Capitol Hill notes on Seattle’s new $4.8 billion budget: City workers get $15, nonprofit min wage help, design review reform plus more cops, better policing, help for the homeless, CD bike share, and library upgrades

Cash from the Real Estate Excise Tax will go to library upgrades and “Re-Imagined Spaces” across the city — including the Capitol Hill branch (Image: J Brew via Flickr)

The City Council is slated to adopt the city’s 2015-2016 budget on Monday. Earlier this month the council’s budget committee added some spending items to Mayor Ed Murray’s budget before unanimously passing it on to a full council vote, so don’t expect too many tweaks ahead of Monday’s final vote. To continue the theme of the original Murray package, Seattle’s new boom times mean growth not cuts. The council followed suit with most effort in the past few weeks spent on adding line items, not cutting. The council meeting starts at 2 PM.

In all, the council added $8.6 million worth of 2015 spending items onto Murray’s budget. To put that in perspective, the total package tallies more than $4.8 billion. The most notable additions are two items that affect city workers: Accelerate the $15 minimum wage hike to 2015 for all city workers ($810,000 in 2015) and offer paid parental leave for all city workers ($250,000 for 2015).

The council also added $200,000 to hire investigators for the newly created Office of Labor Standards, which will enforce the city’s minimum wage and paid sick time laws. It also ponied up with $1.7 million to help nonprofits comply with the minimum wage law.

The council’s additions also include a $1 million commitment to a proposed regional Transit Orientated Development fund and $50,000 to support reforms to the city’s design review process. Continue reading

City Hall’s affordable housing committee puts Capitol Hill demographics in its sights

Starting this week, the mayor-appointed group tasked with producing an affordable housing plan for Seattle by May 2015 is digging in with a series of public meetings.

While past city efforts to create more affordable housing have targeted Seattle’s poorest, City Hall officials say the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee will be considering a much wider band Seattle residents — a band that should include many on Capitol Hill.

Yes, even you.

In the lead-up to forming the committee, Mayor Ed Murray invoked the need to support longtime residents and those who choose, and may one day choose, to make Seattle home. In other words, working stiffs trying to eek it out in increasingly expensive neighborhoods.

Here’s a look at the income levels for one and two person households that the committee will be targeting:

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On Thursday some of the 28 committee members will be at the Garfield Community Center for a public meeting to hear what you want and need from a plan. The mayor won’t be making an appearance. Continue reading

Pro-density group loses challenge to zoning adjustments to shrink building size

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This 5-story microhousing development in a Lowrise 3 zone at 11th and Republican is the type of development new zoning rules would attempt to restrict. (Photo: CHS)

A city arbitrator has rejected a pro-density group’s appeal of zoning code changes that seek to scale back the size of new housing projects, including future microhousing and townhouse developments around Capitol Hill. The decision paves the way for the “down-zone” in Lowrise 3 areas to go to the City Council for a vote.

In October, the Seattle Hearing Examiner rejected an appeal from the developer-backed group Smart Growth Seattle, which argued the new adjustments ignore increasing demands for development in the city. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Arts District gets to work with promotion now, development incentives later

Council finance and culture chair Nick Licata at Saturday's ceremony (Images: CHS)

Council finance and culture chair Nick Licata at Saturday’s ceremony (Images: CHS)

The Capitol Hill Arts District was launched Saturday. It has plenty of work to do.

“There’s a chance that half of these artists, myself included, won’t be able to live here in five years,” says Amanda Manitach. She’s standing beside fellow artist Jesse Higman inside Hugo House, amid 11 fresh-baked artistic renditions of a day in the life of Capitol Hill: sketches, video, poems.

Manitach says she knows one artist who’s already considering homelessness in order to remain on the Hill. “It kill[s] me,” she says. “This guy has a job. In my opinion he makes some of the most thoughtfully political and aesthetically poignant art in the region.”

With property values and rents skyrocketing in the country’s fastest-growing big city, Manitach isn’t alone in her fear that development on Capitol Hill will wash away all the interesting poor people who made it desirable in the first place, transforming a countercultural gayborhood into a wasteland of luxury apartments and trite party bars.

Manitach

Manitach

But there’s some good news. The City Council is ready to vote Monday afternoon to christen Capitol Hill as Seattle’s first bona fide Arts District. The Office of Arts and Culture describes the district as “an attempt to bring cohesion” to the “constellation of arts organizations” splattered around E Pine and 12th Ave via a combination of community organizing, public advertising, and zoning incentives that will hopefully prompt developers to provision for the creation, and creators, of art. Continue reading

Taking on big job with ACLU, Holcomb will stay on Capitol Hill but won’t take on Sawant

Holcomb and son Dashiell outside the Capitol Hill library (Image courtesy Alison Holcomb)

Holcomb and son Dashiell outside the Capitol Hill library (Image courtesy Alison Holcomb)

Capitol Hill’s Alison Holcomb, architect of I-502 and hoped by some to be a candidate for the new District 3 seat on the City Council next fall, will instead step into a role with the ACLU leading a new $50 million nationwide ACLU campaign to “end mass incarceration” and reduce America’s jailed population.

