The Capitol Hill chamber — and with it an ambitious push for a neighborhood-wide business improvement area — is dead. What went wrong?

The chamber’s annual Hilloween festival is likely to be picked up and continued by the new guard.

When the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce shuttered in June, board members chalked its demise up to a confluence of issues and “unanticipated developments.”

A couple of “key” board members left, chamber board co-chairs Joey Burgess, and Tracy Taylor wrote in a letter at the end of May. Plus: Egan Orion, the recently appointed executive director of the chamber, decided to run for City Council, they wrote, and “a reduction of funds” from the Office of Economic Development “imposed insurmountable obstacles to operating as a true Chamber model.”

Now, two months after the announcement, interviews with former board members and others reveal a fuller picture of what happened to the nonprofit representing the neighborhood’s business community— and what is to come. Continue reading

Mayor comes to Capitol Hill to launch $50M affordable ‘Housing Seattle Now’ plan

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Wednesday two early-stage steps for more affordable housing in Seattle. One would allow the city to take advantage of a new state law allowing municipalities to use sales tax revenue to fund affordable housing. Another would renew and improve the city’s current multifamily tax exemption (MFTE) program to limit rent increases.

Durkan made these announcements in a speech in Capitol Hill’s 12th Ave Arts, which includes 88 affordable apartments developed by Capitol Hill Housing (CHH).

“We need more affordable housing in every part of this city and we need it as quickly as we can get it,” she said.

CHH’s CEO Chris Persons, introducing Durkan, stressed the urgent need for cheaper housing in Seattle and money for it, saying the organization has about 1,500 units in the pipeline but it doesn’t have the funding necessary to build them.

Included in those is a plan to create an LGBTQ-focused affordable senior housing project on Broadway.

According to the mayor’s office, the MFTE program, which provides affordable rent currently to more than 4,400 low- and middle-income households in Seattle, is expected to aid 1,300 new such homes by 2022, but without renewal, it would expire at the end of this year. Continue reading

Seattle’s $6M Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue tiff a fight over funding scraps for health and food programs

Monday’s City Council vote to dedicate funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax to create new programs that promote healthy eating and social services sets up a battle with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“By redirecting money for unknown new City of Seattle programs, the City Council’s plan eliminates funding for programs they previously approved that provide nutrition assistance, child care for struggling families, and nursing care for low-income pregnant women,” the mayor’s statement on the vote reads. “Despite voting for this funding last year, City Council’s plan now cuts funding committed to these programs without identifying the millions in other funds or cuts needed to continue these critical safety net services.” Continue reading

City rolling out delayed changes on Broadway to speed up streetcar

Fuchsia Streetcar

Bowing to local business pressure — and what it predicts will be a radically transformed transportation corridor thanks to the  $120 million, 2.3-mile Madison Bus Rapid Transit project — the Seattle Department of Transportation has updated its long-delayed plans for improvements to the First Hill Streetcar following pushback business owners and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. Despite complaints about the elimination of left-turns and the addition of red paint for a transit-only lane, SDOT still plans to alter traffic signals and implement a transit-only lane — eventually.

“Complex intersections where other vehicles might be making a left turn or otherwise blocking the intersection slows down the streetcar,” SDOT representative Ethan Bergerson said.

Last year, CHS reported on SDOT’s plans for potential changes to the First Hill Streetcar route to make the streets more efficient for the rail transit and, hopefully, boost ridership. But Capitol Hill businesses — led by the now-disolved Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce — and the mayor’s office pushed back on the proposals and the project has been stuck in neutral since.

SDOT officials say the department has since made changes to traffic signals and turns on Yesler in an effort to speed up that section of the First Hill Streetcar. Adjustments included restricting left turning vehicles from east and westbound directions during peak afternoon traffic times at Yesler and Boren, restricting left turning vehicles at Yesler and 12th, and synchronizing traffic signals at Yester and 14th.

Officials say SDOT now plans to make similar adjustments to the Broadway section of the streetcar, implementing changes as soon as this fall.  Continue reading

New Seattle tenant protections would give renters earlier notification on sales, more time to make ends meet

Some residents at the Central District’s Chateau Apartments said they found about the building’s sale when organizers from Council member Kshama Sawant’s office showed up at their doors

Legislation to shift notification requirements for the sale of low-income housing will be on the agenda Thursday for a Seattle City Council committee while the mayor is rolling out changes she says will protect tenants from eviction and “help keep Seattle residents in their homes.”

The legislation, sponsored by citywide council member Teresa Mosqueda, would modify a 2015 measure that required owners of multifamily rental housing with five or more housing units — at least one of which rents affordably to a household at or below 80% area median income (AMI) — to provide written notice of the owner’s intent to sell the property to the city’s Office of Housing and the Seattle Housing Authority at least 60 days prior to being listed or advertised. This change looked to give these two bodies time to examine buying the property to keep its rental units affordable.

