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Chamber sets vision for 2016: a greatly expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

Grim's hosted the chamber's 2016 State of the Hill event Wednesday night (Image: CHS)

Grim’s hosted the chamber’s 2016 State of the Hill event Wednesday night (Image: CHS)


Longtime Capitol Hill lawyer and a godfather of the Pike/Pine entertainment district Jerry Everard was awarded the chamber's 2016 Spirit of the Hill award Wednesday night.

Longtime Capitol Hill lawyer, developer, and a godfather of the Pike/Pine entertainment district Jerry Everard was awarded the chamber’s 2016 Spirit of the Hill award Wednesday night. In his brief acceptance speech, Everard cited respect for past winners, and recalled chamber meeting minutes from 20 years ago where he was meeting with E Precinct representatives about nightlife issues. “It’s all of those people who do all of that work for no recognition -— not looking for recognition —- that really keep making the great neighborhood what it is,” Everard said.The 2016 nominees are listed here.

There was a new Spirit of the Hill announced Wednesday night — and we’re not just talking about attorney and developer Jerry Everard’s award from the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.

In her first State of the Hill event as the director of the chamber, Sierra Hansen for the first time publicly announced a new Business Improvement Area as the pro-business group’s focus for the year ahead.

“This year the chamber is going to do probably the most important thing we’ve done in this neighborhood. And that is put in place a new Business Improvement Area that’s going to have a longterm, sustainable funding source and that is going to address the challenges and the opportunities that the growth in this neighborhood has seen over the last few decades,” Hansen said Wednesday. She cited BIAs formed in Pioneer Square, downtown, and West Seattle as examples for what the Capitol Hill group will try to achieve by the end of the year.

CHS reported on a planned formed by the chamber late last year that centered around expanding the group’s management of resources to maintain and improve streetscapes on behalf of the business community.

Currently, the chamber administrates the Broadway Business Improvement Area managing trash pick-up and graffiti removal around that business area. In spring 2014, that BIA slightly expanded its borders but the 2016 goal would extend across a much larger swath of the Hill. And Capitol Hill has company. Other neighborhoods in the city are also calculating how best to put a BIA to work in their area of the city.

In preparation, the Seattle City Council is ready to approve an overhaul of the city’s rules for BIAs that include better clarity for how the efforts can be shaped, how they can be funded, and who can participate. The Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee approved the plan at its meeting this week.

Here’s the application form for the program to give you a sense for the kinds of information the city will require to allow the entities to be formed.

Why so much oversight? A BIA’s presence extends way beyond trash and graffiti. The organizations have become conduits for solving neighborhood issues and are the recipients of a growing portion of city funding. SPD and other departments check in with the boards and program leaders for buy-in, sign-off and community representation. But most importantly, the organizations are allowed to raise funds in a way known only to City Hall. A BIA is funded through assessment revenue collected from businesses, organizations, and commercial landowners within its borders.

Under the current agreement, the Broadway BIA is limited to changes in its assessment rates and borders that come in under a 10% increase in assessment revenue. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area must vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then each BIA agreement must be approved by the City Council.

The city, by the way, can’t yet allow private homeowners to join and help fund a BIA because of how state law is currently interpreted — but there are some areas of the city advocating for homeowners to be part of the assessment process. We’ll let you sort out the civic ramifications of that ever coming to happen.

You can learn more about chamber’s plan at capitolhill2020.org.

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5 thoughts on “Chamber sets vision for 2016: a greatly expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

  1. Right now, a BIA won’t pass in Pike Pine as there has been no explanation of the services that would be provided and how they would justify the expense. Grafitti clean up? White people’s problems. Something that’s a big concern in fancy neighborhoods like part of Belltown, not really a concern for Pike Pine. This is a gritty neighborhood, who wants to pay more to make it less gritty? Developers?

  2. As a business owner on Broadway I have been paying the BIA tax for the term of my lease. It’s not much, really, but it is one more piece of paperwork that I have to process quarterly and pay separately. For the information required it could easily be handled as part of the city’s B&O tax filing either monthly or quarterly, if the city’s system was so programmed. (And that interface needs a 21st century makeover anyway.)

    Despite the filing mechanism, the BIA is really another taxing authority. My frustration is that them money is collected but it’s never reported out how it is spent, how it is budgeted. Where does the money go?

    Early inquiries when the Chamber was under the previous leadership said it went mostly for the plants on Broadway (for which I gave it the nickname the “plant tax). With new Chamber leadership maybe we will be able to access online or in an annual report how the money is spent, as well as input into how it is spent.

    As citizens we can attend City Council and City Council Committee meetings and express our thoughts into the process. We need the same with a BIA with notice of meetings and reporting of how the money is spent if we have no way of opting out of it.

    Maybe the BIAs because of their smaller scale and actually be a forerunner and leader for community engagement and input, and serve as a model on how to improve overall city governance and community engagement. I know that’s a bit of a pie in the sky kind of idea but maybe…

    Of course I would be delighted to see the whole thing go away anyway and maybe just come up with a block grant-style idea that BIAs, if so organized, are given money to manage by the City for their own improvement areas, with appropriate accountability of course.

    • I agree that the Broadway business owners deserve to know exactly how the BIA tax is spent….after all, it’s your money!

      I have lived off-Broadway for a long time, and my impression is that the BIA is a very positive thing for the neighborhood. My understanding is that most of the tax is spent to fund Recology (formerly Cleanscapes), and they do a great job of keeping the street relatively clear of trash and graffiti. Pike-Pine is clearly in need of a similar approach.

  3. Hi Scott (and other Broadway BIA folks who may see this comment).

    My name is Sierra Hansen, and I am the new administrator of the Broadway BIA (the Chamber manages the BIA and has for quite a few years). I think you raised some excellent questions about the current BIA, which has been in place for almost 30 years. One of my first recommendations was to improve communications with all our ratepayers, and the BBIA board embraced the idea. In the first quarter of 2016, we surveyed businesses, audited the assessment list, launched a monthly newsletter with information about services and included information in quarterly assessment bills. I am proud to say in the first quarter we successfully updated the assessment list, created an email list of 170 recipients, sent monthly updates starting in February and included information in the January and April billings.

    We are striving to create more transparency and we will be adding financial information to future emails and scheduling the annual rate payer meeting soon.

    If you, or anyone one else, would like to be added to the BIA newsletter list or would like more information, please contact me at sierra@caphillchamber.org.

    Thank you for your interest!