About Bryan Cohen

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

SPD failing to adequately document May Day-type tactics, approval ratings lowest in East Precinct

The good news: the Seattle Police Department is making encouraging progress towards reforming its history of overly aggressive policing tactics identified by the Department of Justice in 2012.

The bad news: The monitor tasked with overseeing that reform has found the department is failing to adequately investigate mid-level use of force incidents, like those involving pepper spray, tasers, and blast balls.

On the same day Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in town meeting with Central Area activists, the federal monitor tasked with overseeing SPD’s use of force consent decree filed an assessment on how the department was progressing with internally tracking use of force incidents.

The monitor found the department was hitting key benchmarks laid out by the DOJ. However, the report also said SPD still has “a ways to go” towards adequately documenting and investigating Type II use of force incidents by officers, like those typically involved in responding to May Day protests on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Banks and Sawant face off in only* District 3 debate Sunday

Kshama-Sawant-and-Pamela-BanksSunday night appears to be the only chance to see the two contenders in the first-ever Seattle City Council District 3 race face-off in a public debate dedicated solely to the closely watched race.

City Council member — and de facto incumbent — Kshama Sawant and challenger Pamela Banks will take the stage at Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium Sunday night at 7:30 PM.

Town Hall, Seattle Channel, and Seattle University present Seattle City Council Debate: District 3 Kshama Sawant and Pamela Banks
7:30PM, Sunday, October 4, 2015 Pigott Auditorium at Seattle University Free Doors open at 6:30 pm. Because this event is televised live, audience members are asked to take their seats by 7:25 pm for the 7:30 pm program. This event is free, but registration is required. No late seating.

You can also watch via the Seattle Channel’s live broadcast.

There is no theme or specific topics listed for the event and moderators will be asking questions tweeted to #seacouncil.

Erica C. Barnett of The C is for Crank will be moderating the forum, along with community moderators Jazmin Williams, founder of Rouge Lioness, and Danielle Askini, executive director of Gender Justice League. You can reserve free tickets here. The Seattle Channel will also broadcast the debate.

Meanwhile, both sides appear to have agreed to drop out of a planned District 3-dedicated debate planned for October 15th, according to an email sent from the Sawant campaign to organizers. Seattle Public Library had planned to sponsor the debate as part of simultaneous forums in districts across the city. CHS and the Capitol Hill Community Council were asked to help moderate event.

Even without debates dedicated solely to the District 3 race, the candidates face a full schedule of forums dedicated to various communities and organizations across the city. Shuffling candidates for multiple races through can make for somewhat harried affairs but occasionally the focus points for the specific community or group hosting the event can provide useful insight. Continue reading

What counting every Pike/Pine pedestrian on a summer night reveals

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(Images: Seattle Department of Transportation)

Roughly a Key Arena full of people stream through Pike/Pine on an average summer weekend night, according to a six night night study of pedestrian activity in the area.

The study was conducted as part of the Pike/Pine pedestrian pilot project this August, which closed off three blocks of E Pike on three nights to ease crowd congestion and open the area up for street performances. The study’s findings offer an analytical look into some fairly obvious trends: Pike/Pine crowds peak around 11 PM, people use a variety of transportation modes to get there, and they are primarily showing up to drink. Continue reading

What’s holding up the First Hill Streetcar

"Test train." (Image: SDOT)

“Test train.” (Image: SDOT)

Testing. Specifically, a longer-than-expected fine tuning and integration of the various First Hill Streetcar systems in order to have all six cars pass the final tests needed to start taking passengers. The most recent setbacks were highlighted last week by Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly.

Adjusting and testing the streetcar software to ensure an optimal blending of the two braking systems is one of the latest issues getting attention, according to SDOT’s Ethan Melone. The problem is jerking decelerations and stops that occur as a result of the dynamic brakes, which generate electricity back into the system, and friction brakes not working in harmony.

