Seattle gains a woonerf: 12th Ave Square Park now open

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(Images: CHS)

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Newly completed 12th Ave Square Park is the kind of open space you need to create in a tightly packed, Central Seattle neighborhood. Where once was an empty, 7,322-square-foot, gravel-covered lot, now is a paved plaza with native plantings, raised pedestals, and a rubber coated mound that answers the cross-neighborhood call of Cal Anderson’s Teletubby Hill. Above it all floats a sculpture by artist Ellen Sollod.

All that and you can drive through it thanks to the James Ct woonerf that runs softly (and one way, only) through the edge of the new public space. Continue reading

3,000 down, 17,000 to go? Mayor proposes $290 million Seattle Housing Levy

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 6.06.29 PMMayor Ed Murray introduced his proposal Wednesday for a doubling of the Seattle Housing Levy to create a $290 million pool “to preserve and produce affordable housing” as the city moves forward on its goal to create 20,000 affordable units by 2025.

“Expanding the Housing Levy is the most important thing we will do this year to support affordability in Seattle,” Murray said in the plan’s announcement. “We know what works – build more affordable homes for low-income families, preserve the affordable housing we have, and keep people from falling into homelessness – and we must renew our commitment and expand the levy so we can do even more.”

A community meeting on the proposal will be held on Capitol Hill later this month. The levy could go to voters as early as August.

CHS reported on the mayor’s levy plans in January as officials responded to the growing Seattle homelessness crisis with calls for more funding. District 3 rep Kshama Sawant has called on City Hall “to allocate $10 million for additional shelter beds” immediately, a call that has — so far — gone unheeded. Sawant also last week repeated her calls for Seattle to move forward with rent control and using the city’s “bonding capacity” to build affordable housing.

Wednesday’s announcement will bring a new 7-year ballot measure to Seattle voters later this year:

Responding to a broad range of affordability needs in Seattle, Mayor Murray’s initial 2016 Housing Levy proposal will produce affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities, low-wage workers, and people experiencing homelessness. The Levy also provides funding for homelessness prevention and homeownership assistance. The program areas include:

  • Rental Production and Preservation ($201 million capital funding; $39 million operating funding):The Levy proposal will produce and preserve 2,150 apartments affordable for at least 50 years, and reinvest in 350 existing affordable apartments. The proposal also provides operating funds to supplement tenant-paid rent in 475 apartments serving extremely low-income residents. Continue reading

This week in CHS history | Super Bowl celebration, Neighbours arson arrest, Basic Plumbing closure

IMG_4702Here are the top stories from this week in CHS history:

Capitol Hill’s gay film festival is now TWIST

Twist-logoIn 1995, Capitol Hill’s Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival was born. In 2016, it chose a new identity.

Come October, the 21st year of the festival from 12th Ave Arts headquartered Three Dollar Bill Cinema will come under a new name — TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival.

“We’re just bringing a new name and fresh attitude to our steadfast community event,” executive director Jason Plourde said in a statement on the new name. “Our fans can still expect the spectacular films, great parties, and creative programs we’ve produced all along.”

After “a survey that garnered hundreds of responses” and “numerous meetings with staff, board, and stakeholders,” Three Dollar chose the new festival brand for its “film connotations,” and because it evokes “a festive, social, and celebratory spirit,” and  “something unique and off-center, an unexpected surprise to be discovered and revealed, beyond the usual norms and conventions.”

The 2016 festival returns October 13th through 23rd. You can learn more at


CHS Pics | Take a tour of E Union’s Tiny House Village


The E Union Tiny House Village celebrated with a housewarming Saturday as the 15-unit Nickelsville and Low Income Housing Institute project on a Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd-owned lot welcomed neighbors and the people who built the little homes for a donation drive and tour with residents.

“I’m glad Seattle is actually doing something to help the homeless,” said Tyler Buell, a student from a Renton Technical College program that helped construct the residences. “Sometimes you just need a place to keep your stuff, get warm. So that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.”

Several organizations including Seattle Central Wood Technology students built the 15 two-person houses with their own funding. Each house cost roughly $2,200 in materials, are wired for electricity. One requirement was that the houses be moveable in case of a need to move the community or redeploy one of the units elsewhere. A bathroom pavilion, a kitchen tent, and showers were also part of the village plans.

