About Bryan Cohen

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

Even the corner stores are getting into the Capitol Hill food+drink boom

It wouldn’t be the first time a scrappy Capitol Hill corner market has set its sights beyond snacks and soft drinks.

Benson’s Grocery, a corner store staple at Bellevue and E Pine Pike, is planning to shrink its market sometime this summer to make way for a new Japanese restaurant inside the shop. According to plans filed with the city, the $500,000 project will include adding a kitchen, dining area, and a restroom.

The move undoubtedly signifies that the Capitol Hill food and drink boom being watched ever so closely by pundits on all sides of the $15 wage debate is as strong as ever — or is about to pop. You choose!

Benson’s owner Hun Lee confirmed the plans with CHS, but declined to reveal specific details on the project. CHS did learn that sushi will be part of the restaurant offerings, but how the paired down market will function remains to be seen. Lee said work would start this summer.

Plans seen by CHS show a sushi bar-like setup added to the back of the current space with restaurant seating to take over the north portion of the store that neighbors the Seattle Eagle gay bar and the E Pike Victrola..

Over the years, Benson’s has been busy finding ways to generate more revenue out of the neighborhood bodega. At one point, a large advertising banner for Oregon’s George Fox University hung above the store. Benson’s again made sign news earlier this year when street artists put up a Starbucks apology banner on the side of the store.

In nod to Socialist Alternative Sawant, 43rd Democrats give no endorsement in District 3 race

It was a night for “non-establishment” candidates Tuesday as the 43rd District Democrats made their ritual endorsements in this year’s local elections, which included votes on six City Council races.

Democrats in the 43rd Legislative District, which includes Capitol Hill and downtown, made no endorsement in the Council District 3 race where de facto incumbent Kshama Sawant has disrupted an otherwise Democratic stronghold. The vote is a clear blow to the hopes of Sawant challengers including the Central District’s Pamela Banks, seen by many as the favorite to make it through August’s top-two primary after a raft of City Hall endorsements. The victory, of sorts, continues a string for the Socialist Alternative candidate. Sawant also brought out a swell of supporters and was the crowd favorite in last week’s District 3 candidates forum.

Other incumbents and “establishment” candidates also failed to get a nod during the event, although the vote only represents a tiny fraction of the most politically active Democrats.

As the non-Democrats in District 3, Sawant and Lee Carter were technically ineligible for an endorsement from the roughly 150 party members gathered inside the University Heights building in the U-District. Sawant supporters in the party, including King County Council member Larry Gossett, urged a “no endorsement” vote for the District 3 race as a procedural vote for Sawant. Continue reading

Taking on the likes of La Marzocco, MAVAM Espresso crafting custom machines in Pike/Pine

As one longtime Pike/Pine coffee roaster plans an inter-neighborhood move, a business involved in another aspect of coffee manufacturing is making its debut just down the block.

“I wanted to build a machine that was designed by a technician, not an engineer”

Two well-established espresso experts quietly launched their custom commercial espresso machine business MAVAM Espresso last month underneath Vermillion on 11th Ave amid Pike/Pine’s fertile coffee roasting grounds.

MAVAM co-founder Michael Gregory Myers is no stranger to working under the hood of coffee shop espresso machines. He spends his days servicing coffee appliances as the second generation partner of Seattle’s Michaelo Espresso parts and service company.

For two years, Myers has spent his free time in the 11th Ave underground shop building a machine that comes as close as possible to maintaining perfect temperature stability. The key, he says, is ensuring that the machine’s boiler, piping, and head components all maintain an even temperature to ensure maximum consistency pour to pour.

As someone who spends his time servicing machines, Myers said designing an easily serviceable product was also a top priority.

“I wanted to build a machine that was designed by a technician, not an engineer,” he said. Continue reading

Developer shows off plans for Capitol Hill Station housing and The Market Hall

unnamedSiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1-400x315For the first time since they were selected to develop the housing and retail sites that will one day surround the Capitol Hill light rail station, developers Gerding Edlen met with the Capitol Hill community Saturday to show off its early designs for the project.

