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Justin is publisher of CHS. You can reach him at chs@capitolhillseattle.com or call/txt (206) 399-5959. Follow @jseattle on Twitter or be best pals on Facebook.

What San Francisco’s magical rent equation says about Seattle affordability

Familiar Places. Familar Faces.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 1.41.59 PMThe numbers from an online rental site claim Seattle’s rents jumped 11% this month compared to May 2015. Our last serious look in March revealed a continued rise despite a flood of new units coming into the market on Capitol Hill. Our quick and dirty sampling method shows about a 3% jump this May compared to May 2015 for 1BR and studio units. The only thing the various analyses of Seattle’s rents and affordability seem to agree on is the numbers keep rising.


Here’s what they’re saying San Francisco, Seattle’s “Ghost of Christmas Future” model city: From A guy just transcribed 30 years of for-rent ads. Here’s what it taught us about housing prices

(Image: Eric Fischer)

(Image: Eric Fischer)

This is as close as you’re ever likely to see to an answer to life, the universe and everything.

It’s a chart that almost perfectly predicts the San Francisco housing market using only three variables:

  1. The number of jobs located in San Francisco County.
  2. The number of places in San Francisco County for people to live.
  3. The total amount of money that is paid to everyone who works jobs in San Francisco County.

It’s all summarized in the formula at the top of the chart. If you gave me values for (1), (2) and (3) above, then I could predict to you with startling accuracy how much the median two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco will cost to rent in that situation.

 The “guy” posted here about his findings:

It would take a 53% increase in the housing supply (200,000 new units), or a 44% drop in CPI-adjusted salaries, or a 51% drop in employment, to cut prices by two thirds.

Looking for affordability answers for Seattle? You have four choices, apparently. Cut tons of jobs. Cut salaries. Make everything really, really expensive (OK, we’re working on that!), or build way more housing — somewhere around 50% more.

Seattle’s proposed housing levy is set up to help boost the creation of 20,000 new affordable units in the city in the next decade. But sounds like we might need a few new “un-affordable” ones, too — to the tune of several thousand:

Instead, I’m going to close with a lesson for cities that are adding jobs and/or wealth faster than homes but are not yet San Francisco: Portland, Seattle, Austin, Denver, Minneapolis. Maybe Oakland and Los Angeles and San Diego and DC still, too. For the love of god, keep adding homes. Keep adding homes so things don’t get any worse and you’re not trapped in a lose-lose-lose shitstorm like San Francisco.

Capitol Hill now has a Mystic Kombucha tasting room

The Mystic crew (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

The Mystic crew (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_6807If you are walking down 12th Ave and the sign is out, you know a small pocket of Capitol Hill food and drink community is open for you to stop in, talk with the people making something new to taste, and have a glass of neighborhood kombucha.

Mystic Kombucha quietly opened its new tasting room and kombucha bar a few weeks back. But the goal has been more to create a hangout than a new point of sale.

“By design, I was like, how can we not have a counter here,” founder Carlos da Silva said on a recent “tour” of the puny eight by fourteen foot space along 12th Ave.

Covered in raw cedar and purposefully reminiscent of a sauna, da Silva’s new Mystic showroom isn’t the kind of place you’ll want to settle into with a laptop. Stopping in for a drink means zero separation between staff and customer. You’ll have no choice but to render an opinion of the kombucha creations on tap. Unless you can take the close-up, face-to-face silence. Give it a try.

“How can we create something in this neighborhood where people feel they can connect with each other,” da Silva said of the genesis for creating a purposefully tiny tasting room. There is reportedly five times more room behind the walls, unused except for a small kegerator and a refrigerator.

Mystic got its start on 12th Ave in the kitchen at nearby Scratch Deli. da Silva and Caitlin Matteson grew the scobies and the business and now go throw “a keg a day” at cafes across the city plus “numerous kegs” every Sunday at the Broadway farmers market. In the meantime, a community of kombucha is growing in Central Seattle. Seattle first kombucha brewery, CommuniTea opened its new facility and tap room at 21st and Union earlier this spring.

da Silva said the goals for Mystic on 12th will remain small. Hours for the tasting room will vary. Watch for the a-frame sign to be out and people hanging out in the streetside space. There will be food and drink pop-ups from like-minded producers from time to time and da Silva said he is also hoping to make the space available for small community gatherings.