Holcomb told CHS she and her family won’t be leaving Capitol Hill but that her travel schedule is about to get very busy. That’s good news for friends and loved ones — and also for any fans of Broadway crack cocktail joint Witness.

In a letter on the announcement, Holcomb apologized to supporters hoping she might make a more business-friendly run for the District 3 seat against current Council member Kshama Sawant. “I hope you understand that I simply cannot resist this challenge,” she writes.

This summer, CHS spoke with Holcomb about her undeclared “race” for a seat under the newly created district format. “I think it’s very important that she distinguish between being an activist and a legislator,” Holcomb said of a possible run against Sawant at the time.

Transit riders will reap 2015 rewards of newly approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District on Capitol Hill and beyond

Seattle Transportation Benefit District Routes

Seattle Transportation Benefit District Routes

Yes, indeed, the 47 will come back. Seattle transit riders will reap relatively immediate benefits from Tuesday’s Election Night tally signaling approval of a new Seattle Transportation Benefit District. Officials announced Wednesday that upgrades, fixes, and restoration of service to King County Metro bus lines serving the city will be rolled out in June and September of 2015.

The new district funding will drive three areas of immediate improvement:

  • Add new buses to all 16 Seattle routes that are chronically overcrowded
  • Fix the schedules of all 48 routes that are chronically unreliable
  • Add frequency to 28 high-demand routes

“The message from voters is clear: Seattle riders value Metro Transit, and with this vote, Metro will have the means to deliver more transit for the people of Seattle,” King County Exec Dow Constantine said in a statement detailing the next steps in the district’s creation.

Here’s how the improvements will roll out:

  • More buses on all 16 routes that are chronically overcrowded: Routes C, D, 5, 8, 15X, 16, 18X, 28, 40, 41, 44, 48, 70, 71X, 72, and 74X Continue reading

Capitol Hill food+drink | Governor, mayor at soon-to-open Stateside to launch initiative to help indie restaurateurs

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Stateside owner Eric Johnson surrounded by elected officials inside his under construction E Pike restaurant (Photo: CHS)

Earlier this year first-time restaurant owner Eric Johnson discovered he needed to have part of E Pike closed off in order to run a new gas line into his upcoming French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant, Stateside. Unsure where to turn, Johnson was put in touch with the city’s Office of Economic Development and Jennifer Tam, who helped expedite the work.

On Thursday, a cast of top elected officials appeared at Stateside to announce the formalization of Tam’s role as the city’s restaurant advocate and the launch of a new initiative intended to help guide Seattle’s first time restaurateurs through the multi-layered process of opening a new business.

A sneak peek at Stateside's color (Image @shaunhong via Instagram)

A sneak peek at Stateside’s colors (Image @shaunhong via Instagram)

Thanks in part to Tam’s work, Johnson said he expects Stateside to open by late November. “Just having one real person to turn to helps,” he said. Continue reading

Seattle creates its first ‘Arts and Cultural District’ on Capitol Hill

It's not the headquarters for the district but the new 12th Ave Arts will be a big part of the launch  (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

It’s not the headquarters for the district but the new 12th Ave Arts will be a big part of the launch (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Capitol Hill Housing and others have already moved into the new office spaces -- the stages will be put into motion come 2015 (Image: New Century Theater via Facebook)

Capitol Hill Housing and others have already moved into the new office spaces — the stages will be put into motion come 2015 (Image: New Century Theater via Facebook)

With $50,000 in federal money to help kick it off, City Hall will finally begin to put shape to a multi-year quest by creating Seattle’s first “Arts and Cultural District” on Capitol Hill. The program will launch later in November along with the grand opening celebration of Capitol Hill Housing’s new affordable apartments + non-profit office space + restaurants + East Precinct parking + theater development, 12th Ave Arts.

But 12th Ave won’t be the center of the new Hill initiative.

“We’ve talked about Cal Anderson Park as the center of it,” City of Seattle cultural space liaison and arts entrepreneur Matthew Richter told CHS earlier this fall.