The Portland-based developer set up posters inside E Pine’s Century Ballroom for a public viewing of the company’s winning proposal, which Sound Transit selected and made available last month. The event was co-hosted by Sound Transit and Capitol Hill Champion, a neighborhood group that’s worked for years to insert community priorities into the “transit orientated development” project.

Members from the Gerding team and architects from Schemata Workshop were on hand to answer questions and take public feedback during the three hour open house. The event was a kickoff of sorts to a new round of community engagement on the project as Sound Transit spent much of the past six months scoring proposals from four teams.

A dog swimming pool, music practice spaces, a newsstand, and more vibrant color palettes were just a few of the colorful suggestions attendees offered after viewing the designs Saturday. Continue reading

With love for the Central District, Africatown activist Tahir-Garrett plans run for City Council seat

unnamed-5Omari Tahir-Garrett doesn’t mince words when it comes to talking about gentrification in the Central District. For him, African American families priced out of the neighborhood amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

That won’t come as a shock to those familiar with the Central District/Africatown activist and slavery reparations advocate who once assaulted former Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn in response to the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

Whatever you may think of Garrett, his love for his neighborhood is undeniable. The 69-year-old, lifelong Central District resident displays the vitality and determination of an activist a third his age. This year, he wants to take his fight to City Council. Continue reading

20 years of independence at Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum comes as director plans exit

Lyall Bush at the forum's 20th anniversary gala (Image: Elisa Huerta-Enochian with permission to CHS)

Lyall Bush at the NWFF’s 20th anniversary gala. He’s stepping down as director of the nonprofit in September.  (Image: Elisa Huerta-Enochian with permission to CHS)

For 20 years, the Northwest Film Forum has gathered people on Capitol Hill around a common love of making, watching, and learning about independent film and executive director Lyall Bush has been there from the beginning. After watching the NWFF grow from a small film equipment collective into an invaluable arts asset for the city and seven years of steering the ship, Bush is now planning an exit for a new director to make their mark.

Bush announced on Thursday he would be stepping down from his post this September.

“You take stock, at that point, and ask what you want to be doing, and in a sense our 20th anniversary is a good chance for the organization to hit the refresh button (so to speak) as well,” Bush told CHS in an email. “It’s a chance for the whole operation to write a new strategic plan, craft new vision, and keep independent filmmaking going for another couple of decades.”

Bush’s announcement came on the same day that writer, director, and NWFF board member Megan Griffiths was announced as the recipient of the 10th annual Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film. Griffiths’ latest film, Lucky Them, featured scenes filmed in the heart of Capitol Hill in 2013.

Even as the city’s biggest force in film seems rejuvenated and as vital as ever on Capitol Hill with its 41st annual festival kicking off here and around Seattle this week, there are no guarantees of sustainability for smaller champions of film arts.

Continue reading

32+ things CHS heard during the District 3 candidates forum

IMG_9724IMG_9751There weren’t many fireworks, but the crowd sure was fired up for the first ever candidate forum for the newly created District 3 race. All five candidates seeking to represent Capitol Hill and the Central District at City Hall gathered before a standing room only crowd Tuesday night to answer questions on a wide range of topics, including crime, affordable housing, and transportation.

There was no back-and-forth or debating among the candidates — in fact, candidates clapped for each other on multiple occasions and rarely addressed one another. Occasional boos and hisses from the crowd came mostly when a candidate spoke out against rent control, a key part of City Council member Kshama Sawant’s platform.

Despite being the de-facto incumbent in the race, Sawant faced no challenges to her two year record on City Council. It would have been a tough room to do so. Sawant supporters packed the space and were told several times by moderators to hold their applause.

Organized by the 43rd District Democrats, the event was unusually energetic and well attended by both voters and media for a City Council forum. You can see a raw play-by-play by scrolling though #43SeaD3 or watch a video of the event here.

Highlights: Sawant on housing and rent control | Banks opening | Lightning round waterfront tunnel and transit levy

Most of the event, held at 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, featured questions from moderators Josh Feit of PubliCola and Erica Barnett of The C. is for Crank, and included questions submitted by the audience.

Two lightning rounds had candidates answer questions by holding up “yes” or “no” placards, or a box of frozen waffles, which gave them 10 seconds to explain their reason for waffling on the issue.

