Under new leadership, Capitol Hill Community Council aims to build on its unusually progressive legacy

Natalie Curtis, seated, at last year’s Capitol Hill Community Council open house at Vermillion

An anomalously diverse body as far as Seattle’s community groups go, it is also a time of transition for the Capitol Hill Community Council: As it prepares for its annual winter open house where it gathers face to face community input on what the organization’s priorities should be for the new year, council president Zachary Dewolf will hand over the reigns to the current vice president Natalie Curtis.

“I’m really excited to see Natalie Curtis lead this really critical volunteer-led community organization,” Dewolf told CHS.

Dewolf, who has been with the council since early 2013, won a decisive victory in his bid for the Position 5 seat on the Seattle School Board and is leaving the council to focus on his new duties.

Curtis, a 32-year-old Texas transplant who has served on the council’s board in various capacities over the last four years and is currently completing a master’s in nonprofit leadership and public administration at Seattle University, says she wants to increase community involvement and build on the various progressive causes and initiatives that the the organization has championed in recent years.

Capitol Hill Community Council December Open House

“I want to focus on ways to really get the pulse of the community,” Curtis said. “I’m hoping to get the community more engaged and more on board in 2018.”

Among the issues that Curtis wants to prioritize are activating the public spaces surrounding the eventual new housing developments at the Capitol Hill light rail station (such as bringing the farmers market to the development on a regular basis), working with the Seattle City Council on improving the City’s policies towards un-sanctioned homeless encampments, increasing opportunities for community members to volunteer in the neighborhood, and establishing a supervised consumption site in Capitol Hill.

“Safe consumption sites are really at the top, top top of my radar,” Curtis said. “I really want to get those going.” Continue reading

Clock starts ticking for Seattle task force to find revenue for homelessness services

While the Seattle City Council dramatically voted down a proposed tax on big businesses to fund homelessness services (otherwise known as the employee head tax) during last month’s contentious city budget negotiations, they also passed a resolution establishing a task force to study the same tax they had just voted down as well as other potential ways to pay for homelessness services.

He lost a sock

Per the resolution, the task force—which the resolution states will be composed of business owners, labor representatives, homelessness service providers, civic leaders, and experts of subjects such as healthcare, housing, and homelessness—will be selected by the council by December 11th and chaired by two council members and two community members.

After Monday afternoon when the task force is set to be finalized, the group will have until February to deliver recommendations to the council that identify progressive revenue sources as well as specific investments for said revenue that help address Seattle’s homelessness crisis.

In an ultimatum, the resolution states that, if the task force doesn’t deliver recommendations by the imposed deadline, that the council will begin considering imposing an employee head tax by March, 2018. Continue reading

Final election data maps: Capitol Hill leaned ‘anti-establishment,’ but rallied for Mosqueda

More blue = More Mosqueda

It’s no surprise that Capitol Hill leans hard to left in local elections. In 2015, socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant decisively won reelection against Urban League CEO Pamela Banks with roughly a ten point margin, and lefty Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had a solid base of support on Capitol Hill during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

The November 2017 general election results complicate this picture — but only slightly. Thanks to Phil Gardner, regional Democratic strategist, CHS has access to detailed visualizations of the final precinct-level voting data from the 2017 local general election. (November’s final election results were finalized on November 28th, according to King County Elections.) Gardner looked at voting data from the citywide Position 8 city council, mayoral, and King County Sheriff’s races. Continue reading

Who, where, how much? What we’ll learn from Seattle safe consumption site ‘feasibility study’

With $1.3 million allocated in the 2018 budget for studying and building a safe consumption site in Seattle, staff at city and county agencies are gearing up to draft the “feasibility study,” a report that will address location and costs for the site, who will pay for it, and how it will be run.

As noted in the $1.3 million budget amendment sponsored by Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson (District 4–Wallingford, University District), the report “must include a full cost estimate and a location for siting that HSD deems viable, and a scope and timeline of necessary capital improvements to create the Safe Consumption Site.”

Additionally, the budget amendment stated that the facility will provide, among other things: “supplies and space for consuming illicit drugs via injection, smoking or sublimation, and nasal inhalation”, overdose treatment (e.g. Naloxone), syringe exchange services, basic medical treatment, wraparound social services and case management, and sexual health supplies. Continue reading

After council punt on employee hours tax, what’s in the plan for Seattle’s 2018 budget — and what isn’t

Following last week’s dramatic and tumultuous implosion of a relatively small but hugely vital components of the city’s more than $6 billion proposed 2018 budget, the Seattle City Council will be voting on a highly amended budget Monday afternoon that includes notable cuts.

Last week, the City Council voted 5-4 against enacting a employee hours tax—also known as the “HOMES tax”, which would have  have taxed businesses earning more than five million in gross annual income—this figure was estimated to be around 2,200 businesses—roughly $100 per full-time employee annually, generating an estimated five million every year to fund affordable housing and other homeless services.

The tax—originally proposed by council members Mike O’Brien (District 6–Ballard) and Kirsten Harris-Talley (she is an appointed and temporary citywide member)—was pitched by chair of the budget committee, Lisa Herbold (District 1–West Seattle), as a continuous source of revenue that the City could immediately bond against to affordable housing and services.

