CHH now supplies affordable housing for more than 2,000 residents in 48 properties it owns and manages around Seattle, primarily on Capitol Hill.

To help CHH celebrate its impressive milestone, Windermere Real Estate has pledged to match donations during CHH’s annual fundraising drive powered by the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig campaign. Every $40 gift made to CHH on May 3rd through Seattle Foundation will be matched 4 to 1 (up to $5,000) by Windermere. You can donate here to support CHH in its efforts to:

  • Help people find affordable homes close to work and school
  • Connect residents to job coaching and health care services
  • Keep neighborhoods economically and culturally diverse

More about GiveBIG and other worthy Capitol Hill recipients can be found at givebig.seattlefoundation.org.

If the current chapter of CHH is about building its own housing, Seiwerath said the next chapter will be all about partnerships and expanding beyond Capitol Hill while staying rooted in the neighborhood. “As the land costs go up, and urban space is limited, one of the solutions is more partnerships,” Seiwerath said. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Tool Library is open for lending

CapitolHillToolLibrary_0185-600x400It is that time of year to get out in the garden or finally build that thing you have thinking about, and Capitol Hill’s new tool share probably has something you can use to get it done.

After several years of planning, Sustainable Capitol Hill is holding a grand opening for the Capitol Hill Tool Library on Saturday from 12 PM – 4PM. Sustainable Capitol Hill president Gina Hicks summed up the purpose of the library rather succinctly: “Save the planet and the pocket book and create community.”

In an urban setting like Capitol Hill, many don’t have the space, money, or need to own a ladder or a set of big wrenches. That’s where the tool library comes in with more than 1,000 items now available for the public to borrow. Woodworking, maintenance, and garden tools make up the bulk of the inventory, but the library also has items like a dehydrator, a telescope, and an ice cream maker.CapitolHillToolLibrary_0228

The tool library is located on Crawford Pl. between Pike and Pine in the former temporary home of Red Label Moto. After a long search for a location, Sustainable Capitol Hill sealed a deal with the First Covenant Church last March to open in the Summit Building.

There are two primary ways to put the new community space to use. The first is to check out tools just like a book library: the service is free, you can check out items for a week before renewing, and you can easily setup an account online or at the tool library. You can search the inventory here.

The tool share also has a public work space where anyone can come in to work on a project with their own tools or something checked out from the library. The space has some woodworking tools, like a drill press, table saw, and radial arm saw available anytime the library is open. Plans are in the works to install a bike station. Sustainable Capitol Hill is also helping to organize classes and workshops in the space.

There is a $40 suggested annual donation to help Sustainable Capitol Hill pay rent on the space and keep the tools in good working order. Currently, the library will be open three days a week:

Saturday: 9 AM – 12 PM
Sunday: 4 PM – 7 PM
Wednesday: 6 PM – 9 PM

Saturday’s grand opening will give neighbors a chance to join up, tryout a few tools, and learn more about what the library has to offer through a library scavenger hunt. The tool library is always accepting donations (sorry, no take backs) and the criteria is fairly wide open: “Anything that reduces waste or things that you really only use a couple times a year,” Hicks said. You can find the tool library’s wish list here.

CHS previously reported on the group’s initial efforts to mimic tool shares in West Seattle and NE Seattle, which go back to at least 2012. In 2013 the group refocused with a plan to run the library from an empty shipping container. However, the retrofitted “tool shed” failed to get off the ground when the group struggled to find a location.

Now that the library is finally open, Hicks said Sustainable Capitol Hill is hoping to hire someone soon to staff the space. In the meantime, the group is looking for volunteers to add to the library’s workshop offerings. “We really want to be a place for people to gather to share skills,” she said.

For more information, visit sustainablecapitolhill.org.

Capitol Hill’s cohousing pioneers are ready to move in on 12th Ave

The residents gathered for a rooftop portrait (Images: Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing)

The residents gathered for a rooftop portrait (Images: Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing)

“At some point you need to have that bigger vision in mind and that long term goal.”

Getting along with apartment building neighbors requires at least a modicum of social grace. Getting along with potentially lifelong neighbors that are also equal owners in a partnership to develop and own a building mandates serious training.

After breaking ground in 2014, and years of planning prior to that including classes in consensus decision making, the members of Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing are ready to move into their new home (and their 12th and Howell building is almost ready for them). You can get a sneak peek of the building on Saturday from 10 AM to 4PM as part of National Cohousing Open House day.

