‘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

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 2.02.49 PM

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.

Bright artists wanted for solar-powered Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk project

Quick -- somebody call Susan Robb (Image: CHS)

Quick — somebody call Susan Robb (Image: CHS)

Seattle City Light is joining with the Office of Arts and Culture to create new artworks across Seattle that will highlight the uses and benefits of renewable solar energy. The premier component will be a Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk project. The goal is to have the new work in place on the Hill in a yet to be announced location by the sunny summer of 2015.

“The Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk will serve two main purposes. It will be a gateway/informational kiosk to the newly formed Capitol Hill Arts District which will be publicly announced on November 15, and it will also be a stand-alone artwork that uses or demonstrates solar power,” Calandra Childers of the Office of Arts and Culture told CHS. Continue reading

With SPD pushing SeaStat data-driven policing, here’s a look at Capitol Hill 2014 crime trends

It's no SeaStat. But CHS has pulled together this look at  Capitol Hill crime trends

It’s no SeaStat. But CHS has pulled together this look at Capitol Hill crime trends — yup, there’s an uptick. More charts and tables, below (Source: data.seattle.gov SPD dispatch data)

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.59.06 AMFriday, SPD brass will be back on Capitol Hill along with East Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis to update the Pike/Pine business community about the status of increased patrols in the area following a late-summer surge in street crime. The noon meeting follows weeks of “emphasis patrols” including deployment of gang units in Pike/Pine. It also caps a week of Seattle Police status updates as Chief Kathleen O’Toole — or Kathy as Mayor Ed Murray called her in a recent press conference — rolled out reports on her first quarter in command of the force and updated City Hall about her department’s new statistical approach to policing.

Monday in front of the Seattle City Council, O’Toole credited SeaStat, a newly purchased system used to map crimes and deploy officers, with putting the kibosh on what the chief said is a rising wave of crime in her new city. But she said community feedback is also driving the department’s decisions.

“We have to respond to community feedback,” she said.

“Although we’ve implemented the SeaStat system that does compile data, we’re also supplementing that with the info we get from the community.”

While we wait for SPD to update its official tallies for the first three quarters of East Precinct crime data, CHS has pulled from data.seattle.gov a dataset based on all reported incidents to compare crime around Capitol Hill through the first three quarters of 2014 vs. the same period in 2013. The good news: The overall total of reported incidents is almost exactly the same. The bad news: Things haven’t improved after 2013’s crime-y gains. Here are the totals for all East Precinct beats covering Capitol Hill.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 12.00.25 PM

Continue reading

Should state turn over I-502 pot zoning to the Seattle City Council?

Mount Calvary Christian Center prayed, rallied and waved signs Sunday at 23rd and Union (Image: CHS)

Mount Calvary Christian Center prayed, rallied and waved signs Sunday at 23rd and Union (Image: CHS)

Sumedha Majumdar — CHS Fall 2014 Intern contributed to this report.

As protest continues in the Central District over a retail marijuana shop opening next to a church, community members and city officials are asking for a review of how pot shops are located in Seattle. Is it already time for lawmakers to start making changes to the state’s young recreational marijuana law?

In August, CHS spoke with I-502 author Alison Holcomb about how the law was progressing. At the time, we discussed the possibility of giving local officials authority to approve the locations of I-502 stores, rather than the state liquor board. Couldn’t Seattle’s City Council approve the location of 21 retail marijuana shop locations under its own rules?

“Politically it’s a lot cleaner,” Holcomb said this summer. “That makes a lot of sense to me.” Continue reading

City Hall | Happy Indigenous People’s Day, Seattle

seal-seattleHere are the latest Capitol Hill-affecting votes and maneuverings from Seattle’s City Hall:

  • Indigenous People’s Day: Next Monday, October 13th, and every second Monday of October thereafter, please join CHS in celebrating Indigenous People’s Day in Seattle. Monday, the City Council voted to jettison the city’s traditional observation of Columbus Day, KPLU reports:
    Mel Sheldon, former chairman of the Tulalip Tribe, was among many who testified in favor of the measure before the vote. To rounds of drumming and warm applause, he said thanks in his indigenous language, Coast Salish. “This initiative makes me proud. It makes all Indian people proud, because you’re thinking about the future generations — the children, the little ones, who are not born yet,” Sheldon said.

    Seattle Public Schools will observe the day (PDF) but, like Columbus Day, it won’t mean a day off from classes. Sorry, kids.