“We’re not here to sell you kombucha,” he said. “The real goal is to create intimacy and connection between the people who like kombucha and the people who work for mystic.”

Mystic Kombucha is located at 1711 12th Ave. You can learn more at facebook.com/mystickombucha.

Major outage knocks out power to downtown Seattle

A major power outage caused by equipment failure at a substation swept across downtown Seattle from Pioneer Square to the waterfront Wednesday just before noon. The outage could last hours, according to Seattle City Light. UPDATE: City Light has bumped up its estimate and now predict service should be restored by 12:40 PM. Some reports of restored power began to trickle out around 12:15 PM. UPDATE x2: Power was restored around 12:30 PM. City Light says no customer count is yet available but around 12,000 meters were involved in the outage. The investigation of the cause of the equipment failure is underway. Continue reading

Woman dies following bike crash along First Hill Streetcar tracks

Family and friends are mourning the passing of Desiree McCloud. The 27-year-old died Tuesday of injuries sustained the morning of Friday, May 13th when she crashed as she rode with friends near the First Hill Streetcar tracks at 13th and Yesler.

Investigation of the now deadly crash is underway.

The people riding with McCloud the morning of the just after 10 AM crash told police that McCloud appeared to wobble as they rode together westbound on E Yesler. One said she appeared to slip on or near the First Hill Streetcar tracks which run along E Yesler starting at 12th Ave. Two of the riders crashed and McCloud reportedly flipped over her handlebars and hit the pavement. Arriving medics found her face down in the middle of E Yesler, her face and body scraped from the crash. UPDATE: Police say McCloud was wearing a helmet when she crashed. McCloud was unable to provide a statement to police and was rushed to Harborview where she died Tuesday after more than a week of hospitalization.

If the investigation confirms that the tracks caused the crash, McCloud’s death will be the first involving a bicyclist and the new line that finally opened for service earlier this year. The tracks have been in place since 2014. The dangers for cyclists riding around streetcar tracks are well known. Seattle’s South Lake Union line has been notorious for crashes — though we’re not aware of any deaths involving that route. But the busy street environment can make the dangerous interactions difficult to avoid. On E Yesler where McCloud crashed, the tracks curve onto the street to and from 14th Ave and are adjacent marked bike lanes and yellow signs warn of the tracks. There is nothing to prevent a rider from inadvertently crossing into the track line where tires get easily stuck.

Elsewhere on the First Hill Streetcar route, planners included the separated Broadway bikeway to reduce bicyclist interactions with the tracks. The Seattle Bike Blog published this safety guide for riding near the tracks.

McCloud’s friends and family have been raising funds to help cover her medical bills. “As many of you probably heard, Desiree passed away this morning,” the latest update reads. “I want to thank everyone who donated here; the amount of love and support shown here and elsewhere was amazing.” You can give here.

UPDATE: The Seattle Bike Blog has posted several remembrances of McCloud sent by friends. Here’s one passage:

Des was an amazing human being who created a whole community in Seattle. She was was an integral part of welcoming me when I arrived here three years ago. She was always there to help someone in need. From helping her friends change out their wardrobes because she thought they lacked fashion sense to rescuing friends from the Midwest and helping them find jobs in Seattle. She was always there for us. She volunteered with the Girl Scouts as a troop leader and service unit manager. She taught Magic: The Gathering to many people with the Lady Planeswalkers Society at our weekly meet ups and at conventions across the region. She was ferociously intelligent and would debate you about anything and everything.

