Chamber pulls back on plan to expand ‘Business Improvement Area’ and property assessments across Hill

The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce is pulling back on a years-long plan to expand a Business Improvement Area (BIA) property assessment that would provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for providing street clean-up and merchant support across the neighborhood.

In the announcement from the chamber’s executive committee, the group said it is “re-assessing how the BIA is organized at a larger level based on the changing political situation right now in Seattle.”

“[I]t is apparent that while the intent of the proposed BIA is for a stronger and better Capitol Hill, a shifting political reality in Seattle has made communities less trustful of how money is being spent,” the chamber announcement reads. “Seattle and Capitol Hill are very different places from when this proposal was crafted.” Continue reading

Blotter | Early morning SWAT raid at Capitol Hill house, Louisa Boren greenbelt death — UPDATE

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  • SWAT raid: At least two people were taken into custody in an early Wednesday morning SWAT raid on a Capitol Hill house near 19th and E Howell. According to reports from people living in the area, booms from police explosive devices went off around 6 AM and an armored SWAT vehicle was parked in front of the house. Police were also attempting to communicate with someone inside the house using a loudspeaker. “Police are on bullhorn telling someone to come out and there were 2 big bangs,” one neighbor reported to CHS. The situation was reported as “secure” around 6:30 AM by a commander at the scene, per East Precinct radio dispatches. We’ll check with SPD to learn more about the raid. UPDATE: A spokesperson tells us SPD was not the lead agency on this morning’s raid and could provide no additional details about the arrests. UPDATE x2: No word on if it is related, but the Department of Justice announced it will hold an afternoon press conference with U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes and “other federal, state and local law enforcement leaders” for a briefing “on a major drug ring takedown involving more than 45 locations and 500 officers today in King, Pierce, Skagit, Thurston and Snohomish Counties.” “Today’s actions follow a series of drug trafficking investigations that have taken dozens of conspirators off the street, in an effort to address drug and attendant violent crime patterns in the Puget Sound Region,” the announcement reads. UPDATE x3: We’re still trying to confirm who was taken into custody this morning but the DOJ announced 35 people were arrested on drug and gun crimes in a series of FBI-led operations. “In the fourth major drug trafficking ring takedown in as many months, federal, state and local law enforcement officers fanned out across King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit and Thurston Counties to execute search warrants and arrest more than 35 members of a drug trafficking organization, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. Today’s arrests are the fourth takedown in a series of cases aimed at reducing drug and gang violence in Seattle, South King and North Pierce Counties.” UPDATE x4: We have confirmed that the raid was part of the federal drug and gun sweep.
  • Greenbelt rescue: Seattle Fire and Seattle Police made their way deep into the overgrown greenbelt below the Louisa Boren Lookout park early Wednesday after a 911 caller reported his friend was unconscious, and unresponsive at a campsite in the leafy ravine. According to East Precinct dispatches, officers located the site just after 6 AM about 1,000 yards down the steep trail below the overlook near a tree marked “Dead End.” Seattle Fire began life saving procedures on the unconscious male and he was taken back up the trail to Harborview. We do not have further information on his condition at this time. A chaplain was called to Harborview, according to Seattle Fire radio. Metro route 10 service was disrupted as police closed off E Garfield for Seattle Fire vehicles during the response. UPDATE: Seattle Fire tells us the victim, a male in his 20s, died at the scene.

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Victrola’s downtown cafe brings along Capitol Hill roots (and opportunity to make some big new giant retailer friends)

Born in 2000 on 15th Ave E, Victrola has survived neighboring competitive corporate mimicry — remember 15th Ave Coffee & Tea? — and downright overwhelming investment on a global scale. This week, the small chain of cafes has expanded into new Seattle territory directly in the maw of massive brands downtown at 3rd and Pine — and it has made some surprising alliances along the way.

Wednesday, Victrola opened its new cafe inside the Macy’s building, well off Capitol Hill.

Victrola’s Andrew Wheeler tells CHS one of the 15th Ave cafe’s earliest customers called that shop “the living room of the neighborhood.” It’s an ideal Victrola hopes to carry downtown. Continue reading

Coalition of small Capitol Hill property owners wants to halt chamber’s ‘Business Improvement Area’ expansion

Center of the opposition: This isn’t the first time Groberman has stood up against a BIA. In creating the existing Broadway BIA, planners “gerrymandered” his Harvard Market shopping center out of the assessment zone

Seattle’s “tax revolt” spring of 2018 includes a skirmish along Broadway, Pike, and Pine. Instead of a battle over “No Tax on Jobs,”  this fight pits the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce vs. a coalition of the neighborhood’s few remaining smaller and family commercial property owners and its relatively few co-op and condominium property residents. Together, the group could prove a major barrier for the chamber.

“We have huge traction to fight the proposed Business Improvement Area,” prolific Capitol Hill real estate investor Morris Groberman tells CHS.

Groberman, who owns or is partner in a collection of Capitol Hill properties including the Harvard Market shopping center at Broadway and Pike, is at the head of an effort to organize opposition to the chamber’s proposed expansion of a Business Improvement Area across most of Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Here is how Lambert House bought its Capitol Hill house — and the surprising company helping to pay for it

Faced with a buy or move $2 million question on its 15th Ave home, Lambert House has found a surprising supporter to help its mission to support queer youth on Capitol Hill.