  • Microhousing regulation: The development of Seattle microhousing is now regulated. Monday, the City Council also approved the set of rules that has been wending its way through City Hall for two years that will create new review requirements and limit the housing type from certain areas of the city. The new regulations, however, leave space for the densest microhousing to continue in Capitol Hill’s core. The mayor had threatened a veto of the bill if it resulted in changes that would force developers to increase rents in microhousing-style apartments. The mayor backed off that threat in a statement issued following Monday’s vote. In the meantime, a judge’s decision has prompted DPD to kick 21 microhousing developments back in the planning process.
  • High-speed fiber network: Seattle will boost deployment of its fiber network for internet service with a bill passed by City Council “removing excessive administrative requirements for siting of new broadband cabinets, incentivizing smaller cabinets that deliver higher speeds and requiring landscaping and screening in neighborhoods.” The Central District will be among the city’s first neighborhoods to benefit from the new rules.
  • Budget hearing: The first public hearing for the proposed 2015-6 City of Seattle budget will be Tuesday, October 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Garfield Community Center, 2323 East Cherry Street. CHS reported here on Mayor Ed Murray’s first budget proposal including money for 50 new police officers and expansion of bike sharing to the Central District.

In year marked by deadly hate crimes, SPD says will ‘err on the side of caution’ on bias

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.15.25 AMIn a year with two of the most horrendous hate crime incidents in the city’s history, Seattle Police officials provided their annual update on bias crime to the City Council Monday morning.

Assistant Chief Nick Metz told the council that directives at SPD have shifted to “err on the side of caution.”

“If somebody says they believe an action is biased related, we’re going to act on that,” Metz said.

The annual number of reported, investigated bias crimes in the city is relatively low compared to other types of assaults or threats.

In the East Precinct covering Capitol Hill, SPD says there have been 10 incidents investigated in the area with the majority of those happening in Pike/Pine.

CHS has mapped nine of the ten 2014 reports below. A tenth occurred in recent weeks in an incident at R Place that has not yet been widely reported. In that incident, Metz said a “young man” threatened patrons at the club, making “some threats” and “made gestures he had gun.” “Our officers immediately responded and made an arrest,” Metz said. UPDATE: More details on the arrest have been added to the end of this post.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.08.55 AM Continue reading

Planners: Capitol Hill has room for 71% more residential units


Above, a 1906-built house on Malden Ave E awaits the start of its move a few dozen yards to make space for a new townhouse project

Under current zoning, Urban Centers like parts of Capitol Hill, have lots of room for growth, city planners say (Source: City of Seattle Development Capacity Report)

Under current zoning, Urban Centers like parts of Capitol Hill, have lots of room for growth, city planners say (Source: City of Seattle Development Capacity Report)

Think Capitol Hill is a densely populated, bustling urban neighborhood? Just wait.

The Department of Planning and Development earlier this month released a revised Development Capacity Report as part of its every 10-year review of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The full report is embedded at the bottom of this post.

According to the report’s estimates, under current zoning, Capitol Hill could add more than 19,000 residential units to its existing 26,600, an increase of about 71%. In the report, Capitol Hill includes the sub-areas of Capitol Hill, Pike/Pine, First Hill and 12th Ave.

The commercial side could see an increase of more than 950,000 square feet of space, in addition to the existing 11.9 million square feet. This would translate into enough space for about 3,200 more jobs, above the current 40,100, an increase of almost 8%.

The forecasts and estimates will play a big role as Seattle sets about updating its next 20-year plan by mid-2015. In the meantime, rents in Seattle are rising faster than in any other major U.S. city — and, as any renter was probably sad to read on CHS, they’re rising even faster on Capitol Hill.

Continue reading

City Council approves plan to require food-waste recycling starting in 2015


Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 4.10.39 PMThe City Council Monday approved a plan to require food-waste recycling in Seattle starting in 2015 — with fines for noncompliance by next summer.

Council Bill 118195 prohibits food waste and compostable paper from disposal as garbage. The requirements for single family homes, apartments, and businesses will go into effect with the new year with new “collection fees” levied starting in July. Single family homes with recyclable material in their garbage will be dinged $1 per container. Business owners and apartment building managers will find their disposal containers tagged and will be assessed with a $50 collection fee. Continue reading

Mayor Murray unveils first Seattle budget proposal — What’s in it for Capitol Hill? More cops, construction access program, library work, bike share in the Central District

General Fund Budget Outlook: "Steady growth in the local economy supports a generally positive outlook for General Fund revenues. The forecast anticipates annual revenue growth of 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent for 2015 and 2016, respectively, relative to the 2014 Adopted Budget. This would match the modest, but steady revenue growth the City has experienced in recent years. And as we now move into the sixth year of post- recession recovery, there is evidence that the pace of the U.S. economic expansion is increasing. At the national level, consumer confidence has reached its highest level since 2007, and employment growth over the past six months has been strong. The local economy continues to outperform the nation and the rest of Washington state. Growth in the technology and aerospace sectors has been a key driver, as has been a significant “boom” in construction activity in Seattle. The commercial sector has been an important component of this rapid expansion in construction, but residential investment has been notable. Currently there are over 14,000 housing units permitted but not yet completed, the highest level in recent decades."