“In Seattle’s current real estate market, tenants and affordable housing providers often struggle to compete,” Mosqueda said in an emailed statement. “Many buyers come with cash in hand and buy up properties within days of being listed, and buildings are often sold without ever being listed at all—leaving few opportunities for lower-income buyers to get a foot in the door.” Continue reading

City Council notes: SPD and neighborhood ’emphasis’ update, short-term rental tax funding for affordable housing, AIDS Memorial Pathway

Seattle City Council committees are busy with a few topics Wednesday important to Capitol Hill and the nearby.

  • SPD and neighborhood emphasis update: The Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans, and Education Committee reviewed a report on the status of the city’s “seven neighborhood” emphasis program aimed to reduce crime concerns with a combination of increased policing and attention to clean streets and traffic issues. Overall, SPD says crime is down about 13% across the city so far in 2019 and the city’s takeaways on the emphasis effort mark the project as a success that will require sustained investments. In the downtown segment of the effort which includes areas of lower Capitol Hill, SPD says crime reports have dropped but officer reported contacts and incidents were also down amid an overall drop in crime in the area. “SPD is focused on increasing officer proactivity in the Pike/Pine corridor, with a focus on retail theft and predatory narcotics dealing,” the committee briefing reads. On Capitol Hill, SPD says its annual summer nightlife increase in patrol and staffing in the Pike/Pine core is also underway. Continue reading

Despite limited benefits, Seattle not necessarily trashing idea of every other week garbage pick-up

(Image: City of Seattle)

It probably won’t reduce costs much and green-leaning Seattleites already compost and recycle enough that it probably wouldn’t result in more of that type of planet-friendly activity, but Seattle Public Utilities is looking at transitioning its garbage pick-up to an every-other-week schedule. A Seattle City Council committee will hear a briefing on the plans Tuesday.

Reducing pick-ups at single family homes and multifamily buildings not served by commercial providers would help reduce one key category of waste: SPU’s budget. Early cost reviews suggested a potential operational savings of up to 30% on garbage collection costs, SPU says. Continue reading

Seattle passes ‘progressive’ backyard apartment legislation — Now it needs to build them

(Image: Seattle.gov)

30 days after Mayor Jenny Durkan signs it, new legislation passed Monday by the City Council will give Seattle a start at catching up after years of delays on making it easier to build backyard apartment units on single family home properties across the city.

“The vote caps an epic process during which obstructionists abused state environmental laws to drag things out for four years, as pro-housing affordability forces built up steam and finally won out over the objections of a tiny minority of anti-housing activists,” pro-growth and affordability nonprofit Sightline wrote on the passage, calling the new rules “the most progressive ADU policy in the US.” Continue reading

SCC Insight: How much will it cost to fix Seattle’s unreinforced masonry buildings?

With reporting by SCCI Insight

According to SDCI, the City of Seattle contains 1,145 buildings with unreinforced masonry that could collapse in a major seismic event. While records are incomplete, the city estimates that about 11% of those have already retrofitted the building to address the issue. Another 68 of them are owned by various government entities. That leaves 944 buildings in private hands with unreinforced masonry: in total about 20,200,000 square feet, containing 10,400 residential housing units with 22,050 residents. Thirty seven of those buildings contain 1,559 designated affordable housing units. Continue reading

The Meinert letters a bid to deny former Pike/Pine bar owner’s efforts to re-grow nightlife empire off Capitol Hill

Dow Constantine at 2011’s Capitol Hill Block Party with then-producer Dave Meinert (Image: CHS)

Some believe it was the letters documenting allegations of sexual misconduct and rape posted outside his Pike/Pine venues that ultimately drove David Meinert off Capitol Hill last summer. The nightlife entrepreneur has continued to do business in Seattle at his 5 Point bar and is now preparing to begin rebuilding his empire of cheap beer and barstools with his purchase of Lower Queen Anne classic, the Mecca Cafe.

But letters could again be an issue.

Wednesday night, a group is planning to meet for a writing party at Capitol Hill bar Corvus and Co. Others have promised to hand out form letters on the streets for neighbors to sign and send in. Templates have been passed around and traded on social media. Here is one simple, straightforward example:

To Whom It May Concern,
I would like to strongly urge the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to DENY a new liquor license to Queen Anne Diner LLC/David John Meinert for the Mecca Cafe (license number 350217). Mr. Meinert has had 11 credible sexual assault accusations levied against him recently. In many of these assaults, Mr. Meinert had been drinking alcohol and/or assaulted women in bars he has owned. Please deny this new liquor license application.

Thank you,
(your name here)

Thursday, June 20th, public notice was given that Meinert had applied for a new liquor license for 526 Queen Anne Ave N, the home of the Mecca, as part of the process of acquiring the legendary hangout. For 14 days, the notice must be posted at the place of business. The Meinert letter writers hope they can convince the liquor board to deny the the new owner the vital license.

But the odds are stacked against them. Continue reading