Unlike the streetcar’s propulsion system (which also caused delays), the dual braking system is not new. Melone said the longer-than-expected testing has been a surprise to both SDOT and to Inekon.

“It’s not really a new hold up. It’s just been this process of getting all the vehicles tested.”

Several component manufacturers are now in Seattle working with Inekon, the lead manufacturer, and Pacifica Marine to iron out the kinks, Melone tells CHS.

SDOT is also waiting for two streetcars to complete the “acceptance testing” phase. That requires up to two weeks of preparation and one to two days of track testing, Melone said. Once that’s finished, the cars will still have to go through another round of testing that will require running the 2.5-mile Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square route multiple times (around 300 miles) during normal operating hours.

“It’s not really a new hold up,” Melone said. “It’s just been this process of getting all the vehicles tested.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill post office finds a new Broadway home


The Broadway Post Office will relocate one block north in January. (Image: CHS)

The Broadway Station building was purchased by developers way back in 2012 (Image: CHS)

The Broadway Station building was purchased by developers way back in 2012 (Image: CHS)

OfficeMax’s attempt to put a new spin on its paper-focused business didn’t last long at The Lyric on Broadway. Maybe the U.S. Postal Service will have better luck.

The hunt for a new location for the Broadway post office has come to an end as USPS plans to move one block north into the space vacated by OfficeMax early this year.

A USPS spokesperson tells CHS the new Broadway Station will be open sometime in January.

According to USPS, all the same postal services will be offered at the new location and PO Box customers will retain their box numbers and be able to use the same keys.

With the current Broadway Post Office slated for demolition to make way for a 6-story, mixed-used development, USPS began officially looking for a new Capitol Hill location in June. At the time, USPS said it was planning to move “to a yet to-be-determined location as close as reasonably possible to the existing location.” A USPS official told a City Council committee in May that the agency intended to find a longterm home.

With more than 5,000 square feet of retail area, the former OfficeMax space is small by box store standards but was likely too large for many independent retailers. USPS says it plans to occupy about 4,200 square feet of the space, leaving the potential for another small retailer to move in.

The Broadway OfficeMax was one of six nationwide “vector” stores — a smaller-format concept meant to target urban neighborhoods. The store opened in January 2014.

Unlike the Capitol Hill Station development across from the current post office, some of which will reach 85-feet high, the project planned to rise on the northwest corner of Broadway and Denny will be 65-feet tall, and will include 44 units, ground level retail and limited, four-stall surface parking accessed via the alley. There will be no underground parking for residents living across the street from one of the soon-to-be busiest public transportation hubs in the region.

Meanwhile, realtors for the the former post office site at 23rd and Union are hoping to set a record sale price for the MidTown Center property.

The new tenant for the Lyric fills one of the largest — but not longest running — gaps in Broadway commercial real estate. The large space formerly home to Castle Megastore remains empty. The former state liquor store location is still in search of a tenant following a fashion retailer’s abrupt exit. Another notorious empty space remains where the old Broadway Grill once called home. But it’s not all bleak, empty stretches, or outlandish landlord speculation — the former home of Charlie’s is lined up for a new project that will shape the space into a new form of its former glory.

Planned Parenthood funding fight has ripple effects on both Capitol Hills

The national controversy over the “gotcha” videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue with fake researchers took a Capitol Hill turn last week on social media.

#ShoutYourAbortion went viral after Seattle writer Amelia Bonow used it to talk about the abortion she received at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Capitol Hill. The message was partially in response to the controversy that still threatens to bring the federal government to the brink of a shutdown.

Bonow and fellow Seattle writer Lindy West, who shared Bonow’s post and the story of her own abortion, have done countless national interviews over the past week and received plenty of support. In what has become a sadly familiar situation, the backlash has veered into harassment. One major conservative news site even published Bonow’s home address.

