Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce seeks new leader as Wells steps down

Wells at a Capitol Hill candidate debate pitting McGinn vs. Murray (Image: CHS)

Wells at a Capitol Hill candidate debate pitting McGinn vs. Murray (Image: CHS)

With a significant change in its purpose and culture on the rapidly approaching horizon, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new person to represent its more than 300 members.

In a Thursday morning announcement, the business community and advocacy organization said that Michael Wells is leaving the organization after serving as executive director at the nonprofit for five years.

Like our thriving neighborhood, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce continues to evolve. And, today, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce announces Michael Wells, the Chamber’s Executive Director, has decided to leave the organization. Michael’s departure comes after nearly ten years of distinguished service as president of the board and more recently as Executive Director. Michael advanced many of the neighborhood and the organization’s goals and helped strengthen Capitol Hill community by connecting leaders from organizations across the Hill. We are incredibly proud of the work that Michael has done for the neighborhood, and his legacy with this organization will live on.

“Michael will be sorely missed, but with the strength of our partners, our incredible members, and our diverse and representative board, we believe the future is strong, and we look forward to continuing to serve you and Capitol Hill,” the announcement reads. Wells will leave his role at the end of the month, according to the statement from the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

The chamber board is currently co-chaired by Jill Cronauer, director of property management at Capitol Hill developer Hunters Capital, and resident representative Meghann Glavin who works at Starbucks.

In a letter accompanying the statement, Wells recalled his days as a Broadway business owner at Bailey Coy Books and the “astonishing decade of change” in the neighborhood.

It’s time to move on.  After over a decade of working for the Capitol Chamber of Commerce – first as a volunteer and the first President of the Board of Directors, then as staff – I’ve decided to pursue other opportunities.  It’s been an astonishing decade of change for me and for Capitol Hill.  As a small business manager and owner (Bailey/Coy Books, R.I.P.), I struggled and celebrated with all of you in the good times and bad as an indie, locally owned business.  And after the closing of the store I made the economic health and prosperity of this neighborhood that I love so very much my work.

Wells tells CHS he is taking time to assess his options before announcing what comes next. Continue reading

Mayor Murray set to unveil affordable housing legislation as Capitol Hill rent climb hasn’t quit — UPDATE


Murray unveils new affordable housing legislation on First Hill (Photo: CHS)

Murray unveils new affordable housing legislation on First Hill (Photo: CHS)


Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 2.35.31 PMIt’s time for the rubber to meet the road at City Hall where officials are aiming to create 20,000 new units of affordable housing in Seattle over the next decade. Mayor Ed Murray and City Council member Mike O’Brien were set to announce new housing legislation Tuesday that will create 6,000 of those units over ten years.

UPDATE 12:50 PM: One way or another, all new development in Seattle over the next decade will contribute to affordable housing. That was the message from Murray and O’Brien as they unveiled two pieces of proposed legislation (PDF) Tuesday afternoon at First Hill’s Cascade Court Apartments.

The first measure, known as mandatory inclusionary housing, would require all new multifamily buildings to make 5-8% of their units affordable to those making 60% of the area median income or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund. In 2013, Seattle households at 60% AMI took in $40,487. The plan calls for affordability to be calculated at 30% of income, meaning affordable units would be rent restricted to around $1,000 a month.

Developers would have the option to build an additional story, but they must pay-or-play regardless if that story is built. The rate at which developers would pay into the fund has not yet been determined. The fund will prioritize building housing within the same neighborhood from which the fees are generated, O’Brien said.

The second measure, known as the commercial linkage fee, would require all new commercial development to pay $5-$17 per square foot into an affordable housing fund. The option to build additional floor area will be included to help builders offset the fee. Developers would also have the option of providing an equivalent amount of housing offsite.

“This is a bold, progressive proposal where growth itself will support affordable and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods,” Murray said.

O’Brien said the bills will be introduced at City Council next week. A public hearing on the proposals will be held September 9th at 5:30 PM at City Hall. Continue reading

Seattle closes its first ‘$15 minimum wage’ investigation

It’s been five months since Seattle’s minimum wage law went into effect, effectively giving thousands of workers a pay raise as well as creating a new office to investigate violations of the law. Earlier this month, the relatively new Office of Labor Standards launched a dashboard to track the number of wage complaints and investigations.

So far there’s been just one closed investigation of wage theft in Seattle. It came against Homegrown sandwich shop, which has several locations in the city including one inside Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market.

According to Homegrown co-owner Ben Friedman, the investigation was opened in May after Homegrown was found to be miscalculating their tip credit at all their Seattle locations. Under the minimum wage ordinance, the tip credit allows smaller companies to pay $10 an hour if employees make $11 an hour with tips.

