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

MIH-Image-for-FB

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

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

CLF-Image-for-FB

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

CHS Crowd Wisdom Poll — When will First Hill Streetcar service begin?

Last we heard in July, SDOT said “the start date is still not fixed.” There’s not much to go on but small clues here and there — an uptick in social media activity, for one — indicate we just might finally maybe be getting close. CHS kind of forgets why we were excited about the new connection to the International District and Pioneer Square in the first place. Now it’s mostly just about finally getting the trams out of the barn. So let’s turn it over to the collective wisdom of CHS readers — when, indeed, will First Hill Streetcar service begin?

Create your own user feedback survey
View the latest results

We’ve also asked SDOT, of course. We’ll let you know what we hear back. UPDATE 8/28/2015 8:45 AM: We haven’t heard back.

UPDATE 8/31/2015 9:30 AM: Bad news — 43% of the crowd says 2016:Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 9.33.39 AM

Another parking rate increase coming for Capitol Hill as First Hill extends metered hours

IMG_20150413_133712-614x1024-600x1001New parking rates rolling out this fall on Capitol Hill reflect what many in the neighborhood already know: paid parking is relatively easy to find in the morning while parking for dinner is still practically impossible.

Following its annual parking occupancy count, the Seattle Department of Transportation is planning to lower the morning parking rate in one Capitol Hill zone and increase evening and all-day rates across the neighborhood.

First Hill is also poised for a major change as metered parking rates will extend from 6 PM to 8PM. SDOT found 99% of parking spaces were occupied in the area at 7 PM. The new rates will start to go into effect this month.

The “Capitol Hill North” zone, which covers north Broadway, will be the first parking area in the neighborhood to hit $4 an hour from 5 PM-8 PM as occupancy rates reached 100% this year. Meanwhile, morning parking along the corridor remains below the target occupancy range of 70%-85%. The morning rate will drop to $3 an hour.north capitol hill

Continue reading

First Hill unveils its first ‘pavement to parks’ open spaces for community and ‘a little fun’

Two prototype parks part of the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan were unveiled Saturday afternoon by Mayor Ed Murray, officials from city agencies, and community group representatives.

Murray lead a ribbon cutting ceremony and gave a speech praising the project. He told CHS that these small parks would give residents of First Hill a place to call their own.

“As we continue to grow, we need to create open space,” Murray told CHS. “We don’t have blocks and blocks to create parks like we did with Cal Anderson Park over a decade ago, but underutilized spaces like this are one of the ways we can give people a chance to be outside, have open space, to share community with their neighbors, have a little fun.”

Located at the three-way intersection of University, Union and Boylston and at Ninth and University, the two parks were built on what the city said were underutilized right of way spaces after Seattle Parks was unable to purchase land for a traditional park due to high costs in the high density neighborhood.

Murray noted that similar “pavement to parks” projects have succeeded in other cities in Europe and the U.S. and said that he was confident it would be successful in Seattle.

Susan McLaughlin of the Seattle Department of Transportation said that safety was a top priority in constructing the parks.

“We’ve been thoughtful in terms of the edge lines and the barriers and the color selection so that it’s really easy for drivers to understand that this isn’t a roadway anymore,” she said. SDOT worked with Seattle Parks and the First Hill Improvement Association on the project.

Alex Hudson, a coordinator at the First Hill Improvement Association, said the parks had “overwhelming support” from the community. Her organization will do programing at each of the parks, supported by a grant from the Department of Neighborhoods. The next event is a trivia night on August 25th at Ninth and University.

CHS Pics | First Hill Fidos — Plus, Tuesday is Seattle Night Out 2015

IMG_6280

Here are a few scenes from last week’s first ever First Hill Fidos event, part of a busy summer in the neighborhood making space for street parks and gathering for events to celebrate the community. Tuesday brings another night of community to First Hill and beyond as Seattle celebrates the annual Night Out event with block, street, sidewalk, etc. parties.

Here is a look at the “official” map for Central Seattle parties in 2015 — click for the live version to get more details.Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 3.09.09 PM

You’ll also possibly find a few “unofficial” parties — like the annual good times at City Market’s party:

11779890_1191759687520313_1571893782341661440_o

It’s time for the City Market block party- cook out! Tuesday August 4th 5:00-10:00 next to the store. Free burgers and refreshments. We also need a few neighbors to volunteer to help out.

Apparently, you can also sign up through 5 PM Monday night to make your party “official” and maybe get a visit from a big shiny fire truck or Officer Friendly from the SPD. You can also leave a comment below if you’d like to spread the word about your neighborhood party.

First Hill Fidos to take a bow (wow) in neighborhood’s ‘first ever’ canine contest

unnamed (1)First Hill is busy this summer making space for street parks and gathering for a new series of events to celebrate the community. First up Thursday night, First Hill Fidos:

The First Hill Improvement Association is proud to be programming a series of summer events along University Street. Our first event is in First Hill Park (Minor & University) and is an opportunity to show off your best friend! Neighbors can enter their dogs in a talent show, costume contest, and cutest dog contest!

Mark your calendars!

Thursday. July 30th
Registration begins at 5:30pm – Show at 6:00pm
First Hill Park
(Minor & University) 

This event will also feature hot dogs from local business Dirty Dogs, music, prizes, and the chance to build community with your two and four-legged neighbors on First Hill.

The summer series along University Street is funded through a grant by the Department of Neighborhoods, and our mission is to build community and enhance the public realm along this neighborhood green street.