While Planned Parenthood is most vilified for providing abortions, the procedure make up a fraction of the services it offers. Roughly 3% of Planned Parenthood clients nationwide visit clinics to receive abortions and 12% of clients use Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands clinics for the procedure. And while Planned Parenthood enjoys strong support in the city, losing funding at the federal level could have significant impacts for the two Central Seattle clinics. Continue reading

U.S. Attorney General meets with Central District reps, praises SPD reform, and, yes, brings cash for community policing programs


Attorney General Loretta Lynch addresses the media alongside Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Mayor Ed Murray (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s efforts to combat gun violence while simultaneously curbing excessive policing tactics is drawing a lot of attention — and even more cash — from the federal government.

On Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited the Central Area as part of a national community policing tour where she highlighted, among other things, the progress the Seattle Police Department has made in meeting federal mandates to address excessive use of force by officers.

On the same day Lynch was in town, the Department of Justice monitor tasked with overseeing SPD’s use of force consent decree filed a report about how the department was progressing with internally tracking use of force incidents.

The monitor found that SPD was doing a good job in three out of four categories, including investigating the most severe use of force incidents. However, the monitor’s report said SPD sergeants “still had a ways to go” in adequately investigating mid-level use of force incidents by officers, like those involving tasers and pepper spray.

Lynch praised SPD and City officials for making progress towards coming into full compliance with the consent decree:

Thanks to the consent decree and the commitment to change it represented, the Seattle Police Department has adopted policies and instituted trainings to address bias, curtail the use of force and implement new mechanisms of accountability. Those reforms have not only led to positive results in Seattle, but have become a model for similarly situated departments throughout the country.

SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole was hired last year as the mayor searched for the right person to guide the department through its consent decree process.

Even as reforms are implemented, tensions continue to surface in the process. While many city officials and community leaders have praised the firing of officer Cynthia Whitlatch for her “sustained policy violations involving bias, abuse of police discretion, and escalation of a contact” in a July 2014 arrest on Capitol Hill, the Seattle Police Officers Guild and some East Precinct officers see the chief’s decision to sustain the findings of the Office of Professional Accountability as a betrayal of a veteran officer.

When asked about articles in the police union newspaper that have mocked the consent decree, Lynch said in a Thursday media briefing that her interactions with officers during the day had been positive. “I think that change is hard. It can be hard to be introspective,” she said. Continue reading

Capitol Hill next likely target for drug diversion program that puts counseling before jail

Outside the Broadway QFC. (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

Heroin for sale outside the Broadway QFC (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

A Seattle-born drug diversion program being replicated across the country could soon be making its way to Capitol Hill. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion was launched in 2011 and works by placing drug use suspects into counseling instead of jail.

On Thursday at 6:30 PM, the Capitol Hill Community Council will be hosting LEAD organizers at 12th Avenue Arts to talk about the program and the possibility of expanding it to Capitol Hill.

“Most of us who are operationally involved in LEAD think it makss sense for Capitol Hill to offer,” said Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association.

LEAD is currently available in downtown, Belltown, and in Skyway and is funded through a combination of public and private funding. The program is run through a partnership between City and County agencies and uses Evergreen Treatment Services for counseling.

Results from the program have been promising. LEAD participants were 87% less likely to be incarcerated after entry than those who didn’t participate, according to a 2-year study (PDF)of the program recently competed by the University of Washington. They also had 58% lower odds of a subsequent arrest after entry. Continue reading

Capitol Hill rents still rising but relief — and a new idea — arriving for tenants in older buildings

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(Source: Dupre+Scott Apartment Advisors)

Analysis is one thing but what is the market currently showing? Our latest pull from Craigslist reveals the median rent for this week's ads is basically unchanged from a month ago (Image: CHS)

Analysis is one thing but what is the market currently showing? Our latest pull from Craigslist reveals the median rent for this week’s ads is basically unchanged from a month ago. As for the unit mix, 77% of ads in this week’s sample were for 1BR or studio units. (Image: CHS)

Your rent is still going up, but the unrelenting construction on Capitol Hill may soon start to pay off in reducing the rate.