“Within days of receiving the notice, we sent letters out to all of our employees affected by the issue, along with back pay plus interest. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards quickly closed their investigation,” Friedman told CHS in an email. Continue reading

EcoDistrict growing into Hill’s next big thing

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 5.20.46 PMSprouted from a grant from Capitol Hill’s super-green Bullitt Center and backed by one of the neighborhood’s most quietly powerful organizations in Capitol Hill Housing, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is apparently ready to blossom into a major player in the neighborhood’s growth.

The district took a turn in the spotlight in front of City Council Tuesday afternoon to highlight its environmental accomplishments since its rainy April 2013 start and what green initiatives director Joel Sisolak has planned next for the organization beyond the intriguing E Pike pedestrian zone test. But it was the discussion with Council members about a different kind of green on Capitol Hill following the presentation that might be the most important harbinger of EcoDistrict things to come.

A Capitol Hill 2020 initiative spearheaded by director Michael Wells and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce has laid the groundwork for a major expansion of the Broadway BIA that currently funds cleaning, and marketing along the street into a much wider-ranging entity — with a much more significant budget that could put more than $2 million in funding annually into motion around the Hill.

Many of the initiatives Seattle City Hall would like to see to win its needed approval of the expansion — especially from the planning and land use perspective — line up with the EcoDistrict’s direction presented Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t want to be dealing with the BIA and the EcoDistrict separately,” Burgess said at Tuesday’s hearing with EcoDistrict director Sisolak. Continue reading

City vows to crack down on hookah lounges as opponents call the move xenophobic

(Image: King's Hookah Lounge)

(Image: King’s Hookah Lounge)

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The murder of International District community leader Donnie Chin has City Hall targeting Seattle’s hookah lounges. Monday afternoon, the City Council’s chambers were again filled with community members speaking for and against the proposed ban that would close 11 lounges around Seattle.

According to Seattle Police, hours before the murder two suspects were inside King’s Hookah Lounge at 8th Ave and S Lane, near where Chin was gunned down.

The incident has put a spotlight on the lounges where customers go to smoke flavored tobacco through Middle Eastern water pipes. According to Mayor Ed Murray, more than 100 fights and disturbances have been connected to the lounges since 2012.

Murray announced he would be directing the city’s health and law departments to ramp up enforcement of the lounges. The state currently bans smoking in places of employment, as does a provision in Seattle’s business licensing code that goes into effect this week. “These establishments are unlawful businesses that continue to thumb their noses at the law,” Murray said in a statement. Continue reading

As community-powered Broadway Hill Park finally digs in, grants awarded to tool library, Central Area Block Party

Thanks to reader Neal for the picture

Thanks to reader Neal for the picture

Broadway Hill Park schematic

Broadway Hill Park schematic

Construction is finally ready to begin to create Broadway Hill Park on the empty lot at the corner of Federal and Republican some five years after the land was purchased by the city for $2 million.

The city’s Opportunity Fund grant process helped push the project to its final stages with a $750,000 boost. Another $17,500 from a Neighborhood Matching Fund Small and Simple grant paid for for the schematic design including community gardening, art, and open spaces. That design, by the way, has been ready and on the shelf since 2011. The long wait hasn’t been a total waste, however. Neighbors have put the lot at one time lined up for a development project to some good use as a place to hangout — and sometimes more.

Meanwhile, a new wave of grants will help create new greenspaces and community projects around Central Seattle. The Capitol Hill Tool Library and a pocket park at 19th and Madison are just a couple of the projects that received matching grants from the city last week.

The Department of Neighborhoods awarded just over $467,000 in neighborhood matching grants through its Small and Simple Projects Fund. Neighborhood groups have pledged match with $600,000 in volunteer hours and donations to receive the grants.

Here are the Capitol Hill and Central District specific projects:

  • $25,000 to Friends of Cayton Corner Park to prepare construction documents for a neighborhood pocket park on Capitol Hill. (Community match: $12,630)
  • $12,000 to Capitol Hill Housing Foundation to engage renters living in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict in voter registration and a 2016 Renters Summit. (Community match: $30,980)
  • $16,000 to Sustainable Capitol Hill to create a community tool library and fixer’s collective to provide items to check out or use in the workshop. (Community match: $42,100)
  • $10,000 to Gay City Health Project to solicit public input to create a database of health care providers to ensure the LGBTQ community has access to high quality, competent healthcare. (Community match: $7,220)
  • $11,500 to 23rd Avenue ACT (Action Core Team) to produce the Central Area Block Party in September to highlight the history and culture of the community. (Community match: $10,712)

Both the Cayton Corner Park and tool library are projects that have been several years in the making. Residents around the Cayton park have been working since at least 2013 to spruce up the triangle parcel. Sustainable Capitol Hill found a home for its tool share program in March at Crawford Pl and E Pike inside the First Covenant Church.

The application for Small and Simple grants reopens in October.


City launches AlertSeattle to send emergency notices via text and email

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 11.15.41 AMEmergency preparedness on Capitol Hill may be lagging, but a new City of Seattle service is offering users the opportunity to get real time updates in emergency situations through text messages and email.