General Fund Budget Outlook: “Steady growth in the local economy supports a generally positive outlook for General Fund revenues. The forecast anticipates annual revenue growth of 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent for 2015 and 2016, respectively, relative to the 2014 Adopted Budget. This would match the modest, but steady revenue growth the City has experienced in recent years. And as we now move into the sixth year of post- recession recovery, there is evidence that the pace of the U.S. economic expansion is increasing. At the national level, consumer confidence has reached its highest level since 2007, and employment growth over the past six months has been strong.
The local economy continues to outperform the nation and the rest of Washington state. Growth in the technology and aerospace sectors has been a key driver, as has been a significant “boom” in construction activity in Seattle. The commercial sector has been an important component of this rapid expansion in construction, but residential investment has been notable. Currently there are over 14,000 housing units permitted but not yet completed, the highest level in recent decades.”

timeline-221x550

Murray on his tour of Capitol Hill "Find It, Fix It" spots earlier this month (Image: CHS)

Murray on his tour of Capitol Hill “Find It, Fix It” spots earlier this month (Image: CHS)

Ed Murray is showing where the money lands in his priorities for Seattle as the mayor details his proposals for the city’s $4.8 billion 2015-2016 budget in a Monday afternoon presentation to the City Council.

“I believe the budget is where this City can show how government can be an incubator of change and support bold policy experimentation,” Murray said.

Murray said Seattle’s local economy is growing but growth in city services is not keeping pace.

The mayor also announced that some of his budget proposals are designed to replace services cut at the county and state level. The King County budget proposal was also released Monday.

Murray has already revealed details for some of his highest priorities in the new proposals:

  • Public safety: In response to a surge in street crime on Capitol Hill and in downtown, Murray announced his intention to put $3.3 million behind the hiring of more officers and the development of new tools and resources to improve policing in Seattle:
    Mayor Murray’s 2015-16 budget for the Seattle Police Department will propose funding more civilian expertise, including a civilian Chief Operating Officer and a civilian Chief Information Officer for improved operations and systems management and innovation. The COO has been hired, and has already implemented CompStat, the crime and disorder data tracking and analysis method made famous by Commissioner William Bratton in New York City in the 1990s, where it was credited with reducing crime by 60 percent.
    The mayor’s office says Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole is also “conducting a resource allocation study of position assignments within the department,” and available officers will be reassigned from “lower priority work” to “the high-priority work of patrol.”
  • Homelessness and mental health: In the same announcement, Murray’s office pledged $2.75 million for human services, including $1.5 million for more homelessness services in Seattle including money to “backfill” the DESC of Seattle service centers budget, support Project 360 to aid homeless youth, and help fund the Urban Rest Stop hygiene center.
  • Minimum wage: As the new minimum wage takes effect and begins the climb to $15 in 2015, the mayor teamed with the City Council’s Nick Licata to announce plans to create a seven-person Office of Labor Standards to enforce the new rules and other Seattle workplace issues. The Office of Labor Standards would have a budget of $511,000 in 2015 and $660,000 in 2016. The director of the office will report to the mayor.
  • Education and Early Learning: Murray plans to reorganize the city’s education and support programs into a new Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL). The new department would house 38 employees and manage a budget of $48.5 million, including $30 million each year from the voter-approved Families and Education Levy.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 2.29.00 PMIn Monday afternoon’s announcement, CHS is also on the lookout for planning around transit spending in light of the November ballot measure to support Metro schedules in Seattle with an increase in the sales tax, and specific Capitol Hill-related line items.

  • AffordabilityMayor Murray is committed to developing a coordinated set of strategies that address critical affordable housing needs in Seattle. Development of a Housing Affordability Agenda and planning for the 2016 Housing Levy renewal are closely linked. The proposed budget provides the Office of Housing with the funding needed to research new and expanded strategies to ensure Seattle has housing affordable to diverse household types across a range of income levels. In 2015 and 2016, $125,000 in funding will support the development of the Housing Affordability Agenda. In addition, in 2015 $185,000 will support planning for renewal of the 2016 Housing Levy.

Continue reading