UPDATE 5/26/2016: Seattle Department of Transportation spokesperson Rick Sheridan said SDOT does not know “if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash.” “Our review process will help determine if any modifications to the roadway are warranted,” he writes. The full statement is below:

The Seattle Department of Transportation was notified of the fatality at East Yesler Way and 13th Avenue by the Seattle Police Department (SPD) on May 25. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Desiree McCloud.

SPD informs us that their investigation is ongoing at this time. Following our standard protocols SDOT will undertake a fatal collision review process, which includes gathering data and conducting a site check. Our review process will help determine if any modifications to the roadway are warranted.

At this juncture, we do not know if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash. The bike lanes are separate and outside of the streetcar’s trackway at this location on Yesler. Careful consideration about bike facilities occurred during the design of the First Hill Streetcar’s alignment, with bike lanes placed away from the rails and rail crossing points designed as near to perpendicular as possible.

The CHS Crow approves: Corvus and Co. opens on Broadway

Guymon pours a drink on a busy opening night (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Guymon pours a drink on a busy opening night (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

To get an idea about how Corvus and Co., Broadway’s newly opened Levantine-flavored bar/restaurant and Capitol Hill’s second big debut of the week, took shape, ignore the crow for a minute and focus on the owl. Co-owner Izzy Guymon projected an image of the mystical beast onto the plaster that covered the original brick of the longtime Byzantion restaurant the new joint replaced. He then chipped away at it, piece by tiny piece, eventually forming the relief that now looms over the new space.

It’s not about being meticulous — it’s about pounding it out and carving something new. Corvus, which opened officially Monday night on northern Broadway, is hoped to bridge the gap between the pretensions of Capitol Hill’s craft cocktail scene and the real power of community and, well, spirit in its bars and restaurants.

“We’re not a craft bar, we’re not a dive bar, we’re right in between,” Guymon told CHS Monday night. Continue reading

No answers yet in investigation of 20th Ave E fire

The construction site where the fire is believed to have started and the neighboring house where the flames spread (Image: CHS)

The construction site where the fire is believed to have started and the neighboring house where the flames spread (Image: CHS)

The work to document the scene and identify the cause of a massive fire that destroyed a 20th Ave E home under construction and mostly gutted a neighboring house has not been completed pending efforts to make the site safe for a full investigation, Seattle Fire tells CHS.

Neighbors awoke early Saturday morning just after 4 AM to a 40-foot wall of flame mid-block on 20th Ave E between Highland and Prospect where the framing of an under-construction rebuild of a single-family home turned into an incredible bonfire shooting sparks into clouds of smoke and sending frisbee-size blocks of ash dropping through the neighborhood.

Firefighters after

The fight shifts to the southern house (Image: CHS)

Continue reading

How about a 3D ‘pop-up’ maze for Capitol Hill’s Summit pavement park?

(Image: logicmazes.com)

Something like this on Summit? (Image: logicmazes.com)

The City of Seattle has crunched the numbers and processed the feedback for Capitol Hill’s first Pavement to Parks project. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation planner working on the project, this is what City Hall heard about the opportunity to claim 3,000 square feet of Summit Ave between Denny and Olive for community use beyond parking and driving:

  • The results from this survey indicated significant interest in providing seating and natural elements in the new public space.
  • Several people also suggested painting a ground plane mural on the street that would celebrate Capitol Hill’s arts culture. The idea of an interactive maze (similar to the new painting at Seattle Center) received strong support from the respondents.
  • Based on these results, we discussed creating a 3D pop-up maze that could include benches and planters integrated with a painted maze on the street surface

According to an email sent to representatives of community groups working on the project, the city is thinking about holding “a maze mural competition in the neighborhood to involve the local artists in the design of space” and holding a vote to select a favorite design. The vote will likely take place during the July 14th Capitol Hill Art Walk.

According to the email, SDOT will reach out to “adjacent businesses and property owners” about the project.

First look: 15th Ave E’s Bar Vacilando

A completely overhauled 15th Ave E restaurant and bar began a new journey last week as Bar Vacilando made its debut.

