‘Moving day’ — Residents move on as Miller Park cleared after months of homeless camping — UPDATE

With reporting and photographs by Alex Garland

With help from community and neighbors, plus a contingent of city workers and police, a final group of campers moved off of the grounds of the Miller Park playfield and community center as a Friday morning deadline for a sweep and clearance came and went.

Some people who left Friday had been living at Miller since the height of pandemic but Monday’s planned resumption of in-person classes at the adjacent Meany Middle School created a public safety and health situation that city officials said could not be allowed.

One person living at Miller said he had been camping there for seven months but had only been contacted by outreach workers for shelter two weeks ago. Continue reading

Catch award-winning Ben’s Bread pop-ups at 12th Ave’s Southpaw

(Image: Ben’s Bread)

These days, pop-ups, takeout dinner kits, and ordering online are just some options restaurants, and consumers alike have had to navigate in the new pandemic-normal. For Ben’s Bread however, husband-and-wife duo Ben and Megan Campbell have been operating bread pop-ups for almost six years. Last year when brick-and-mortar establishments shuttered temporarily, to later transition to takeout, Ben’s Bread maintained their monthly pop-ups at Southpaw on 12th Ave. throughout the pandemic without missing a beat.

“When we first started . . . I remember having to explain to people, ‘Okay, you just order and you pay for it online, and you show up at this place and time where it’s ready for you. You don’t have to pay once you show up.’” Campbell said. “That was so much of our effort was convincing people that we were real people who weren’t trying to take their money, and they’d show up and there would be bread. Now . . . . People are used to looking online for where to get their food, planning it in advance, going out of their way and making a little extra effort to find something they think is going to be special. We were already set up to do that.” Continue reading

Central District’s ‘Soul Pole’ to be taken down and, hopefully, restored

(Image: City of Seattle)

Another landmark of public art is set for work officials hope will help to keep it part of its neighborhood. The Soul Pole, a 21-foot wooden sculpture that has stood outside the Central District’s Douglass-Truth Branch of the Seattle Public Library for nearly 50 years, must come down for work to figure out how best to save the creation:

The 21-foot wooden sculpture, gifted to the Library in 1972 by the Seattle Rotary Boys Club, was carved by six young community artists in the late 1960s to honor 400 years of African American history and the struggle for justice in the United States. The Library will work with Artech Fine Art Services, an organization with extensive experience in the restoration and preservation of artwork, to deinstall the piece and transport it to an art storage facility, where an extensive assessment will be performed.

The library is also trying to learn more about the creation of the 23rd at Yesler pole: Continue reading

Welcome to ‘Phase Everybody’ Seattle, where half of you already have at least your first shot

Mariners announcer David Sims gets his second poke (Image: King County Public Health)

Seattle begins “Phase Everybody” opening the gates fully on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination eligibility with half of King County’s adult population having already received at least their first shot.

Thursday, April 15th marks the full opening of eligibility to everybody 16 and older in the state after weeks of metered, phase by phase invitations starting with the most vulnerable and oldest. Testing continues for vaccines safe for those 16 and younger.

The opening adds another 1.6 million adults to the state’s eligible ranks. There are 6.3 million adult Washingtonians. Continue reading

The Mayor of Capitol Hill: Seattle has seen Bruce Harrell before — but not like this

Harrell has started his 2021 run for the mayor’s office with some old fashioned grocery store campaigning (Image: @kunluv)

Bruce Harrell has campaigned here before. First elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007, Harrell would go on to win two more terms and serve as council president before deciding not to run again in 2019.

But campaigning in his month-old mayoral bid for a few hours recently at the Capitol Hill Safeway on E John felt different. Across the street Williams Place is home to one of the neighborhood’s city park encampments as officials — and neighbors — wrestle with how best to provide shelter and services and clear away the camps.

“People are so hungry for, I think, straight talk, not double talk,” Harrell told CHS Tuesday. “And they are hungry for boldness and they see the level of dysfunction in city government unlike they’ve seen it before.”

Harrell, a 62-year-old raised in the Central District who briefly served as the city’s first Asian-American mayor in 2017 after Ed Murray resigned, says they see him as a “voice of reason.”

As the city has faced economic turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic and was consumed by racial justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the past year has taught him how fragile the city is and brought into stark relief existing issues in the city, whether it be inequality or homelessness. Continue reading

City posts sweep notice at Miller Park encampments — UPDATE

Thanks to reader Chris for the picture

The city has posted notice it intends to sweep Miller Park encampments as early as Friday morning.