Residents for the new homes were chosen from within the Nickelsville community with priority given to veterans and longtime members. Governance will be handled within the community itself.

In 2015, more than 45 people died on the street in Seattle and Mayor Ed Murray declared a homelessness state of emergency. Organizers hope that the Union Tiny House Village is the first of many in Seattle.

For students like Buell, the project was also an opportunity to increase his house-building skills including roofing and framing. He’s hopeful that more villages like this one will be built.

“A lot of success stories come from people who were down at the bottom and rose up,” Buell said.

IMG_2119 IMG_2096 Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | First Hill Streetcar Celebration Edition

CHS historian Robert Ketcherside pledged to bring us regular editions of Re:Takes featuring the rich transit history of the neighborhood until the First Hill Streetcar began service. Robert, you may now rest.

Below, we’ve assembled Ketcherside’s recent editions as well as a few streetcar-focused stories from the Re:Take archives. Happy streetcar!

  • Blood, snow, and Madison streetcarsRecently, we were surprised again with snowflakes, one or two at a time trying their hardest to stick on the wet pavement. Every so often, though, Seattle gets a good snow. Look at those mounds in this old photo, which came undated from the State Archives. It must have been 1916. I’ve been dating these photos “circa 1913″ that I copied a few years ago. But there was only one snow event from that period that resembled this, two feet over a 24-hour period at the start of February. More…
  • When will the 27,500-day streetcar service delay end?Well, is that man above in 1913 worried about driving his horses into the back of the number 49 bus? No, he is staring back at you, right through a rip in the fabric of space-time, right into your soul, and the horses have ceased to exist to him. And so it is with me. I will blindly whip this wagon right into the back of a pastel, cherry-blossom adorned streetcar in the public interest of a shared understanding of our streetcar past. More…
  • Electric cars to Capitol Hill, 1901: We’re looking at a legit Capitol Hill streetcar: the destination placard actually says Capitol Hill on it. This line to James Moore’s new neighborhood opened on November 17, 1901. There was service on Broadway a decade earlier, but Capitol Hill didn’t exist yet and it was one of many independently operated routes in the city. In 1899 and 1900 Seattle Electric Company took control of almost every line, and the Capitol Hill line became one of their first newly constructed streetcars. More…
  • Waiting for the First Hill Streetcar? Take a trip on Broadway, Pike/Pine lines past: Our first streetcar photo was taken on Broadway south of Pike, standing in the road in front of Harvard Market QFC. More than just the two visible streetcar lines ran through here were when it was taken in 1913. But let’s stick with them. More…
  • The very first Broadway streetcar: If you’re well schooled on Capitol Hill history, you know these origin stories: David Denny began selling and leasing John Nagle‘s property along Broadway in 1880, and James Moore developed the Capitol Hill area near Volunteer Park after 1900. We’re going to talk about the period in between, a piece of early streetcar history that has not been chronicled. More…
  • Love letters shaped our city (Summit Line part 1)
  • Home is where the park is (Summit Line part 2)
  • Forgotten plans for our Hill (Summit Line Part 3)
  • Cashing in on the Summit real estate boom (Summit Line Part 4)

This week in CHS history | William Wingate apology, Unicorn is born, Twilight Exit shooting

8473084494_d34cec0053_oHere are the top stories from this week in CHS history:


First Hill Streetcar begins service with free rides — UPDATE


First departure from Broadway and Denny (Image: CHS)

Go take a ride on the First Hill Streetcar. Saturday, the 2.5-mile line connecting Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill begins service. During the “promotional service” period, rides are free. The first streetcar should be leaving the Broadway and Denny end of things around 11 AM Saturday. Got a picture or video of your first ride? Send it to CHS.

UPDATE 1:35 PM: A bright yellow streetcar on the grayest of Seattle days was filled with around 60 riders and a driver named Tom for the first departure of the First Hill Streetcar from the Broadway/Denny stop Saturday morning.