The 12th Ave cohousing development isn’t a traditional cooperative. CHUC residents are their own developers. While tenants in a cooperative or condo building have to eat the costs of a developer’s profit, CHUC residents say there are keeping their costs as low as possible and will essentially impose their own rent control once they have moved in. The nine families making up the community are all equal partners in an company that obtained a loan to develop the building.

Looking back on what it took to get to this point CHUC co-founder Mike Mariano paused when asked if he would do it all again.

“If you think about it too much, you would never do it,” said Mariano, a principal architect at Schemata Workshop. “At some point you need to have that bigger vision in mind and that long term goal.”

As Mariano and the rest of the CHUC members discovered, financing is not easy when you’re not trying to simply maximize profits. Developing the property as a community was a means to an end for CHUC — ends that include communal meals and work in the rooftop garden, longterm stability, and a tight-knit support group that will hopefully last a lifetime. Continue reading

PSKS youth shelter offers to buy its 19th and Pine home from Mount Zion church

IMG_5552Capitol Hill’s homeless youth and young adult shelter could be just a few days away from sealing an agreement to buy its building and significantly expand operations.

Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets executive director Susan Fox told CHS a sale agreement for the 19th and Pine building is now in the hands of the nonprofit’s landlord, the Mount Zion Baptist Church.

According to Fox, the agreement would see PSKS take over the building for a little over $3 million and allow the shelter to expand into two additional stories of its three story building. Mount Zion acquired the building for $2.1 million in 2007.

If the agreement goes through it would put PSKS on track to buy the building in August. In addition to having a more stable home, PSKS plans to use existing dorm-style units in the building’s upper floors for temporary homeless youth housing. Many of the units are currently being used as storage.

While a congregation vote on Friday could seal the agreement, PSKS is still well short on funds to close a sale. House Speaker Frank Chopp helped bring back $1.5 million from Olympia for PSKS this year, but that still leaves the shelter another $1.5 million short. Fox says she has been working with city and county officials to find matching funds. An additional $2 million for renovations would then need to be raised through a private capital campaign, Fox said.

CHS previously wrote about confusion and frustration at the church over the leadership’s efforts to buoy expenses by selling off several high value properties around the Central Area. “If they are going to have to sell to somebody they should sell to us not some developer that will build apodments,” Fox said.

PSKS welcomes anyone aged 18-29 to its shelter, which can sleep up to 20 every night. A daytime drop-in center is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and offers a wide variety of programs. During night and day times, those staying at the shelter can use the kitchen, access a community closet, receive case management, take GED classes, or use a shower.

Founded in 1995 primarily as an advocacy group, PSKS grew into a shelter and community space, though it has struggled at times to keep the doors open. The nonprofit nearly shutdown in its previous location at Summit and Howell before the city stepped in to help it secure the the ground level of Mount Zion’s annex building.

PSKS has rented the ground floor space for two years, but taking over existing apartments on the second and third floors with enough capacity to house some 20 people could be a crucial asset for the shelter, Fox said.

PSKS showed off some of the spaces during its annual open house on Wednesday. The dorm-style rooms all include bathrooms. Recent upgrades to the shelter include a new kitchen courtesy of Ikea and a new computer lab.

When it comes to finding additional funds at the city, Fox may have a sympathetic ear in Mayor Ed Murray. In 2015 the mayor declared a state of emergency on homelessness. Central Seattle has one of the highest concentrations of homeless youth and young adults in King County, a population that is a fifth LGBTQ and a third African American. It is also a core demographic for PSKS and a population Fox says needs even more help.

John Charlton pleads not guilty to murder of Ingrid Lyne

The man suspected of murdering a Renton mother and dumping her dismembered body in the Central District has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder.

John Charlton, 37, appeared in King County Court Wednesday morning for his arraignment in the death on Ingrid Lyne, 40, after a judge increased his bail from $2 million to $5 million in the case. Dressed in jail clothes, Charlton did not speak during the short hearing except to acknowledge that he understood the charges. Charlton also pleaded not guilty to a vehicle theft charge.

Charlton is suspected of killing the 40-year-old Swedish Medical Center nurse and mother of three inside her Renton home, stealing her car, and dumping her remains in at least two Central District recycling bins. Lyne was first reported missing on April 8th.

