Defense to appeal 10-year sentence in Neighbours arson case

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 10.00.19 AMAttorneys for convicted Neighbours arsonist Musab Masmari have filed an appeal of the 10-year sentence in the case.

“Because of the political nature of this case, one always suspected this could happen,” defense attorney Charles Swift said after the July decision by Judge Ricardo S. Martinez to double the five years both sides in the case had agreed to. Prosecutors told CHS at the time that they believed Masmari had an anti-gay bias but they asked the judge to not raise the sentence based on hate crime motivations because it would open the possibility of appeals.

The Seattle Weekly broke the news on the appeal and reported more on attorney Charles Swift’s involvement in the case:

As with Hamdan’s case, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Masmari’s sentence was political, Swift thinks. Shortly after the term was handed down by U.S. Judge Ricardo Martinez on July 31 – doubling the five-year sentence that prosecutors and Masmari had agreed to in a plea bargain – Swift told reporters he was worried this could happen “because of the political nature of this case.” The next day, he gave notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, challenging the sentence. He is set to file his appellate brief by Halloween.

Masmari, a former Capitol Hill resident, pleaded guilty to setting a New Year’s Eve fire inside a crowded Neighbours nightclub. The arsonist blamed his actions on drinking too much alcohol before setting the fire. In the statement Masmari said he drank an entire “cheap bottle of whiskey” on New Year’s Eve and said he did not remember what happened afterwards. “This defendant violated people’s right to gather safely: he put more than 700 lives at risk when he purposely started a fire at a crowded nightclub on New Year’s Eve,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan in a written statement in May.

Extended First Hill Streetcar, bikeway will (probably) terminate at Roy in 2017, funding still unresolved

(Image: SDOT)

(Image: SDOT)

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.18.38 PMFor years, maps of the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway have shown a dotted line extending north of E Denny Way to indicate the possible addition of two or three more stops to the route. The city is now ready to fill-in that line, and end it at Broadway and Roy.

Officials at the Seattle Department of Transportation say they have settled on a $25 million extension of the streetcar with a stop at Broadway and Harrison and a terminus at Broadway and Roy — two stops bewilderingly known as the Broadway Streetcar. The city had been considering an additional third stop at 10th and Prospect, but officials said the estimated $12 million price tag outweighed the benefits of extending the line near Volunteer Park.

“In some respects, the writing was on the wall. When we came back with the gross cost estimates, it was a lot,” said SDOT spokesperson Art Brochet.

The First Hill Street car is expected to open in November, running from Pioneer Square to a temporary Capitol Hill terminus at E Denny Way. When service begins, the First Hill Streetcar will have ten stations along a 2.5 mile route from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way and will connect Pioneer Square, the ID, Little Saigon, First Hill and Capitol Hill.

Planning for the half-mile, two-stop extension is now 30% complete. Brochet said construction of the two stops could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017. Continue reading

Ferguson protests take to the streets of Capitol Hill and the Central District

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The tensions around the police shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have inspired protests and rallies in Seattle. At 23rd and Union, a group has been rallying daily at 4:30 PM to raise their signs and voices on race issues and police violence. Demonstrations in the Central District and on Capitol Hill have been relatively small and almost wholly non-violent — though Friday night, attendees at the rally reportedly dragged a large planter into the intersection at 23rd and Union and briefly disrupted traffic. Saturday night, a small group of 20 to 30 demonstrators met at Seattle Central before braving Broadway for a brief march up and down the busy street chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Meanwhile, criticism of the Ferguson police shooting and response has been nearly universally negative. “Don’t tear gas nonviolent and not-threatening protesters. And for God’s sake, don’t bring dogs out … It’s a throwback to the ‘60s and Bull Connor. The imagery sucks. It was really painful to see the images I saw from Ferguson,” former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper told the LA Times. Stamper oversaw SPD’s response to the 1999 WTO riots.

Freeman flagship shop opens on Capitol Hill (but hopefully you don’t need a rain jacket… for a little while)

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Frank and the Freemans inside the new Loveless shop (Image: CHS)

Last Friday marked the opening for the Capitol Hill flagship shop Freeman, the formerly online-only, made-in-Seattle outerwear company best known for its primary-colored rain jackets. Located in the Loveless Building, the mostly menswear store — they now make a Lady Freeman rain jacket for women, cinched waist and all — is now officially part of the neighborhood shopping district at the end of Broadway neighboring longtimers Kobo and Joe Bar and newcomer Restaurant Marron.

It’s not the most common direction for a store to go from online to brick and mortar, but the three-person team behind Freeman is eager to get to know its customers face-to-face, which is partly why the company decided to open its first-ever shop on Capitol Hill.

