About Bryan Cohen

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

A 30-resident ‘tiny house’ encampment is rising at 22nd and Union

“We really want to get people into these houses with the idea that they will transition into permanent housing.”

A new homeless encampment featuring 15 “tiny homes” is getting underway on a church-owned property at 22nd and E Union. So far, the new encampment has one house ready to go, put up in September and built by a group of teenagers working with the nonprofit Sawhorse Revolution. The two-person homes don’t have much in the way of amenities, but they are waterproof and lockable, two major benefits over tent living.

The empty lot owned by the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd had recently been used as parking lot for construction workers during the week and overflow church parking on weekends. From 2013-2014, the church hosted a Nickelsville camp on the empty lot. That camp, and two others in the Central District were all built as a result of the closure of the longtime Nickelsville camp on Marginal Way.

The Central District tiny house village is the result of a broad collaboration of organizations, lead by the Low Income Housing Institute and the Nickelsville community. Several organizations, including Sawhorse, are building the 15 two-person capacity houses out of their own pockets. Each house costs roughly $2,200 in materials.

“We really want to get people into these houses with the idea that they will transition into permanent housing,” said Monica Joe, who’s helping organize the project from the LIHI. Continue reading

City Council passes 2016 budget with lone ‘no’ vote from Sawant

The Seattle City Council ended its grueling annual budget process Monday afternoon with an 8-1 vote, sending a spending package topping $5 billion back to Mayor Ed Murray for final approval. The council added just over $18 million (PDF) in spending to Murray’s original $5.1 billion budget, along with an additional $5 million to be spent on emergency homeless services this year. City Council member Kshama Sawant cast the lone dissenting vote on the final budget, saying it did not go far enough to address the urgent needs of working people

“… on balance the budget differs little from previous years, and fails to address the acute housing crisis, inadequate transit, and ballooning inequality and injustice permeating Seattle,” Sawant said in a statement.

Outgoing Council member and budget committee chair Nick Licata positioned Seattle’s 2016 budget as a response to federal cutbacks. Federal grants have shrunk from 62% to 26% of the City’s Human Services budget, a 58% decrease, while the City’s General Fund contribution to the Human Services budget has more than doubled, from 25% to 55%, according to a statement on the council’s vote.

Among all the programs and initiatives included in next year’s budget, spending on homeless services stood out as a defining feature. All told, the City Council approved more than $47 million in 2016 to fight homelessness — or, about 1% of its budget for the year. Following up on his declaration of a homelessness state of emergency in Seattle, Murray will be at a Seattle University forum December 2nd to further discuss the issue.

The full council convened Monday afternoon after a short morning budget committee meeting in the morning to consider last-minute amendments. Much of the debate focused on how best to expand paid parental leave for City employees. Continue reading

Developer abandons plans for The Stranger building after preservation board objections


(Image: CHS)

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After submitting three design proposals, developers will meet with the preservation board members about their latest design that leaves The Stranger building untouched (right).

“Our hope is that by developing the Value Village building mid block, its impact is much more acceptable to the neighborhood.”

It’s been almost a year since plans to redevelop the The Stranger and (former) Value Village buildings were stalled due to the 11th and E Pine buildings winning landmark status. Since then, developer Legacy Commercial has met twice with members of the Landmark Preservation Board to hammer out how its plans for an office and retail project can move forward while still complying with the landmark protections. It hasn’t been going so smoothly.

After two meetings with the Architectural Review Committee, preservation board members said Legacy was making little progress in addressing its concerns about the proposed preservation incentive-boosted 75-foot high office and mixed-use development incorporating the two auto row-era structures and a sunken parking lot. When Legacy submitted plans for a third meeting, they were turned away.

“The third briefing packet did not appear to contain any new information and I advised the applicant that another ARC could be scheduled when new alternatives or additional information was provided,” said Sarah Sodt, a coordinator for the Historic Preservation Program. Continue reading

On the List | Hill’s Redwood stays rooted a bit longer ahead of 10th anniversary bash

The Redwood Tavern, Capitol Hill Seattle1446667871940Seattle’s permit backlog may be causing headaches for Capitol Hill small business owners, but it also appears to be helping keep the doors open at one neighborhood dive bar. Just ahead of its 10-year anniversary on Capitol Hill and the conclusion of its drawn out closure, owners of The Redwood tell CHS they have signed a 6-month lease extension giving the bar a few more months in its home where Howell meets Belmont. “We want to stay there until the wrecking ball comes,” said Lisa Brooke, who owns the bar along with her husband Mat, a former member of rock outfit Band of Horses. According to Brooke, the Redwood property owner offered to extend the bar’s lease after it became clear that demolition permits to make way for a new apartment building on the block were still months away from approval. If the wrecking ball — or backhoe — still hasn’t come after six months, Brooke said the Redwood will stay open on a month-to-month basis. Continue reading

Federal agents, SPD arrest 9 in CD drug and firearm investigation

A team of federal and local law enforcement agencies arrested nine people Wednesday following an investigation into firearms and narcotics dealing around 23rd and E Union.