The City rolled out AlertSeattle this week, a notification system that pushes out information on what to do in major emergencies like earthquakes, explosions, flooding and other disasters. In the case of an earthquake, for instance, you may get a text like this:

AlertSeattle: A 7.5 earthquake occurred at 10:55 a.m. on the Seattle fault line. Drop, cover and hold on during aftershocks. Visit for safety information.

The customizable service will also alert users to severe weather, public safety issues, utility service disruptions, and major traffic incidents. The number of alerts you get will depend on what type of alerts you want and how many addresses you add to your profile.

It only takes a couple minutes to create an AlertSeattle profile, which the City will not share with outside parties. The service also gives you the option of sharing your profile with 911 operators. Signing up at is free, but message and data rates may apply.

“People can customize what alerts they want to receive and how they want to be notified,” said Barb Graff, director of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management. “Getting good information out quickly is critical during emergencies, and AlertSeattle is an excellent tool for people to stay informed.”

The group Capitol Hill Prepares, perhaps the most active emergency preparedness group in the Central Area, recently announced it would be dissolving its earthquake preparedness activities as a city-identified “Hub.” The announcement came just before a much circulated New Yorker story was published, reminding everyone how “toast” the Pacific Northwest will be when “the big one” hits.

Learn more about AlertSeattle at

Seattle LGBTQ Task Force recommendations include public safety, youth — and more rainbow crosswalks on Capitol Hill

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

Its signs may be blue and white but the crosswalks around Capitol Hill Station will be rainbows. While it likely won’t be the most effectual of the recommendations, a proposal to add more rainbow crosswalks to Capitol Hill is part of a plan released Thursday by Mayor Ed Murray’s LGBTQ Task Force “to support a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBTQ people in Seattle.”

Let’s hope this one doesn’t get rolled back.

“Seattle has long been a place where everyone can find an accepting and tolerant home,” Murray is quoted as saying in the announcement of the task force recommendations. “We celebrate our history of advancing equity for the LGBTQ community and we will support efforts to make Seattle even more inclusive. Thank you to the task force for identifying these actions to reduce the violent attacks and verbal harassment experienced by LGBTQ people.”

The LGBTQ Task Force plan is organized into four areas: Public Safety, LGBTQ Youth, the Built Environment, and Public Understanding:

·         Seattle Police Department will continue the Safe Place program to identify local businesses that will shelter victims of harassment until officers arrive.

·         The Department of Neighborhoods will use Neighborhood Matching Funds to support projects that promote LGBTQ safety.

·         The City will direct more resources to support Project EQTY and other social service providers that work with LGBT youth. Continue reading

Only two of Seattle’s 85 pot tickets handed out in East Precinct

Seattle Police issued 85 tickets for public marijuana use in the second half of 2014 — but only two in the East Precinct including Capitol Hill and the Central District. Meanwhile, males and blacks were disproportionately cited for public pot violations.

The statistics were discussed in a Monday morning City Council briefing with Chief Kathleen O’Toole as the department continues to study the public safety impact from I-502’s legalization of retail marijuana. The trends match the first half of 2014 when it was revealed that one downtown bicycle officer had written nearly 80% of Seattle’s pot citations.

The numbers area also important for advocates seeking to create new venues for people to consume marijuana. CHS has reported on the renter’s paradox under I-502 in which apartment dwellers may have nowhere to go to smoke pot due to lease restrictions.

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Of the 85 tickets issued from July through December 2014, only two were handed out in the East Precinct — 94% of Seattle’s citations were handed out downtown.

The citation totals do not, however, include SPD traffic stops and contacts for suspected marijuana use. An SPD dispatch dataset shows five different marijuana related incidents handled in the East Precinct in the past week, each of them in the Pike/Pine core or near Cal Anderson, three initiated by a “suspicious stop” by the officer. None of the five, by the way, resulted in a citation.

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Here are the other breakdowns for the 2014 dataset including the racial component showing 27% of citations were issued to African Americans.

The dataset also reveals one additional aspect of enforcing public marijuana consumption laws — only 9.4% of the 2014 tickets have been paid.

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Sawant and Licata will face-off with pro-development duo in rent control debate

11017071_997832463595084_4462568534337995994_oIt won’t be the decisive bout on the issue of rent control, but a Monday evening debate will be the first major event in Seattle to focus on the policy.

In the left corner, City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant and her Council colleague Nick Licata. In the right corner, Republican state Rep. Matthew Manweller of Ellensberg and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck will officiate.

Rent control has been a key campaign issue for Sawant in this years election. She elucidated some of her ideas on the issue here, including why many of her economist colleagues oppose the policy.

At the developer-backed organization Smart Growth Seattle, Valdez has spent much of his energy advocating for pro-density policies at the city level. He’s also written about how the city should use affordability policies already in place instead of pursuing rent control. Manweller is also not a fan: Continue reading