Required notices ordering the removal of personal property were posted Wednesday at the Capitol Hill playfield, community center, and school campus. The order provides an “as of” date and time of Friday, April 16th at 9 AM for the.

The date comes five months to the day of the notice to clear another major flashpoint in the city’s homelessness crisis at the camps in Cal Anderson. With activists and protesters joining the camp area at Cal Anderson last December and amid a brief and unsuccessful court battle to stop the process, Seattle Police waited two extra days before leading the sweep so Seattle Parks and city clean-up crews could enter the park.

This time at Miller there is no legal fight for a temporary restraining order and the deadline is driven by the the pandemic-reshaped school year. Monday, students are slated to return for in-person instruction at Seattle’s public middle and high schools, including Meany Middle School on the Miller campus. Continue reading

Midnight I-5 crash leaves semi dangling over Colonnade Park — UPDATE

A late night crash on I-5 echoed across lower Capitol Hill with the sound of screeching metal as a semi truck and trailer was left dangling above Eastlake’s Colonnade Park between the northbound and southbound decks of the freeway early Thursday morning. Continue reading

Hurray for the PPP! Here’s a look at which Capitol Hill area restaurants, breweries, bars, design firms, and schools took federal loans to survive the COVID-19 crisis

As Capitol Hill restaurants have stretched into the streets, many have also joined companies across the area to reach out for the federal PPP (Image: Oddfellows)

By Ben Adlin

Oddfellows has watched one hell of a year unfold from its historic building at 10th and Pine. After a record 2019, the pandemic brought an abrupt shutdown in March followed by a takeout-only reopening in May. After the police killing of George Floyd, Seattle’s ensuing Black Lives Matter protests — and the rise and fall of CHOP– unfolded more or less outside the cafe’s door.

Blocks away, at Broadway and Union, Optimism Brewing Company saw sales plummet 75% during the first year of the pandemic, said co-founder Gay Gilmore. “The good news is that things are looking up,” she told CHS: February’s revenue was only about 60% lower than the year before. The company doesn’t anticipate breaking even again until the end of the year.

Both businesses credit their survival, or at least the bulk of it, to loans received through the federal government’s $953 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), meant to help businesses and other organizations continue to pay their workers during the pandemic.

For Oddfellows, “It made all the difference in the world,” said Adam Szafranski, brand manager for the cafe’s parent company. “We would not have been able to stay open without it.”

Very Oddfellows LLC was approved for more than $1.1 million in total PPP loans over the past year, according to public data. “There were a few grants we applied for that were offered by the city and different organizations,” Szafranski said, “but the amounts were minimal compared to the PPP.”

Optimism Brewing LLC, meanwhile, was approved for two loans totaling about $418,000. “Even if you count the PPP Loans as income, we are still down by 40% over the last year,” Gilmore said in an email. “We continue to operate at a loss every month, but if it wasn’t for the PPP we wouldn’t be able to pay our staff and we would most likely be closed.”

All told, the federal government approved more than $284 million to businesses based in Capitol Hill or adjacent neighborhoods from April 2020 through the end of February 2021, according to a database of approved PPP loans published by ProPublica. That amount comprises more than 2,600 loans made across three zip codes—98102, 98112, and 98122—that encompass Capitol Hill and its surroundings, stretching from Eastlake to Mt. Baker.

Heavy Restaurant Group, which operates six area restaurants, including Barrio on Capitol Hill, was approved for more total PPP loan money than any other recipient, at more than $6.9 million between two loans. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Among the sectors most heavily represented on the list were restaurants and bars, schools, and professional services such as architecture, design, and software programming. A few local property management companies also made the list.

Thanks to the ProPublica PPP database, here’s a roster of the top recipients in the Capitol Hill and Central District area and a look at some of the stories behind the loans. Continue reading

With firefighters and social workers, not cops, Seattle expands Health One to respond to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues

(Image: City of Seattle)

After more than a year providing aid for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues across downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill, Seattle Fire’s Health One is adding a second unit to expand its reach across new parts of the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SFD Chief Harold Scoggins announced the expansion of the innovative program Tuesday.

“Seattle has pioneered community safety initiatives like Health One. As we continue to reimagine public safety, we will expand civilian public safety alternatives like Health One that sends a firefighter and social worker to a 9-1-1 call,” Durkan said. Continue reading