According to the FBI’s Seattle division, investigators identified a hierarchy of narcotics distributors operating around 23rd and Union, which led them to a house near Beacon Hill Elementary School. At the house, the task force recovered cocaine, around $22,000 in cash, and an assault rifle.

The operation was a combined effort of the FBI Seattle Safe Streets Task Force, ATF Puget Sound Crime Gun Taskforce, and the Seattle Police Department. The FBI says the investigation is ongoing as law enforcement agencies continue to identify individuals involved.

FBI spokesperson Ayn Dietrich-Williams told CHS those arrested were not necessarily detained at 23rd and Union. “It was all pretty fluid,” she said. The FBI provided the following list of those arrested in the operation: Continue reading

Thanks for not voting: Capitol Hill’s reps in Olympia prepare all-consuming budget battle in 2016


Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, and House Speaker Frank Chopp. (Image: 43rd District Democrats)

Capitol Hill’s state legislators are sounding the alarm about a severe budget battle gearing up in 2016, and they say Seattle’s low voter turnout is partially to blame.

When the State Legislature convenes January 11th, it will do so under the close watch of the State Supreme Court, which ruled in the 2012 McLeary v State of Washington decision that the state was violating the constitution by underfunding public education. While 43rd District’s reps say the Legislature is making progress, but finding $3.5 billion for teacher compensation by 2017 remains a big hurdle.

That alone would be enough suck up most of the energy in Olympia. Compounding the problem is I-1366, the Tim Eyman-backed initiative passed by a slim margin of voters November 3rd. The initiative requires legislators pass a rule that requires a two-thirds vote for increasing taxes or drastically decrease the sales tax rate from 6.5% to 5.5%. If legislators cut the sales tax, that excises some $1.5 billion per year from the state budget.

“We’re likely to have to be on a huge defense,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, who was joined by House Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Brady Walkinshaw at the November meeting of the 43rd District Democrats. Continue reading

Ahead of ‘major’ announcement, Convention Center developers come to Hill to show off latest models


Community members inspect a model of the new convention center at the Capitol Hill Branch library. (Image: CHS)

It could be the most expensive development project in Seattle history, but plans for a new Washington State Convention Center at the footsteps of Capitol Hill have barely caused a ripple in Seattle. Officials involved in the project now want to make some waves. King County Executive Dow Constantine and WSCC chairman Frank Finneran planned to hold a media conference Wednesday morning for “a major announcement regarding plans for convention capacity and benefits to the region.”

The planned development with a price tag near $1.4 billion will be built on land along the north side of Pine just across I-5 from Capitol Hill where King County Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station is located today. Plans are currently in the works to phase buses out of the existing transit tunnel in order to vacate the space. Details on a land sale between WSCC and the County could be part of the announcement.


Also noted: The WSCC expansion has a new “ADDITION” logo

UPDATE: The WSCC has reached a deal with the County to buy 4 acres in downtown for $147 million. Under the agreement, King County Metro will get a total of $283 million in principal and interest payments over 30 years. WSCC will also contribute $5 million to affordable housing, though it won’t be required to develop the properties on or around the center. The deal, which must be approved by the County Council, keeps the WSCC addition on track to opening in 2020. WSCC will provide adequate off-site layover space for Metro Transit during construction, the announcement states. Buses will continue to use the site and operate in the transit tunnel until 2019, when additional light rail service is added.