“We love how people in the neighborhood are stopping by and seeing what’s going on,” Scott Freeman told CHS, who originally thought about opening in Ballard before deciding on the north end of Broadway. Continue reading

Developers vying to build Capitol Hill Station housing+retail say properties are overvalued

Screen-Shot-2014-04-16-at-9.31.23-PMSiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1Shortlisted firms vying to buy and develop four parcels of land above the future Capitol Hill light rail station are raising concerns that Sound Transit’s asking price for the properties is far too high, possibly even double what it’s worth. Sound Transit officials say it’s fair market value for some of the most prized property in the city.

The parcel most in question is the Broadway-facing Site A, where a large portion of the site must be reserved for a semi-public plaza to accommodate events like the Broadway Farmers Market, as stipulated in the project’s community forged Development Agreement.

At a Monday meeting with Sound Transit officials inside King Street Station, several developers said a potential $18.7 million price tag for Site A should be cut in half since only half of the parcel can be developed for residential and retail uses. Continue reading

High demand: Parking rate increases coming to Broadway, Pike/Pine

In an effort to free up more paid parking around Capitol Hill, or at least to get most people to park their cars in legal spaces, the city is raising paid parking rates by 50 cents along two busy neighborhood corridors.

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Occupancy rates in Pike/Pine (Image: SDOT)

Starting this month, metered parking rates in Pike/Pine went up 50 cents to $2.50 an hour. The City Council approved the rate bump in June following a recommendation from the Seattle Department of Transportation. SDOT also announced this month that rates around “Capitol Hill North” (metered spaces on and around Broadway north of E John) will go up 50 cents in October to $3.50 an hour. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station’s crane ready to depart Broadway’s skyline after 3 1/2 years

Capitol Hill Station's shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill Station’s shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

A part of the neighborhood skyline for nearly 1,300 days is slated to wave its 250-foot arm goodbye to Capitol Hill this month. The giant crane purchased by Sound Transit contractors that has helped build Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill will be taken down, disassembled, and transported north to help build a new station in Roosevelt.

Sound Transit says it will require approximately 20 trucks to cart the giant crane. More information about the crane’s August removal will be announced soon. The Krøll 1800 (Capitol Hill’s is the metric model) was set up with its enormous 250-foot jib about 100 feet off the ground. The model can be as tall as 200 feet. It can lift more than 30,000 pounds at full extension and more than 130,000 when operating at a shorter radius, according to the manufacturer. Continue reading

Capitol Hill food+drink | Nightlife veteran building Broadway’s Herb and Bitter with his own two hands

(Image: King County)

(Image: King County)

Buried beneath layers of drywall and all those mirrors, you might not have noticed that the old Broadway home of Than Brothers is a classic, 1923-built masonry storefront. But Jesus Escobar noticed. He is working away this summer to unbury that past and prepare the space for a new Capitol Hill food and drink venture that he’ll build with his own two hands.

Herb and Bitter Public House will bring a new paired bar and restaurant project to north Broadway from a longtime Seattle food, nightlife, and style entrepreneur.

“I want this to be recognized for what it is — unique food and unique drinks,” Escobar tells CHS while admitting that he is still working out the bits and pieces that will make the investment click as he pushes for an end-of-2014 opening. How Herb and Bitter’s bits and pieces fit together is still being worked out by the jack of all trades Escobar.

“It’s a work in progress just like the space,” he said.

Continue reading

Ahead of sentencing hearing, Neighbours arsonist blames excessive drinking — UPDATE: 10 years

UPDATE: In Seattle’s downtown federal courthouse Thursday morning, Judge Ricardo S. Martinez sentenced Musab Masmari to ten years in prison for the New Year’s arson at Capitol Hill’s Neighbours nightclub.

Martinez doubled the sentence agreed to by both sides in the case, saying it was an exceptional case of arson that was clearly premeditated and not done in an alcoholic blackout, as Masmari had said in a written statement.”The community does need to be protected from the defendant in the future,” Martinez said. “It is not believable that he would’ve been in an alcoholic blackout.”

Masmari remained emotionless as his sentence was read and did not address the court.

“This could have been much worse,” said U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg. “The people who were at the club deserve a lot of credit.”

Greenberg said Masmari had an anti-gay bias and there was reason to believe that setting the fire at Neighbours was a hate crime. However, Greenberg asked the judge not to raise the sentence based on hate crime motivations because it would not increase the sentencing guidelines and would open the possibility of appeals.

Outside the courtroom after the hearing, defense attorney Charles Swift said he may appeal the sentence. “Because of the political nature of this case, one always suspected this could happen,” he said.

