Capitol Hill exit interview: Michael Seiwerath reflects on the fight for affordable housing and arts advocacy

Seiwerath during a 2014 neighborhood safety walk

One of Capitol Hill’s leading affordable housing and arts activists Michael Seiwerath is taking his expertise to South Seattle as the new Executive Director of SouthEast Effective Development (SEED). Recently the Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs at Community Roots Housing (formerly Capitol Hill Housing), Seiwerath oversaw fund development, communications, and government relations for the nonprofit since 2008. During that time he was the founding Executive Director of the Community Roots Housing Foundation, an independent nonprofit that helped fund Community Roots. He was also an important part of creating 12th Avenue Arts, and establishing the Capitol Hill Arts District in 2014, the first of the city’s arts districts. At SEED, he will work with partners like HomeSite, Rainer City Arts, and the City of Seattle to create affordable housing, arts and economic development for Columbia and Hillman Cities.

Before joining Community Roots Housing, Seiwerath was the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum. During his 12 years there, Seiwerath helped start the state’s first nonprofit cinema, The Grand Illusion Theater, and oversaw the NW Film Forum’s development of its current home on 12th. (12 seems to be a magic number for Seiwerath.) He is also a film producer, having worked with Charles Mudede on films like Police Beat in 2005 and last year’s Thin Skin.

As he looks back on a legacy of creating lasting affordable housing and arts spaces on Capitol Hill, Seiwerath shared his reflections with CHS about what has changed, and what hasn’t.

Some answers have been edited or condensed for brevity.

What are some reflections on your last 12 years of working for greater affordable housing and preserving arts spaces on the Hill?

Well, it’s hard when you’ve been working on something for a decade and it’s only gotten worse. It’s encouraging that our elected officials now recognize the scale of the homelessness and affordability crisis. That’s progress. We’re still not there yet on the political will to prioritize sufficient resources to solve the problem.

A positive thing I’ve seen in [my] 12 years is partnerships. 12th Avenue Arts was an innovative partnership with performing arts groups, nonprofits, [and] affordable housing in the city. Liberty Bank Building is a partnership with a higher capacity, long standing developer and Black-led community based organizations in the Central District. We’re doing it again with Africatown Plaza across the street, and the LGBTQ-affirming low-income senior housing on Broadway. I’m really proud the goal is to have GenPRIDE own its ground floor home.” Continue reading

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9’s | Union at Madison

The corner of Union and Madison, facing west toward downtown, beyond where 12th, Madison, and Union meet, is a signature intersection of Capitol Hill. The streets combine with the overheard trolley lines to bring your eyes to the acutely angular Viva building. With Seattle University to the south, the Ferrari dealership to the north, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences to the southeast, and Mighty O donuts to the northeast — and Pony due south east — this intersection is a true Capitol Hill crossroads at night and at day.

9’s is a new regular photo series with a simple premise. CHS visits a corner of the Hill twice — once at 9 AM and again at 9 PM — to capture the scenes of the neighborhood in motion. Have a space you’d like us to feature? Let us know in comments.

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Insurrection in the Capitol: Huseman pleads not guilty in assaults on journalists, three more SPD cops investigated


The Capitol Hill, Seattle man accused of assaulting and threatening media in Olympia the same day as the January 6th storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.

Meanwhile, three more Seattle Police officers are being investigated for their part in the day’s chaos at the U.S. Capitol.

Damon Huseman pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court.

CHS reported here on the pre-Inauguration Day arrest of the Summit Ave resident who had been charged with two counts of assault and a count of felony harassment in the days following the attempted storming of the Governor’s mansion in Olympia and was the subject of a search warrant and an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” barring Huseman from having access to firearms. Continue reading

With ‘Mother Africa’s finest coffees,’ Boon Boona coming to 12th Ave

(Image: Boon Boona)

(Image: Boon Boona)

Renton’s Boon Boona has grown as a roaster and community center bringing African coffee culture and beans to the Pacific Northwest cafe scene.

Soon, you’ll be able to find those beans and community on 12th Ave.

“Boon Boona is how we say coffee,” owner Efrem Fesaha tells CHS. “But I focused on the East African community first, then coffee and an experience that is more culturally aware.”

Boon Boona will open its first Seattle cafe later this year in the 12th Ave space formerly home to Cherry Street Coffee House across from Seattle University and neighboring the 12th Ave Square Parkan open space that could perfect for small events and gatherings that is crying out for a neighbor like Boon Boona.

Boon Boona opened on 3rd Street in Renton’s downtown in 2018 and became a popular venue for musicians and artists.

Fesaha says the path to establishing Boon Boona and growing its business has been a long one. Continue reading

More violations — but no discipline, yet — over tear gas canisters and dispersal orders in latest findings in Seattle Police ‘Demonstration Complaints’

The department’s oversight officials have determined that Seattle Police officers violated policies in a handful of complaints over incidents during the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests including SPD actions on Capitol Hill.

The latest release of findings comes as the Office of Police Accountability continues to work its way through thousands of complaints lodged over police use of force and crowd control weapons including blast balls and tear gas during the summer protests. Continue reading

Trump toilet paper bonfire at 11th and Pike helps Capitol Hill say goodbye to the worst president ever

While Seattle joined the nation in a subdued but joyous celebration of Inauguration Day, a few people on our Capitol Hill exorcised some Trumpian demons with a small ceremonial bonfire at 11th and Pike. Continue reading

Amid record spike in overdoses and with money to spend, Seattle and county still working on plan for ‘supervised consumption’


Supervised drug consumption sites have been a bone of contention in the city for years, but could Seattle see progress this year?

The Seattle City Council included in its 2021 budget $1.12 million specifically for health services for drug users after approving funding earmarked for facilities meant to give space to use opioids or other drugs with medical supervision multiple times in recent years, but that was never spent.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s Public Safety & Human Services Committee, noted that while the council can allocate these funds, it has no power to spend them, a power reserved for the mayor.

“This is really in the hands of the mayor’s office right now,” Herbold told CHS earlier this month. Herbold said she has been involved in conversations with Mayor Jenny Durkan on consumption sites — most recently in December — but Durkan has not made commitments to move forward. At the same time, Durkan has not expressed she wants to reallocate this money against the council’s wishes, so Herbold “remain[s] optimistic.”

Kelsey Nyland, a spokesperson for the mayor, said that the mayor’s office and representatives from the city’s Human Services Department planned to meet with Public Health — Seattle & King County.

“HSD will continue to work with Public Health – Seattle & King County to implement a proposal to expand access to drug treatment and increased services for people experiencing substance use disorders,” Nyland said in an email. She did not have specifics yet on what this might look like, saying that would likely come out of the meeting.

This comes amid a recent spike in overdoses, with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office reporting 42 suspected or confirmed overdose deaths between Dec. 27 and Jan. 9.

Continue reading

Email threats against Sawant from city account investigated

City Councilmember Kshama Sawant says City Hall says a series of threatening emails targeting her from a Seattle Fire Department account needs to be taken more seriously.

In an announcement coinciding with Inauguration Day festivities for President Joe Biden, Sawant criticized city officials for failing to act on the series of emails that began in December. Continue reading