On Monday night, LMN Architects presented some of its most recent design concepts at the Capitol Hill Branch Library, which included a massive cardboard model of the center and its surrounding blocks. However, developer Pine Street Group’s Jane Lewis told CHS in an email that the new drawings would not yet be distributed publicly: Continue reading

City Council budget debate includes Capitol Hill LGBTQ center plan — UPDATE

George Piper of Seattle LGBTQ Development spoke Monday in favor of a new Capitol Hill community center -- provided the LGBTQ community actually guides its creation

George Piper of Seattle LGBTQ Development spoke Monday in favor of a new Capitol Hill community center — provided the LGBTQ community actually guides its creation

UPDATE: Monday’s City Council budget negotiations didn’t get off to a good start for the future representative of District 3. After a prolonged debate, three proposals from City Council member Kshama Sawant failed to make the agenda, effectively killing or delaying key parts of the progressive action plan she laid out ahead of this year’s budget process.

The City Council rejected Sawant’s amendments for increased spending on homeless services, a study to create a LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill, and funding for a municipal broadband pilot project.

Debate over Sawant’s “statement of legislative intent” to have the parks department study the creation of a new Capitol Hill LGBTQ center zeroed in on the scope of Seattle’s existing community centers and if the parks department was the best agency to oversee the project. City Council member Tom Rasmussen, the council’s only gay member, lead the objection to Sawant’s proposal, saying community centers were meant to serve all residents.

“The LGBTQ community is well dispersed throughout Seattle,” he said. “To confine these services… to Capitol Hill is very limited.”

City council members approved Rasmussen’s alternative amendment (PDF), which directs the parks department to study how it can better serve residents at all of its community centers with special focus on Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center. Rasmussen said he supported the idea of a LGBTQ “impact hub” on Capitol Hill, but urged caution given past LGBTQ centers that shuttered because of dwindling public support. “It has to grow organically from the community and really have a solid business plan,” he said.

Supporters of municipal broadband were also dealt a blow after council members rejected Sawant’s $4.8 million budget amendment for a municipal broadband pilot project. Saying hatred against Comcast was the “great uniter” in Seattle, Sawant proposed funding the amendment though a tax on businesses based on the number of employees they have.

Council members were expected to take a final vote on the budget amendments Monday afternoon.

UPDATE: The Department of Neighborhood’s would reorganize itself around the new City Council districts under a budget resolution put forward by Council member Sally Bagshaw There are currently nine district coordinators assigned to 13 neighborhood districts which now overlay seven council districts. The statement of legislative intent (PDF) doesn’t necessarily require neighborhood districts match council districts, but instructs DON to study its options in a preliminary report due May 1st.

The plan should include proposals for changes or modifications to the Neighborhood District Coordinators program, including proposals for updated job descriptions, protocols for working with district Councilmembers, and improvements to the City’s relationship to the existing District Councils and City Neighborhood Council.

Continue reading

Spots on Broadway, E Olive Way, E Madison could be open to pot shops under new Seattle proposal

Yellow areas on the right show where pot shops may be allowed under new rules.


The number of allowable locations for pot shops on Capitol Hill could expand under a new set of rules released Thursday. Mayor Ed Murray unveiled changes to the Seattle land use code that would, among other things, amend the 1,000-foot buffer rule to allow pot shops to open closer to parks and libraries. Meanwhile, state regulators are in Seattle Monday night for a public hearing on Washington’s medical marijuana rules.

Under the proposed changes in Seattle, the 1,000-foot buffer would be reduced to 500 feet, opening up the possibility for I-502 retail locations on or near Broadway, E Olive Way, E Madison, and 15th Ave, according to an unofficial map (PDF) provided by the Mayor’s Office. Continue reading

Sawant won, now what?

Sawant on Election Night (Image: CHS)

Sawant on Election Night (Image: CHS)

As Kshama Sawant awaits to start her four-year stint at the helm of Council District 3, the logistics of assuming the office are already underway. Coin flips to decide who gets two corner offices, shuffling staffs, and behind the scenes negotiating for committee assignments are all playing out inside City Hall.

After King County Elections certifies the vote on November 24th, Sawant and the rest of the council will be sworn into office in a small ceremony the following day sometime in December. During her election night speech, Sawant called on her supporters to pack the chambers for a rally. The one exception will be Position 9’s Lorena Gonzalez, who will be sworn in this month on the 24th as City Council member John Okamoto’s temporary position technically ends as soon as the ballot is certified.

The real action happens January 4th, when members elect the council president and committee chairs. It’s been an open secret for some time that City Council member Bruce Harrell wants to take the presidency. First he will have to secure a win in District 2 race, where he’s leading Tammy Morales by just 357 votes as of Friday.

Sawant has previously said she wants to chair the housing and human services committee after chairing the energy committee during her first term. Continue reading