Shaun Knittel, a spokesperson for Neighbours who was inside the club at the time of the fire, said he wanted to see a much higher sentence than the five years recommended in the plea agreement. “I’m actually disgusted,” he said prior to the judge’s sentencing.

Masmari at a court hearing earlier this year (Image: CHS)

Masmari, right in purple, at a court hearing earlier this year (Image: CHS)

Original Report — 7/30/14: The former Capitol Hill resident who pleaded guilty to setting a New Year’s Eve fire inside a crowded Neighbours nightclub is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday for sentencing.

Under the plea agreement Musab Masmari will serve the mandatory minimum of five years in prison, although the judge in the case could sentence the 31-year-old up to the maximum 20 years allowed by law. Continue reading

Blue Angels above Seattle, Jet Kiss below Capitol Hill

Mike Ross and crew in 2010 after after receiving the A14 fighter jet for the future installation in Capitol Hill Station (Image: Kat Nyberg Photography with permission to CHS)

Mike Ross and crew in 2010 after after receiving the A4 fighter jet for the future installation in Capitol Hill Station (Image: Kat Nyberg Photography with permission to CHS)

The return of fighter jets above the skies of Seattle has CHS thinking about the fighter jets destined to fly together underneath Capitol Hill.

For the Blue Angels, here’s when to make sure your babies, pets, and skittish friends are in a safe place over the next few days:

2014 – I-90 Seafair and Blue Angels Closures
The annual Seafair festival begins when the pirates land the first week of July and ends with the Blue Angels flying over Lake Washington in a spectacular display of aeronautics. The Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) role is to make sure drivers and pilots are safe during the annual event.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires WSDOT to close Interstate 90 while the Blue Angels perform for the safety of both drivers and pilots.

Which roads and ramps will be closed?

Interstate 90 will be closed to all vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, eastbound and westbound, mainline and express lanes, between Interstate 5 in Seattle to Island Crest Way on Mercer Island:

  • Thursday, July 31: 9:45 a.m. – noon; 1:15 – 2:40 p.m. (Practice)
  • Friday, Aug. 1:  12:15 p.m. – 2:40 p.m., (Practice)
  • Saturday, Aug. 2:  12:15 p.m. – 2:40 p.m., (Full show)
  • Sunday, Aug. 3:  12:15 p.m. – 2:40 p.m., (Full show)

Below ground and slated to hang above the boarding platform with the opening of Capitol Hill Station in 2016, Jet Kiss by artist Mike Ross features two A14 fighter jets deconstructed and re-assembled in a kind of frozen mid-air embrace. “This monumental sculpture is created from two decommissioned A-4 Skyhawk fighter jets,” Ross wrote of his creation.

The jet was one of a pair taken apart and reconfigured for the sculpture (Image: Kat Nyberg Photography with permission to CHS)

The jet was one of a pair taken apart and reconfigured for the sculpture (Image: Kat Nyberg Photography with permission to CHS)

Continue reading

Urban Animal growing into new space to serve Capitol Hill’s dogs, cats and pals

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.28.24 AMUrban Animal veterinary care clinic is moving closer to the heart of the neighborhood it has been serving for two yearswith a move to The Lyric building on 10th and Thomas in this fall

Dr. Cherri Trusheim said she wanted to keep her clinic’s well earned client base by staying in the Broadway neighborhood.

“We are expanding now,” says veterinary assistant Ross Tindale, “business has been steadily increasing on a month to month basis, this summer has been pretty crazy so far.” Continue reading

Broadway bank held up in reported armed robbery — UPDATE: Suspect photos

photo (36)Police are looking for an armed man who held up the Capitol Hill branch of Homestreet Bank Monday morning.

According to police radio dispatches, the suspect entered the bank in the 700 block of Broadway E around 9:30 AM in the hold-up. He was reportedly armed with an “old revolver.”

The suspect was described as a black male in his 30s, around 6′ with a medium build, and wearing a red jacket, blue ball cap, blue jeans and black plastic, square-framed sunglasses. He left on foot headed northbound from the north Broadway bank. The suspect’s red jacket was found discarded outside the bank.

There were no reported injuries.

UPDATE 1 PM: SPD has posted a brief and photos of the suspect –

A man wearing a red jacket and brandishing a handgun robbed a Capitol Hill bank this morning.

The suspect, who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s, walked into the Homestreet bank in the 700 block of Broadway East, displayed a gun and demanded money. Seattle police officers arrived within minutes, but the suspect had fled, ditching the jacket he was wearing.

Robbery detectives and a K9 unit responded and are searching for the man. If you know the suspect, or have any helpful information, please call 206-684-5535. The man is armed, so if you see him call 911 immediately.