The 1600 block of 21st Ave, where Lyne’s body parts were found, appears to have only been a random stop for Lyne’s suspected killer. Police say the neighborhood bears no other connection to the case.

Officials have not said if they think Charlton used Lyne’s 2015 Toyota Highlander to transport her remains to the Central District, but it appears to be a likely scenario given the prosecutor’s timeline. The car was eventually found in Belltown. The awful evidence of what had happened in the home was discovered when CSI detectives removed plumbing beneath the tub following Charlton’s arrest.

Seattle Police arrested Charlton on April 11th in Lake Stevens for Lyne’s murder after a homeowner near 21st and Pine discovered her body parts in his recycling bin. Charlton was staying with his ex-girlfriend, who said in a recent interview that she was not surprised to learn Charlton had been charged with murder.

Charlton’s next hearing is scheduled for May 11th.

How Capitol Hill and CD students say Seattle Public Schools can be fixed

IMG_5380

Garfield students ran the show at the Mayor Murray’s April 19th community meeting on education. (Images: CHS)

Last month Mayor Ed Murray called on Seattle Public Schools students to suggest ways the city could help close disparities inside their classrooms. O’Landa Baker’s idea?

“Getting an ORCA card would be good,” said the Garfield High School student. “It’s hard to find change in your couch when you’re rushing in the morning.”

Baker floated the idea during a student-led community meeting last week at the Central District high school. It was the 15th of 17 education-focused discussions happening around the city leading up to the mayor’s Education Summit on Saturday, April 30th at Garfield.

IMG_5378 2Data and ideas gathered at the discussions will be compiled into a report for the summit and will serve as a steering document for the mayor’s Education Advisory Group. While SPS operates independently from the City of Seattle, Murray organized the summit and advisory group to put the city’s resources towards addressing “the disparity in educational opportunity and outcomes that disproportionately impact students of color and those from lower-income families.”

During the April 19th meeting at Garfield, students broke into small groups to discuss some of those challenges. Several students of color spoke about feeling uncomfortable in advanced placement classes and the need for more teacher diversity in advanced classes. They also said they were not provided adequate information on what classes and clubs were available. “I’ve always been the only Latina girl in honors and AP classes,” said one student named Jessica.

As with many issues in public education, the root causes stretch far beyond the classroom. When asked about how parent-teacher groups could better engage families, one student said, “As a working class family, my parents don’t have time for PTSA fundraising.”

Another student agreed. “I don’t think it’s the parent’s responsibility to fundraise … they pay taxes,” she said. Continue reading

Expanded list of seismically risky buildings could spur a new development wave on Capitol Hill

(Image: CHS/Data Source: City of Seattle)

(Image: CHS/Data Source: City of Seattle)

The City of Seattle has added some 300 buildings to its list of old brick structures most at risk of damage or collapse in the event of a major earthquake. Among the 1,160 “unreinforced masonry structures” counted in a recent report, Capitol Hill continues to have the most of any neighborhood in the city.

The latest URM survey added 16 Capitol Hill structures to the city’s 2012 list, bringing the neighborhood’s total count to 152 URM buildings — 13% of all URMs in Seattle. 44 were counted on First Hill and 24 were counted in the Central Area/Squire ParkScreen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.39.07 PM

Property owners with buildings on the list began receiving notifications this month from Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections. No immediate action is required, but it may be in the future.

Finalizing the inventory of URMs is an important step in the city’s goal to one day mandate all URMs undergo seismic retrofitting. Currently, property owners are only required to retrofit URMs when there is a major upgrade or change of use of their building. The city has been working on a mandate for years and the City Council is not expected to consider legislation until 2017.

The report found the vast majority of Capitol Hill’s URMs had no evidence of retrofitting, although it is possible some work was overlooked. Owners have an opportunity to challenge the URM designation or offer additional information, but they will need to hire an engineer to perform an in-depth analysis of the the building, according to the report.

That could kick off another round of Capitol Hill preservation developments and demolitions. Earthquake prevention work can be an enormously expensive, especially for individual owners who may deicide to sell in the face of such costs. It happened before at the Callahan Auto building and many fear a retrofit mandate would put many businesses and independent property owners in jeopardy. By using preservation incentives, DCI says it wants to save as many buildings as possible.

“The last thing we want to do is to encourage people to demolish these structures,” said DCI spokesperson Bryan Stevens. “Generally speaking, I think people want to see these structures preserved.” Continue reading