Sawant is leading the fundraising race, with nearly $82,000 raised as of May 11th. She also has the lowest average contribution size at $110 — a testament to the candidate’s grassroots approach. Pamela Banks has raised the second most in the race at $48,500, closely followed by Rod Hearne as Morgan Beach and Lee Carter trail far behind.

Another candidate forum is scheduled to take place June 8th, organized by residents of Madison Park and Madison Valley.

CHS Notes:

  • In her opening statement, Sawant touted her role in passing a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle, her choice to not accept a wage above an “average worker’s wage,” and refusal to take corporate donations for her campaign.
  • Hearne received no applause for touting his role in fighting for marriage equality in the state, a key accomplishment for his candidacy.
  • Calling himself an “informational candidate,” Carter said he was not seeking votes., rather he wanted to promote a return to neighborhood government and senior housing. Continue reading

On Capitol Hill-CD middle ground, five District 3 candidates go head to head for first time

Staying true to form, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant set the tone for Tuesday evening’s District 3 candidate forum, calling her her opponents — and her fellow councilors — “business-as-usual, corporate-funded candidates.” The statement came in a media release Monday announcing that Sawant handed in some 3,000 signatures to qualify for the August primary ballot.

The other four candidates, and any that may still announce before the May 15th deadline, will have to pay the filing fee or submit 1,119 signatures to make the primary ballot. The top two vote getters will then advance to the November election.

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Up to this week, Sawant and the other four candidates have seemingly gone of their way to avoid talking about each other directly. Tuesday’s forum, which will include some candidate back-and-forth according to organizers, will be the first opportunity to see how candidates handle push back from each other on District 3 grounds. You can ask questions virtually during the event using #43SeaD3.

The 43rd District Democrats candidates forum will start at 6:30 PM Tuesday inside 19th and Madison’s Mount Zion Baptist Church. All five of District 3’s tributes have been confirmed for the event: Continue reading

Random rental inspections now underway across Seattle

In March, some tenants at The Broadmoor on First Hill were fighting with the property owner over the condition of their building.

In March, some tenants at The Broadmoor on First Hill were fighting with the property owner over the condition of their building.

Housing inspectors have started making random visits to some 90,000 apartment units in Seattle as part of a law to ensure landlords are meeting basic housing safety standards.

Inspections under the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance went into effect late last month after the city council passed the program in 2013. The RRIO uses a 44-point checklist that covers issues such as leaks, exposed wires, and broken water heaters.

“No one in Seattle should be forced to live with a roof that leaks, a toilet that doesn’t flush, or an unreliable heating system,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a statement last month. “By registering rental properties and conducting random inspections, we can help ensure that these properties meet the basic standards that any of us would expect.”

So far, 45 buildings have been inspected out of 100 that have been notified, according to the city’s Department of Planning and Development. Historically, the city relied on renters to file complaints with the city against their landlords, but many renters didn’t know how to file complaints or felt intimated to not report violations.

Landlords will get at least 60 days notice before a property is inspected and renters must have at least two day’s notice before the inspection date. Inspections are carried out by either city inspectors or private inspectors trained by the city.

All properties with 10 or more units should have registered by September 30, 2014. All properties with 5-9 units should have registered for the program by March 31, 2015. The city has estimated that up to 10 percent of rental homes have moderate to severe problems.

Meanwhile, tenants rights and affordable housing is shaping up as a key issue in the race in the Council District 3 race. Expected frontrunner City Council member Kshama Sawant has made lifting the state ban on rent control her top issue in the campaign.

Center lane route and MLK terminus get public support at Madison BRT meeting

By 2019, a swift moving tram-like bus along Madison is planned to shuttle passengers from downtown, through First Hill and along the edge of Capitol Hill on its way to an eastern expanse of residential neighborhoods. The idea is that the current 16 minute bus ride between 23rd Ave and 1st Ave would be cut to under 10 minutes.

But before that happens, the city has to make some key decisions on what that “bus rapid transit” line will look like in order to have a plan ready by July.

On Wednesday, the Seattle Department of Transportation held an public open house on the Madison BRT that included new renderings of proposed designs. The roughly 80 people assembled at the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences also had the opportunity to vote on a variety of questions transit planners are facing. Continue reading