In 1993, Lambert house began operating on Capitol Hill, and since then has become the Northwest’s leading organization in aiding queer youth. In 2016, Lambert House was given two months notice to vacate their location as the house’s third generation of family owners wanted to sell the property. Saved by an angel investor with a $2 million, zero percent interest loan, the organization was able to buy the house, and is now fundraising to pay back the loan within five years.

Tito’s Vodka approached Lambert House in March offering Lambert House a partnership with their Love, Tito’s campaign — at various local restaurants, for every drink purchased with Tito’s, Tito’s will donate $1 to Lambert House. Some participating restaurants are matching Tito’s effort, also donating $1 per drink.

Continue reading

Museum calls for removal of Confederate memorial from Capitol Hill cemetery

The NW Museum of Legends and Lore will never completely leave Capitol Hill, it seems. Fresh off rejection by the City of Seattle for its permit for the annual Broadway Pride street festival,  the museum’s directors are leading the charge targeting, of all things, the United Confederate Veterans Memorial in Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery.

Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson say they will be there Monday when a group including a former president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will call on the Seattle City Council to have the 92-year-old memorial removed from the 15th Ave E cemetery.

“The NW Museum of Legends and Lore has been requesting the monuments removal for the last two years,” the announcement reads. “We feel this will be a positive step forward for the generations who fought for unity, the current generation and future generations.” Continue reading

Defiant Ruckus growing as Capitol Hill’s non-Ike’s pot shop

Ruckus Recreational on E Republican at 15th expanded their tiny grass shop into the joint next door in January but no one on the staff remembers which day exactly. With the square footage of a van, the original low profile boutique could easily be overlooked.

“That space didn’t allow us to expand our product line,” said Ruckus owner Sam Burke, yet sales at Ruckus are only getting higher. The company grossed $261,000 in December 2017 and has grown 13.3% annually since opening two years ago, according to industry tracker Top Shelf Data.

Compared to Uncle Ike’s, the Goliath weed stronghold with a location across the street, one at 23rd and Union, and another in the works on E Olive Way, Ruckus was also an easy target for thieves. After five separate smash and grab break-ins, Burke increased security measures of the newly expanded shop.

The store opens every day at 8 AM to a sleepy stream of regulars who point to what they want with little deliberation.

“It’s just like getting up and going to buy a pack of cigarettes,” says Ruckus product buyer, Bill Eddy. Continue reading

Capitol Hill property owner takes Sullivan House landmark decision to court

Lawyers are asking the King County Superior Court to reject a well-worn, dilapidated 120-year-old Capitol Hill mansion recently approved as a Seattle historic landmark.

Saying that the decision has “prejudiced” their client by “causing the loss of a sale” and “substantially destroying the economic value of the property,” lawyers for the estate that owns the Sullivan House at 15th Ave and E Olive St. filed the lawsuit last month after the old mansion became one of the city’s most unlikely properties to go forward in the designation process that sets up controls and incentives on certain properties deemed worthy of preservation by a city convened board.

In the suit, lawyers for Elaine Thorson, the retired schoolteacher they say moved from California and plunged her life’s savings into buying out other heirs to her deceased aunt’s unique Capitol Hill apartment property, are asking the court to reverse the land use decision on the house and send the mansion back to Seattle Landmarks Board with direction to “reject the landmark nomination based on the severe economic impact such a designation will have (and has had) on the petitioners.” Continue reading

Spanning time at Flowers on 15th

Caroline Morton at play behind the counter at the 15th Ave E flower shop

Valentine’s Day is a busy one for Flowers on 15th.

Last year. the line ran out the door and, by the end of it, there wasn’t a single flower or scrap of greenery left in the shop. But nearly every day here is busy — there’s always some occasion in urgent need of floral accompaniment.

If you have spent any time on 15th Ave E between Republican and Mercer, you’ve probably seen owner Alex Soto bustling armfuls of flora into his red truck on his way to another of the day’s many deliveries. When I visited the shop on a sunny Monday morning, Soto was busy loading up flowers for the joint memorial service of former Washington Governor John Spellman and his wife, Lois, who died within days of each other at the age of 91 and 90, respectively.

Before he hurried out the door, Soto shared the best way to understand his business. “Check out our Yelps,” he said, “That’s who we are. We belong to those people. They love us because we listen to them and we do what they want us to do. The only reason people give us money is because they trust us.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Sullivan House voted for landmarks protections

Its owner says it is dilapidated, rotted in places, infested by bugs in others, and she had plans to sell it to a developer with plans to tear it down, but the 1898-built Sullivan House at 15th Ave and E Olive St. has new life after the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted Wednesday night 6-2 that the old house is worthy of its protections.

“We think it still is a castle on the Hill despite its poor condition,” said neighbor and architect Jim Castanes who was reduced to examining the house from afar using “a zoom lens and binoculars” but successfully led the effort to win the landmarks designation.

“The board has the power to keep the wrecking ball from this well-loved residence,” Castanes said.

In reaching their decision, board members focused on the old house’s “distinctive visible characteristics” of Queen Anne-style architecture as well as its prominent place at 15th and E Olive St. as one of the last of its kind in an evolving residential area of Capitol Hill. “You can see a lot of what makes it beautiful,” one board member said. “We are landmarking what exists today.” Continue reading