We were there in 2009 as city officials came to the Odd Fellows building to plant the seeds for the new cultural district (Image: CHS)

We were there in 2009 as city officials came to the Odd Fellows building to plant the seeds for the new cultural district (Image: CHS)

Continue reading

‘Scrunched’ on Capitol Hill

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 11.11.05 AMMaybe it’s a sign of fatigue in people’s interest level after years of debate — CHS’s first major examination of aPodment-related development came way back in the summer of 2012 — but this epic Politico examination of Seattle’s microhousing is worthy of more attention on Capitol Hill.

For one, you’ll learn more about the people behind the debate…

Like Jim Potter:

The roots of micro-housing in Seattle can be traced to a single developer named Jim Potter. At 6 foot 6, he was the movement’s Johnny Appleseed, an imposing presence with a booming voice, an aggressive businessman who owned properties up and down the state of Washington. But his true claim to fame, at least in the Seattle real estate world, was his compulsive study of the city’s zoning code.

Continue reading

City has failed to enforce paid sick leave, says auditor report

Mike McGinn signs paid sick leave into law in 2011 at Plum Bistro (Photo: CHS)

Mike McGinn signs paid sick leave into law in 2011 at Plum Bistro (Photo: CHS)

In 2011 when Mayor Mike McGinn signed mandatory paid sick leave into law on Capitol Hill, it was hailed as a major progressive victory and a crowning achievement of his administration. Then there was that small bit about actually putting it to work.

From when the law went into effect in September 2012 to December 2013, workers made 143 valid complaints about paid sick leave enforcement, but a recent report found none of those resulted in fines on employers or anything more harsh than an advisory letter. Continue reading

Got a Capitol Hill construction gripe? Growing city team makes sure developments follow rules

The dancing stop sign holder is part of the solution, not part of the problem (Image: CHS)

The dancing stop sign holder is part of the solution, not part of the problem (Image: CHS)

Good news. It appears the City of Seattle is no longer trying to kill pedestrians.

“We want to hear from people about what is working and what needs to be improved,” Brian de Place tells CHS.

And, by “people,” de Place says his hub coordinators also want to hear from you — whether you own a Capitol Hill business or not.

The Seattle Department of Transportation manager says the biweekly Capitol Hill Construction Hub meetings are working to help bring neighborhood business owners and city officials — and, hopefully increasingly, residents and community members — together to keep pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle traffic moving through the area even as the waves of continued development tear up streets, block sidewalks, and create myriad getting around issues expected and unexpected.

At one recent Friday morning meeting, the proceedings were interrupted by phone messages and texts after a chemical toilet contractor began its regular pump-out session in front of Bowie Salon just as the business’s owner described the very problem to SDOT representatives present at the meeting. Continue reading

Proposed developer fees could drastically expand city’s affordable housing efforts

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Areas where the fee could be implemented (Image: City of Seattle)

The Seattle City Council moved one step closer to implementing a long-discussed program to place a fee on new construction in Seattle in order to expand the city’s affordable housing efforts.

On Tuesday, members of the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee unanimously passed a resolution stating the council’s intent to draft a so-called linkage fee program and instructs relevant city departments to start drawing up the plans. The resolution will go before the full council on October 20th. It will likely take several months for a draft ordinance to surface, council members said.

The linkage fee would replace the city’s existing incentive zoning program and could generate multiple times more funding for affordable housing projects. Under the initial proposal, developers in certain area could either pay a per-square-foot fee or dedicate at least 3% – 5% of the units in their project to those making below 80% of the area mean income.

The proposal has drawn serious ire from developers and their attorneys, some of whom were present at previous committee meetings. Council member Sally Clark said during Tuesday’s committee meeting that it was not lost on her that perhaps dozens of attorneys were listening in, but she said the plan would move forward. “This deals with a good problem to have, an affordability crunch due to the strong desire to develop in the city of Seattle,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray has tapped the expertise of Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos and others for his housing affordability advisory committee. The flurry of affordable housing activity comes as Seattle recently became the 10th most expensive U.S. city for renters with rents rising faster than any other major city.

Mark your Seattle calendars for Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2015

(Image: City of Seattle)

(Image: City of Seattle)

Monday, Mayor Ed Murray signed the resolution proclaiming the second Monday in October “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in Seattle:

“Seattle sits on the homelands of many tribal nations,” Murray said at a ceremony surrounded by tribal leaders and City councilmembers. “We have many ongoing works with our neighbor tribes, and we welcome the tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have come to call this city home. Today’s commemoration is intended to spark a productive conversation about the contributions of indigenous peoples, and, most importantly, their continued involvement in the cultural fabric of our community and the entire country.”1559303_732859353454876_4236350902395162747_o

Mark your calendars. Next year you won’t have to be sad about the holiday. You can learn more about the resolution here.