Excluding brand new units, average rent in central Seattle (Between the stadiums and the ship canal, and Puget Sound and Lake Washington) went up just 3.9% over the past year — down from 8.4% a year earlier, according to a September rental market report from analysts Dupre+Scott Apartment Advisors.

While pricey new units push up the overall average rent, new construction is starting to help tenants of older buildings. And the trend could continue. Following a spike of new units coming online in 2014 Capitol Hill is poised to add at least 560 new apartment units in 2015 and more than 1,500 more in the next three years, according to Dupre+Scott. In all likelihood, the number of units added in the coming years will be even higher than projected as Dupre+Scott doesn’t count microhousing, subsidized/nonprofit housing, or buildings that have under 20 units in its report. It’s also worth noting that projections differ from report to report as projects get delayed. In a CHS sample of recent Craigslist ads for Capitol Hill buildings, 28% of units were described as “studios.”

Relief could also be on the way from the demand side: Job growth is expected to slow in the region over the next few years, according an analysis from Conway Pedersen cited in the Dupre+Scott report. Continue reading

As Seattle booms, permit backlogs cause headaches for Capitol Hill small business owners

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Permit applicants have to wait weeks to get an initial appointment with the City (Image: DPD)

Notice that your favorite “coming soon” Capitol Hill restaurant or retail project has missed its planned opening by weeks this summer?

Casey Nickole had to wait three months for an appointment to submit her application for building permits to open a new place in South Lake Union. That appointment with the Department of Planning and Development has come and gone, but the owner of the two Bang Salon locations on Capitol Hill says she’s still unsure when she’ll open.

“I cannot get a permit. It’s the most infuriating situation I’ve ever encountered,” she said. “I’m basically paying $2,000 a month on a loan for a business that doesn’t exist.”

While she waits, Nickole said she has $100,000 in outstanding deposits with contractors ready to start work, along with thousands of dollars worth of equipment sitting in storage. Nickole says the new venture will be a different concept than Bang Salon.

Deep permit backlogs have been a fixture at DPD in recent years due to an unprecedented amount of development in the city, a DPD spokesperson told CHS.

Currently, applicants must wait an average of two months to have a meeting just to apply for building permits. After that, it can take up to five months for permits to get processed. Many small businesses on Capitol Hill have delayed openings while waiting.

According to DPD, there are currently around 650 scheduled appointments booked through mid-November 2015. Of those 650, around 70 applications have all their paperwork included.

DPD has increased its staffing in recent year to the pre-recession levels of 2007 — some 80 DPD workers are currently assigned to review various types of construction permits. According to DPD, the agency is on pace to meet its goals for processing simple projects (i.e. small home renovations) and complex projects (i.e. new construction). Due to high demand, DPD is 3-5 days behind in processing permits medium projects (i.e. small tenant improvements).

Business owners can seek the guidance and support of the City’s Office of Economic Development, which has plenty of materials on moving through the permitting process. But eventually, business owners just have to get in line.

Just as many projects, bigger budgets: 2014’s food and drink activity on the Hill kept pace and then some — at least when measured by major construction permits. You’ll see many of the fruits of this labor in 2015 — according to the city, the average Seattle restaurant takes 261 days to open. (Source: data.seattle.gov/Image: CHS)

Just as many projects, bigger budgets: 2014’s food and drink activity on the Hill kept pace and then some — at least when measured by major construction permits. You’ll see many of the fruits of this labor in 2015 — according to the city, the average Seattle restaurant takes 261 days to open. (Source: data.seattle.gov/Image: CHS)

Last year, a multi-agency collective launched an initiative called Restaurant Success partially in response to the long backlogs that can cripple independent owners. The project, intended to guide businesses through the multilayered permitting process, is a private-public partnership between the state, county, city, and Washington Restaurant Association.