With key elements for homelessness services and more in the budget structured around revenue from the employee hours tax, the proposal’s defeat left the council back at square one to address a $13 million dollar hole in the budget. Among the items that would’ve been funded by the tax was expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program and funds for establishing an emergency domestic violence center. Continue reading

Rule #1: No ugly buildings — Capitol Hill design guidelines up for review

Boxy. Monotonous. Ugly. We’re not sure changing the process will change the results but the City of Seattle wants to hear from you at this Thursday’s open house on changes to the Capitol Hill Design Review Guidelines.

“It’s been ten years. A lot of development has happened since then. There has been a change in the urban fabric, and there has been a call from the community to review those guidelines and bring some fresh light into them,” said Patrice Carroll, a planner with the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD). “This is advice that the board gives to someone who is developing a project.”

Capitol Hill Design Guidelines Update Open House

The guidelines, which haven’t been updated since 2005, serve as a neighborhood-specific vetting framework for projects that go through the city’s broader design review process. These guidelines inform how design review boards evaluate the exterior aesthetic of proposed projects (the guidelines include metrics such as building materials and building shape). Continue reading

‘We need to act as cities’ — what Seattle can do about gun violence

In the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Texas, local politicians are joining the national chorus of voices — yet again — calling for substantive measures to address America’s gun violence problem. Seattle’s likely mayor-elect and former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan called for municipal-level action on the issue in a statement made on Monday: “With no leadership from this Congress or our legislature, we need to act as cities,” she said.

But what does Seattle leadership on preventing gun violence look like? Local advocates for gun control and evidence-based approaches to reducing gun violence have a few ideas.

“There are a lot of things that can be done at the local level,” said Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “It’s really important that municipalities and counties are dedicated to investing resources into ensuring that the laws we know are effective are implemented.” Continue reading

Election 2017: The citywide city council races — a Capitol Hill-centric explainer

November ballots are out and voting has started. CHS election coverage has already given you a Capitol Hill thing or three to think about in the Seattle Mayor’s race pitting Jenny Durkan vs. Cary Moon. Now let’s look at the citywide City Council races. CHS has compiled a rundown on the platforms, positions, and campaign rhetoric of the four candidates for Position 8 and Position 9 with issues particularly relevant to Capitol Hill, the Central District, and District 3 in mind.

The position 8 city council seat—which was recently vacated by former veteran council member and now interim mayor, Tim Burgess—is being contested by Teresa Mosqueda, a former state-level labor union lobbyist, and Jon Grant, former director of the Tenants Union. Meanwhile, former civil rights attorney and current incumbent council member representing the Position 9 citywide seat, Lorena Gonzalez, is being challenged by South Seattle business owner and neighborhood activist Pat Murakami.

POSITION 8

This race has received the most attention and media coverage out of the two city council seats up for grabs. When Burgess announced last December that he wouldn’t seek re election, candidates began piling on to the race. The August primary pushed Mosqueda and Grant through with 31.59 and 26.87% of the vote respectively (Grant beat out Fremont Brewing owner Sara Nelson for second place by five points). Continue reading

Seattle looks at city retirement savings program for workers

Not a retirement savings plan (Image: CHS)

Fresh from being sworn into office, Mayor Tim Burgess unveiled his 2018 budget for the city, including a proposal to establish retirement savings accounts for an estimated 200,000 Seattle workers whose employers don’t provide such benefits. Some Capitol Hill business leaders are lining up to support the plan, arguing that freelancers and the nightlife industry stand to benefit.

Tuesday, the Burgess legislation was sent to the City Council to begin deliberations. “In Seattle, 200,000 workers have no retirement savings plan,” Burgess said. “That’s a recipe for long-term financial instability for those individual workers, their families, and our local economy. We know that people are far more likely to save for retirement if they have an option easily available. That’s exactly what my plan provides.”

The idea, which has been a Burgess pet project, boils down to this: The city would contract a third party administrator to process the payroll of workers within city limits whose employer doesn’t offer any savings program and deduct a small percentage of their pay to personal retirement savings accounts. The amount deducted can be determined by the employee, but the default option is between three and five percent. (Workers could also choose to opt-out of the program at any point.) This account would be portable, and would remain with the employee even if they changed jobs, a boon to freelancers and service industry employees who frequently change jobs. Continue reading

10 PM paid parking is coming to Capitol Hill

Starting in late October, paid parking hours on streets in Capitol Hill’s commercial core will be extended into the late night hours, from the current cutoff hour of 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM. It’s not all bad news, parker. Rates in some areas will come down. Of course, they’ll jump in others.

The policy shift comes as evidence shows that demand for evening parking shows no loss of appetite on Capitol Hill. Since 2010, SDOT has conducted studies of parking trends and behavior along Broadway and the Pike/Pine nightlife blocks. The most recent study from May 2017 showed that parking in these areas was at capacity between 7:00 and 10:00 PM. Data from the 2016 study illustrated a similar trend: there was no parking available between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM.

“For the past several years it’s consistently shown that parking is very full until late in the evening which makes reliable access for customers and visitors very challenging,” said Mike Estey, SDOT’s Manager of Parking Programs. “Charging for paid parking until 10:00 PM should allow access on the block[s].” Continue reading