With a “clang clang” and a round of applause, the streetcar departed just after 11:20 AM after getting the go ahead from operations that the train carrying Mayor Ed Murray and a huddle of dignitaries and community representatives had departed from Pioneer Square on the other end of the 2.5-mile route. On a day when the launch of the new $138 million streetcar line had already been downplayed by Seattle Department of Transportation officials, Murray also distanced himself from the brightly painted set of six shiny, new, Czech-designed cars. The mayor said he inherited a project that was delayed but was now happy the line was running.

The streetcar is on it's official!

The streetcar is on… it’s official!

On the Broadway end of things, there was a little more enthusiasm. Some riders said they thought they would use the new line to visit the International District to shop at Uwajimaya or go out to eat in Pioneer Square. Some said they doubted they’d ever ride again except when tourists are in town to visit. A few riders said the line represented a more solid, perhaps more dependable kind of transit that they could be more confident in trusting to show up with regularity and provide a comfortable ride.

But it will be a slow ride. Even in light, Saturday morning traffic and with rather quick boarding and exits at the 10 stops along the line, it took nearly 25 minutes to travel from Broadway and Denny to Occidental Square. With the streetcar sharing lanes with with vehicular traffic and on a route that comes sometimes perilously close to cars parked on the street near the tracks, expect slower times when the line is needed most during rush hours.

Nobody but the media photographers trying to capture a small moment in Seattle history really seemed to be in a rush for Saturday’s first rides, however. Most riders were out to see the new streetcars and enjoy a free ride. The $2.25 fare will remain waived through a few weeks while the system ramps up. SDOT director Scott Kubly, who was part of the first ride out of Pioneer Square, is promising a larger celebration complete with lion dancers and a ribbon cutting when the line is ready for a “grand opening” in a few weeks.

The six streetcars travel the 2.5-mile line’s 10 stops every 10 to 15 minutes from 5 AM to 1 AM Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from 10 AM to 8 PM. The streetcar travels in the traffic lane sharing space with automobiles and buses. Most left turns along the route have been eliminated and signals are now coordinated to help keep the streetcar moving. From Pioneer Square to Broadway, the streetcar will operate with power from a single overhead wire. Hybrid batteries will provide power generated through “regenerative braking” on the mostly downhill return trip. 3,000 riders are expected to use the First Hill line every day with fares set by Sound Transit. The standard adult fare is $2.25. After the free period, riders without ORCA cards will be able to purchase tickets at fare box machines located on station platforms. You can learn more at


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CHS Pics | This week in Capitol Hill pictures

Chair in the RainThe CHS Flickr Pool contains more than 30,000 photographs -— most of Capitol Hill images, many glorious, some technically amazing. The pool is a mix of contributions from Capitol Hill — and nearby — shutterbugs. Interested in being part of it? If we like your photo and it helps us tell the story, we may feature it on CHS so please include your name and/or a link to your website so we can properly credit you. Interested in working as a paid CHS contributor for scheduled assignments? Drop us a line –- our roster is full for general assignments but pitch us on an idea. jan 7-0023

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Capitol Hill Community Council hosts ‘Meet Your Neighbors’ at 12th Ave Arts

12473732_10154488698038696_4731768886099979158_o (1)As the Capitol Hill Community Council digs in on the issues its neighbors care the most about, it is also setting out to put a little more social in its social justice. Thursday night, join the council for the first in what it has planned as “bi-monthly social gatherings” —

Meet Your Neighbors: Wine and Beer Social
Thursday, January 21st at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
12th Avenue Arts 1620 12th Ave, Seattle, Washington 98122
Come to the first edition of our bi-monthly social gatherings. This month we’re meeting at 12th Avenue Arts for a chance to get to know your neighbors, meet the members of the community council, talk with electeds, and enjoy free beer and wine (and snacks!)

You might even get to meet somebody from CHS!

Community issues CHS readers said they were most interested to learn more about in this October poll

Community issues CHS readers said they were most interested to learn more about in this October poll

If you attend, think about how you go about that first handshake with president Zachary Pullin:

Our council serves in the spirit of “the firm” handshake, meaning that when neighbors experiencing homelessness need a place to stay inside during the winter, we respect their dignity and will advocate for finding warm shelter in our neighborhood. It also means that we want to be strong against increased hate violence toward the LGBTQ community. And it means we want to find safe, supportive places and services if you’re a neighbor struggling with substance use, which translates into advocating for funding and implementation of the LEAD Program in our neighborhood.