On Capitol Hill, mayor greeted with applause, protesters as she announces Seattle Small Business Advisory Council

Mayor Jenny Durkan got the full Capitol Hill experience Thursday as she came to the neighborhood for a Pike/Pine walking tour and to announce the formation of Seattle’s first Small Business Advisory Council. The new mayor met a collection of Capitol Hill entrepreneurs, grabbed a latte at Vita — and got a momentary earful from protesters who briefly disrupted her announcement inside Elliott Bay Book Company before being shuffled out of the store where police awaited outside.

One was arrested, dozens of local business representatives applauded the new council, and Mayor Durkan did what she could to roll with the punches and get down to the business of small business in Seattle.

“As we grow as a city we want to make sure that we are able to preserve those parts of Seattle that we cherish the most,” Durkan said with a large collection of Capitol Hill area  And one of those things is that eclectic feel of every neighborhood. And that often hinges on the small businesses that are located there.” Continue reading

Design firm files for bankruptcy after leasing Capitol Hill office to The Real World

The Ballou Wright building on 12th Ave. (Image: Hunters Capital via Facebook)

The Ballou Wright building on 12th Ave. (Image: Hunters Capital via Facebook)

Facing around $2.6 million in debt, a Seattle digital design firm has filed for bankruptcy shortly after renting its 12th Ave office to serve as the reality TV home for the cast of The Real World.

According to documents filed in federal bankruptcy court, Creature owes money to 50-100 creditors, most of which are other media companies. ESPN Magazine, AOL, and Vox Media are each owed more than $100,000, according to Creature’s filings. Creature reported $8.6 million in gross revenue for 2015 and currently has $600,000 in assets.
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Peek inside 12th Ave’s shuttered plumbing shop to see this art installation

A temporary art installation has popped up behind the boarded up windows of a longtime plumbing business on 12th Ave. You can’t go inside, but a dozen holes drilled into the outside of the soon-to-be demolished house offer several vantage points of the diorama.

Developers of a mixed-use project that will replace the structure opened the house to artists from the Seattle Demo Project. Over the course of one recent Saturday the artists used some of the materials left behind by Jay Frees Plumbing and Heating to create the installation.

“We wanted to use elements from the plumbing shop,” said artist Max Bemberg. “It just looks like this tiny house, but it has a weird history to it.” The group was behind the 2015 project in the Central DistrictWe are the Ghosts.

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Burglary suspect arrested after break-ins at three E Pike businesses

Seattle Police are investigating three possibly connected burglaries that occurred along a short stretch of E Pike early Sunday morning.

Police arrested a 57-year-old man inside E Pike and Belmont’s Kaladi Brothers Coffee where he allegedly punched out the shop’s lock and attempted to steal cash from the business. Burglary detectives will also be investigating the suspect’s connection to two other nearby burglaries earlier that morning, according to SPD. The suspect had a lock to another business in his possession at the time of his arrest in addition to an undisclosed amount of cash, according to police reports. Continue reading

Proposed business tax changes would boost Seattle Police

Two proposed ordinances that will increase costs for Seattle businesses to raise funding for growing the Seattle Police Department are scheduled for discussion Wednesday by a Seattle City Council committee. Both ordinances have the objective of increasing revenue for the city to help defray the cost of resources needed for SPD, including 200 more police officers and 911 staffing center needs that a City Hall rep tells CHS have been neglected for some time.

The first ordinance proposes a 3.2% increase in tax rates for most Seattle businesses over a two-year period. City Budget Office director Ben Noble said the proposed tax increase would raise approximately $8 million of more than $20 million total needed to pay for the SPD resources. Continue reading

Survey: What iconic Capitol Hill businesses need saving?

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 11.32.25 AMAffordability in Seattle isn’t just an issue for residents trying to afford the rent. The city’s small businesses need help, too. As Seattle looks at options like commercial rent control,  Lisa Herbold, chair of the City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts committee, has a question for you:

Greetings, Businesses and Community Groups,

I’m writing to ask for your help as I develop a “Seattle Legacy Business Program” proposal, which is intended to help preserve the bars, restaurants, cafés, and shops that give Seattle its unique character and sense of community. With the recent pace of development, neighborhood gems like Silver Fork, Mama’s Kitchen, and Piecora’s  Pizza have been lost, and aren’t likely to return.

I’m working with partner organizations to:

  • Survey community members to identify our most important business establishments
  • Identify elements that contribute to the culture, character, and history of Seattle; and
  • Establish tools to protect them.

I hope you’ll take a moment to take this quick survey, so we can learn from you what businesses in your neighborhood you’ve loved and lost or fear may be in peril.  You can learn more about the proposal here. We want this effort to inform the Mayor’s Commercial Affordability Taskforce’s efforts moving forward in determining what policies/funding support may be necessary to preserve and protect Seattle’s iconic small businesses.

