About Ari Cetron

Ari is a Seattle-based writer and editor. Find out more about him at www.aricetron.com

Some in Seattle want to recall Seattle School Board members — Let’s talk about how to elect them

Seattle Public School kids are headed back to the classroom — and that’s something to celebrate (Image: Seattle Public Schools)

Capitol Hill’s school board seat will have a vacancy this year, and the incumbent has some thoughts for anyone interested in running. Board member Zachary DeWolf will not be running for re-election to the seat representing District 5, which covers the bulk of Capitol Hill, the Central District, downtown and the area near the stadiums.

It’s a tumultuous time for Seattle and the city’s relationship with its public schools is part of the choppy waters. Some are hoping to recall Seattle’s each and every school board member. Let’s talk about how to elect them.

The school board has a hybrid district/at-large system for elections. Only residents of a given district may vote in the August primary, but in the November General Election, the vote is citywide. And yes, the City Council districts and the School Board districts are different. Capitol Hill is in District 3 in the City Council, but 5 in the School Board.

The Board itself is in a time of transition, but then that’s pretty typical. It’s rare for a board member, formally called a director, to serve two terms; of the seven board members, only one, Leslie Harris, is in her second term. Two of the board’s seven seats are filled by people appointed to fill out the terms of directors who resigned. Of the remaining four, three were elected in 2019.

Capitol Hill’s DeWolf was elected in 2017 with 64% of the vote. He ran for City Council in 2019 and finished fourth in the primary with 12.6%.

DeWolf cautions anyone considering running that the school board is not an easy job. Board duties would typically take up 20-25 hours per week, and board members receive an annual stipend of less than $5,000.

“This is public service,” DeWolf said. “It is not meant to be our paid job. However, it is a $1 billion organization. There’s issues that come up a lot.”

So far one person, Michelle Sarju, a longtime Central District resident, Seattle school parent, and manager at King County Public Health, has formally announced her intention to run for DeWolf’s seat, and she has earned his endorsement. Continue reading

Redrawing District 3: Process begins to shift Seattle’s political boundaries

Seattle’s redistricting process is getting started, and the city is looking for volunteers to help guide re-drawing the lines for city council seats for the first time since they were adopted. The city’s system for doing it is hoped to remove the partisan rancor that can often come along with redistricting.

Last year — in addition to being the worst year ever — was also the U.S. Census year, a constitutionally-mandated count of everyone living in the country and where they live down to the counts that make up Seattle’s city council district borders. The census date is based on where people were living on April 1, 2020. So, people who moved over the summer seeking cheaper rent for their remote working will be counted as living where they were. But the new count will still show the major shifts of the decade.

The count is used for a number of federal programs which dole out money based on population. But it’s also how seats in the U.S congress are divided up. Some states lose seats, others gain, and the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives remain locked at 435 members.

Those same counts trickle down to the state and Seattle level.

District 3 and beyond
While this higher-level government is sorting itself out, Seattle is also re-drawing the boundaries for City Council seats for the first time in more than 100 years. Seattle used to have council members elected by wards, but in 1910 it moved to nine at-large (meaning citywide) seats.

In 2015, the city moved to its current council model – two council members elected at-large, while the other seven were elected by district. Once the 2020 census numbers are in, it will be time to re-draw the lines for the districts. Continue reading

Surrounded by taller buildings with room for more people on all sides, two 1906-built houses set to finally make way for development on Bellevue Ave E

A rendering shows how the building will fit in on Bellevue Ave E

Already surrounded by buildings ranging from three to eleven stories, the last remaining single family-style homes on a stretch of Capitol Hill’s Bellevue Ave E just off E Olive Way will meet with demolition crews if a project coming before the East Design Review Board is approved. But questions remain about whether or not a small stand of trees will meet the same fate.

The project involves properties and two 1906-built homes that have been lined up for redevelopment for most of the past of decade as new buildings sprung up in the nearby area and filled the neighborhood in.

The around 170-unit project comes amid ongoing demand for new housing in the city despite the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout.

The plan is for two adjacent parcels at 123 and 127 Bellevue Ave E, roughly where E John hits Bellevue and stops – about a block north of Denny. Each of the two sites is currently occupied by a building constructed in 1906.