This event is free and open to the public. Bring your dogs to enter in the contest or just come and behold the cuteness! Invite your friends and neighbors!

Email us at hello@universitystreet.org to pre-register or if you have questions.

The First Hill neighborhood has reportedly added 3,000 new residents in the last decade. Here’s your chance to meet some of them — and their dogs.

Meanwhile, Seattle Parks is looking for your feedback on its off-leash areas around the city:

We need your input on your recreational behavior and desires concerning Seattle’s off-leash areas in order to best meet our present and future demands and needs. The Seattle Animal Shelter estimates there are close to 150,000 dogs currently in the city of Seattle. Given the size of this user group, Parks will survey and analyze the recreational behaviors and characteristics of dog owners to help inform the Strategic Plan. This effort will be part of the larger recreation demand study currently underway.

You can take the off-leash survey here.

First Hill Streetcar — ‘The start date is still not fixed’

It’s getting to the point where updates on when the First Hill Streetcar won’t start service are about as exciting as watching videos of the First Hill Streetcar being tested.

CHS stands undeterred.

“The start date is still not fixed as we need the manufacturer to complete this iterative process of testing and fine-tuning to safety-certify the vehicles before we can finalize our start-up activities,” read the last of three bullet points included in Scott Kubly’s streetcar portion of the SDOT director’s monthly status report delivered to the City Council’s transportation committee Tuesday morning.

“All streetcars for the First Hill Line have now been delivered, and the manufacturer is targeting the end of July for substantial completion of two cars that are still in final assembly here in Seattle,” bullet point one informs us. Friday is the 31st so workers at the line’s International District maintenance facility will be busy.

According to Kubly’s update, all that remains before service can begin on the ten-stop, 2.5-mile streetcar line from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way connecting Pioneer Square, the ID, Little Saigon, First Hill and Capitol Hill is…. testing. “The critical path for the start of service is now the commissioning and testing process for the vehicles,” bullet point two said. Continue reading

A little tactical urbanism puts parks in streets of First Hill, test pedestrian zone on E Pike

Finding ways to make the city streets work best for residents, businesses, and the community in increasingly dense areas like First Hill and Capitol Hill requires a little bit of strategy and tactical urbanism. The summer of 2015 will see the deployment of a few early test missions on our streets.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-03-at-5.23.28-PM-600x401Organizers from the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict behind a plan to create a pedestrian-only zone in Pike/Pine have set a target for their test mission:

The pilot will close three blocks of Pike Street to car traffic on four Saturday nights in August. The first two nights, August 8 and 15, will be shorter and focus on crowd management and public safety. The second two nights, August 22 and 29, will expand on this concept with community based programming. Volunteers needed for data collection! Continue reading

20 things CHS heard during Monday’s *hot and heated* Seattle rent control smackdown

“We don’t need trickle-down economics… We need affordable housing.”

vs.

“Rent control does nothing to create new housing. We need solutions now … There are people homeless and sleeping in their car tonight.”

Forgoing Seattle’s usual non-confrontational forum-style political events, Monday evening’s debate on rent control was a heated affair. Around 1,000 people tried to pack into a balmy Town Hall at 8th an Seneca to hear City Council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata argue the merits of rent control with Republican Rep. Matthew Manweller and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. There was a large crowd outside unable to enter the at-capacity venue.

The event ostensibly centered around four questions posted to the debaters but was mostly a relentless back-and-forth on rent control more broadly.

1. What has caused housing-affordability crisis in Seattle?
2. What have been the affects of rent control where it has been adopted? 
3. Without rent control can the market make housing affordable?
4. What will be impact of rent control on Seattle?

The answers were broad and there was, of course, no clear winner other than the idea that rent control — in some form or fashion — remains a popular ideal for Seattle residents struggling with affordability.

But it’s not the answer to lower rents, the anti side argued Monday night. “Rent control does nothing to create new housing,” Valdez said, a common refrain from the opposition. “We need solutions now … There are people homeless and sleeping in their car tonight.” Continue reading

Sawant keeps rent control debate alive after rejection by mayor’s affordability committee

A 1980 Seattle Daily Times headline captures the uncertainty surrounding rent control, even during a time when it was up for serious consideration. (Image: Seattle Public Library Archives)

A 1980 Seattle Daily Times headline captures the uncertainty surrounding rent control, even during a time when it was up for serious consideration. (Image: Seattle Public Library Archives)

20150612SeattleOverallRentTrendByBR-600x360There were 60+ recommendations included in the Mayor Ed Murray-commissioned affordable housing study released last week, but rent control wasn’t one of them.

It was mentioned in a little noticed section in the back of the report, where the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee said its members couldn’t agree on the issue:

“The HALA could not reach consensus on the issue, even despite proposed amendments and changes.”

According to Jon Grant, committee member and at-large City Council candidate, a majority of the 21-member committee did support adding a call for rent control, but there weren’t enough votes for an official recommendation. The report notes that opponents argued it would “only divert attention from other more feasible strategies that can achieve more affordable housing.”

“It was on the table from the start,” HALA co-chair Faith Li Pettis told CHS. “The HALA could not reach consensus on the issue, even despite proposed amendments and changes.”

While the committee’s deliberations on rent control were conducted in secret, the public will get an opportunity to witness some of that debate during a Monday night event at First Hill’s Town Hall.

Arguing in favor of rent control will be City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant and her Council colleague Nick Licata. Opposing rent control will be Republican state Rep. Matthew Manweller of Ellensberg and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck will moderate.

Seattle Channel will be live streaming the event here.

Continue reading