Thank you for your consideration, and please let me know if you have any questions.

As usual, we encourage you to “work out loud” and share a few thoughts in the CHS comments. Feel free to nominate CHS :)

One note on the announcement of the survey. While the loss of Piecora’s was certainly a marker of nostalgia-pulverizing change on Capitol Hill, it probably doesn’t make a very good poster child for Herbold’s cause. The family behind the much-loved pizza joint did just fine in the $10.3 million acquisition of the property.

Mayor’s small business affordability committee will consider commercial rent control

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Murray was joined by a handful of committee members at Hing Hay Coworks in the ID. (Image: CHS)

Mayor Ed Murray is rolling out his tried-and-true policy strategy in an effort to help small businesses weather Seattle’s affordability crisis: a 15-member committee tasked with addressing the rising cost of commercial space.

The group of business owners, developers, and property owners has been directed to “emphasize incentive-based solutions,” but Murray said he was not ruling out commercial rent control.

“Everything can be on the table,” Murray said during the Thursday announcement at Hing Hay Coworks in the International District. “I don’t believe there will be one answer.”

District 3 City Council member Kshama Sawant has been calling for regulating commercial rents since she announced her small business plan in October alongside Capitol Hill owners. City officials believe the state ban on rent control may only apply to residential properties.

Recommendations from the committee are to focus on keeping existing small businesses open and paving the way for new ones:

The group will consider a broad range of solutions to commercial affordability, including incentivizing the construction of smaller commercial spaces, further activation of public spaces to the benefit of food trucks and other small businesses, and inclusion of affordable commercial storefronts in more affordable housing projects.

The Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee includes Melrose Market and Chophouse Row developer Liz Dunn. The Capitol Hill developer has been praised for her buildings that include small spaces for small businesses — an issue Murray said the affordability committee will need to address.

“Often the spaces that are being developed are bigger than what small businesses need,” he said. Continue reading

18 things CHS heard at Sawant small business summit

“The reality is corporate politicians talk a lot about small businesses but do very little for them”

Earlier this week at the Eritrean Community Center just south of the I-90 on Rainier, socialist City Council member and District 3 rep Kshama Sawant held a “progressive small business summit” to raise support for her plans to assist Seattle’s small businesses with a focus on her call for commercial rent control.

The Council member stood by the likes of local bar and restaurant owner David Meinert, AfricaTown founder Wyking Garrett, Sara Mae, owner of 701 Coffee in the Central District—and vocal advocate for businesses along 23rd avenue impacted by construction who eventually got the city to fork over $650,000 in mitigation payments—and a representative from the Central Co-Op on Madison, Susanna Schult, all of whom addressed the crowd in support of Sawant, her proposals, and small business organizing. Sawant rolled out her small business plan along with her unholy alliance with Meinert—a former adversary during the fight for $15—last fall before the November election.

Framing the rising rents, gentrification, and the displacement of commercial and residential tenants as a result of a city government that “mainly promotes the interests of big business” and allows “big developers and big business” to cash in on a hot real estate market, Sawant asked attendees to sign letters addressed to the city council calling on them to act on a statement of legislative intent (SLI) passed last budget cycle to direct the city to convene a small business task force to make proposals for commercial rent control, as well as support Sawant’s efforts in commissioning a study of the feasibility of commercial rent control.

To support her claim that the city government is in the pocket of Vulcan real estate and friends, Sawant distributed and highlighted a memo responding to the SLI sent this week from the director of the Office of Economic Development, Brian Surratt, saying that an advisory committee should be convened but that the city shouldn’t “prescribe any particular actions in advance” and engage the advisory committee in their recommended “range of solutions” to issues facing Seattle’s small businesses.

“They aren’t even considering rent control,” Sawant told the crowd indignantly.

Here are a few things CHS heard Wednesday night.

  1. “The reality is corporate politicians talk a lot about small businesses but do very little for them,” Sawant said. “It [getting commercial rent control] will involve a political fight against the establishment. This is an organizing meeting as far as I’m concerned.”
  2. In reference to Vulcan’s recent purchase of six acres at 23rd and Jackson in the Central District, Sawant said: “The writing’s on the wall. This city is getting gentrified unless we do something about it. We need to get organized to demand a say in what happens in these public spaces.”
  3. “Another challenge we feel as the neighborhood [Capitol Hill] is changing is a influx of venture capital funded retailers and national chains that have little stake in the community but have moved in to take advantage of the busy neighborhood and the attractive consumer market that small, locally owned businesses built,” said Susanna Schultz of the Central Co-Op grocery store. “We support the formation of a small business task force.” Continue reading