There we go. This Year in Review — the CHS Year in Review 2019 — makes 10. And 10 makes a decade. Within each, you’ll find a mix of stories that seemed important at the time — and others that were truly important. Looking back a decade from now, this rundown of the most important CHS stories of 2019 will, of course, shake out the same way.
Below, you will find our best take on the biggest stories that mattered most around Capitol Hill through the year. They range from seemingly likely to be legendary political victories to terrible crimes to bits and pieces of the wonderful and weird world around us. If you think we forgot something important, let us know in comments.
- First Hill Chernobyl: As the HBO series Chernobyl loomed in the background, no CHS story attracted more readers than our exclusive report on a May 2019 radiation leak that went mostly unnoticed at a First Hill research facility. The unusual incident involved more than 50 people from at least six different agencies, including the department’s HAZMAT team, the Washington State Department of Health, the FBI, University of Washington, and a clean up crew with over 40 officials from the US Department of Energy and revealed how the leak happened and the aftermath of a clean-up process that continues.
- Di$trict 3: Up against loads of chamber and big company cash from the likes of Amazon, Expedia, and Vulcan, Kshama Sawant won her third term on the City Council in a victory that seems likely to resonate in the city’s history and cement her place as, perhaps, Seattle’s most effective political organizer of her era. Not even reporting that spelled out the concerns of many that Sawant is beholden to her Socialist Alternative political group nor worries about her push for rent control broke Sawant’s stride. The District 3 race pitting the movement leader against a community leader seemed like it might mark the final chapter for Sawant and Socialist Alternative in the city. Instead, it showed the strength of her dedication to working class ideals and the power of her district’s growing young renter population in a city where issues like affordability and homelessness show few signs of improvement.
- Street and nightlife violence: The year in violence included a terrible murder amid the nightlife crowds around Cal Anderson in July as 25-year-old Rayshauna Webber was stabbed and killed in a dispute over an unwanted offer of a light for a cigarette. In March, 21-year-old Hakeem Salahud-din was shot and killed when he was trying to break up a fight in Cal Anderson. In the Central District in May, the community around 21st and Union mourned and worked to do more to stop street violence in the area after 19-year-old Royale Lexing was gunned down in a chaotic daytime shootout. The year began with a flash of gun violence in January when 24-year-old Jafar Mack was shot and killed in the parking lot above Pike and Broadway. The Harvard Market shopping center is adding new security gates to the parking lot with the new access system to be activated in the coming weeks.
- Food and drink closures: We’ve probably made too much of it. To be clear, restaurants close. It can be a brutal business. Stout might have shuttered anyway but it didn’t help that it was a giant space saddled with a giant lease. It was hard to ignore the message from many of the business owners ending their run around Capitol Hill in 2019 — the rent is too damn high… for this concept. Even Starbucks walked away from one of the Capitol Hill mega space. Chef and owner Matt Dillon summed it up best and shed the most light on the situation when he explained to CHS about the confluence of business factors — high rent and triple net reconciliation plus labor costs — that led him to decide to shutter the award winning Sitka and Spruce after a decade on Capitol Hill. “Was this about $15 minimum wage? That plays a part in it but it’s such a complicated situation,” Dillon told CHS “The $15, you can stomach that. The minimum wage should be $25. The problem is trying to run a restaurant like Sitka.” Meanwhile, before you declare Capitol Hill food+drink dead, note that it seems clear there remains demand for even the Hill’s largest spaces.
- Rise of the Broadway Grill: Earlier in the year, CHS dug into the recent history behind the carding kingpin who dealt a deathblow to the old Broadway Grill. In the nearly seven years since it closed, no neglected space on Capitol Hill has produced more questions from CHS readers about when it might spark back to life — or be torn down. Once at the center of Broadway’s LGBTQ hangout culture, memories are stacked high inside the old Grill. So it is probably not a surprise that the space’s revival as a new, Capitol Hill circa 2020-appropriate bar and restaurant drew a huge amount of interest in the final weeks of 2019. Olmstead, indeed, patched a hole in the neighborhood.
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