The new Capitol Hill venue from the Black Bottle family of food and drink takes over after a long period of emptiness for the space formerly home to 22 Doors. Co-owner Chris Linker told CHS earlier this month his intention for Bar Vacilando at 15th and Harrison was not to open a fancy restaurant, but a bar with really nice food. “We want people to feel like they can disarm … let time slow down a little bit,” he told us. “It’s more of an analog restaurant than a hyper-digital restaurant.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing’s annual forum: 5 projects to ‘gearshift’ the Hill

Imagine the CHS comments section come to life. You know… a deep, well-informed conversation about the most important issues and opportunities facing Capitol Hill and the people of Central Seattle. With fewer trolls and people complaining about my tiptoes typos.

Capitol Hill Housing’s annual community forum is Thursday night, the location is Hill-convenient at E Pike’s Summit Event Space, the tickets are free and still available. The theme? Gearshift:

When people talk about “shifting gears” they often mean abruptly changing direction or the topic of conversation. This idiom is confusing. On a bicycle, shifting gears has little to do with changing direction. Rather, shifting gears on a bike is about maintaining an optimal effort for maximum efficiency. It’s about making on-the-fly adjustments to keep moving over uneven terrain without getting exhausted. Shifting gears is more appropriately a metaphor for resilience.

Some important and smart people will be there:

On May 26th, five professional urban planners and passionate community organizers will introduce these ambitious projects in a rapid-fire series of Pecha Kucha-style presentations followed by an opportunity for each guest to participate in a facilitated discussion about one of the five projects. Presenters include Sierra Hansen of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Scott Bonjukian of Lid I-5, Alex Brennan from Capitol Hill Housing, Zachary Pullin of the Capitol Hill Community Council and Tonya Lockyer of Velocity Dance Center.  Civic leaders (City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien are confirmed) will be there to listen and respond to your comments.

This year’s forum will be a little different with multiple presentations on a set of hot topics undoubtedly culled from recent CHS archives:

The evening will feature five projects with the potential to increase the resilience of the neighborhood. The five projects:

The annual forum — CHH says this is the 9th edition — has been out in front on a variety of important initiatives and issues around the area while foreshadowing big projects to come from the city and the nonprofit developer. In 2015, the forum discussed gentrification and development in the Central District. In the year since, we’ve followed as massive projects have taken shape, more are coming, and the challenges of change have taken new forms in the community that CHH is slated to become an important new part of.

Capitol Hill Housing’s work around Capitol Hill, meanwhile, continues as the nonprofit developer of affordable housing enters its 40th year. It has been selected to be part of the Capitol Hill Station development to operate an 86-unit affordable apartment building at the site. As part of its mission to build “vibrant, engaged communities,” the 40-year-old community development corporation has frequently found itself outside the traditional role of housing developer. Through the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, CHH organized the pedestrian zone pilot project and will launch a transit pass program for tenants, and a shared parking pilot.

Gearshift: Capitol Hill Housing’s Community Forum 2016 is Thursday, May 26 starting at 5:00 PM at The Summit, 420 E Pike. Free tickets are available here.

CHS Pics | Big turnout as Capitol Hill hosts first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival


Ice Cream Festival 2016 - 15 of 17
Sunday’s first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival might be the first when the exaggerated number of people claiming to be interested in a Facebook event may have been close to accurate.

It’s unlikely that 55,000 or even 15,000 attended — but if enthusiasm is any sign, the second festival might be a slightly larger production.

Sunday, a few thousand people stuffed 11th Ave and filled in the open marketplace of Chophouse Row to sample a taste or buy a scoop or three of the frozen treats from some of Capitol Hill and the city’s leading ice cream producers: Sweet Bumpas, Molly Moon, Bluebird, Cupcake Royale, Gelatiamo, Balleywood Creamery, Kurt Farm Shop, Full Tilt, Parfait, Half Pint, Trove, and Pink’s. Songs will be sung of the dozen first year providers who braved the pandemonium. Even neighboring doggie daycare Play on the Hill got in on the act with frozen treats for canine pals. Continue reading