One is still a single-family home. The other started that way and has been renovated and expanded to become a 13-unit apartment building with a small parking lot. The proposed building is surrounded on all sides by apartment buildings, ranging from three to 11 stories. Continue reading

Hoped to help address displacement in the Central District, Mount Zion’s affordable senior housing project taking shape on 19th Ave

(Image: Rolluda Architects)

Mount Zion’s affordable senior housing development hoped to help address displacement and gentrification could begin construction as soon as this summer.

The property is on 19th Ave just north of Madison and is being developed by Mount Zion Housing Development, the housing arm of the nearby Mount Zion Baptist Church. The property is currently occupied by the Price Arms apartments on a lot shaped roughly like a triangle with one end cut off. The existing building, a two-story, four-unit apartment building that county tax records indicate was built in 1901, would be demolished. Mount Zion housing has owned the property for decades.

The project will add to a small wave of new housing for seniors in the area and could be part of a series of new buildings related to Mount Zion as one of Seattle’s leading Black churches moves forward on long-held plans to develop its property holdings. Continue reading

It will be affordable and environmentally innovative but here’s why a neighbor is fighting plans for the cross-laminated timber Heartwood Apartments

An early concept for the planned mass timber project (Image: Atelier Jones)

The fate of a proposed affordable housing development on Capitol Hill that will also help trailblaze the construction of “mass timber” buildings in Seattle should be known in the next few days after an appeal from a neighbor put would looks like a temporary kink in the plans.

Community Roots Housingformerly known as Capitol Hill Housing – has planned to build an 8-story apartment building on what is now a parking lot on the corner of 14th Ave E and E Union, diagonally across from Skillet Diner. The new Heartwood Apartments would include some ground floor retail, and 126 units. Rents in the new building would be designed to be affordable to people with an income level between 60% and 100% of the area median. The building would include no parking.

The city had approved the construction of the building, but that decision was appealed by Naomi Ruden, a resident of the adjacent Helen V apartments.

Developments in the area — and the city — have faced these kinds of appeals with regularity even as City Hall has looked to rein in the use of tools like landmarking or the State Environmental Policy Act to slow or stop approved projects.

The Heartwood case came before the Hearing Examiner January 26th. Hearing Examiners fill a quasi-judicial role and are meant to provide an impartial decision reviewing city decisions.

In the appeal filed December 1st, Ruden noted that the existing parking lot is used by resident of the Helen V. Ruden is one of several residents of the Helen V who require handicapped parking access provided in the lot, she said. She was concerned that that access would be lost, and there are no plans to replace the spots for those in need. Continue reading

Final designs take shape for new four-story neighbor behind Dingfelder’s Deli

The latest design for 14th and Pine from Revolve

A four-story building could rise from the empty lot behind Dingfelder’s Deli at 14th Ave E and E Pine as early as this summer.

The project at 1320 E Pine is being built by Seattle-based Revolve Development, and it is set to come before the Design Review Board Wednesday.

The proposal would create an L-shaped building that will wrap around the existing deli (the building housing Dingfelder’s is not part of the development and will remain) and touch both 14th Ave and Pine next to Seattle Fire Station 25. The plans call for 79 residential units, with a mix of studio, 1 – and 2-bedroom units, the bulk of which will be studios. It will also have about 1,700 square feet of commercial space along Pine.

John Schack, founder of Revolve, said the development company plans to install a type 1 shaft in the commercial space which would allow for a potential restaurant tenant to operate a full kitchen. Schack said the plan is to have either a restaurant, other food and drink type establishment, or retail in the space.

“We are committing to food and beverage, or some type of retail that would create some type of interactive space on the street,” he said.

Continue reading

Long live Capitol Hill’s La Quinta — Residents rally (early!) to make 17th and Denny Anhalt apartments a landmark

(Image: Viva La Quinta/Jesse L. Young)

Hoping to head off yet another story of a lovely, old building being torn down to make way for a new brick of ceramic and fiberboard, residents of the La Quinta apartments have started a drive to have their building recognized as a landmark.

The building at 1710 E Denny Way was built by prolific Seattle developer Frederick Anhalt in 1927. The U-shaped building with a clay tile roof holds a dozen two-story apartments and has a large central Mediterranean Revival courtyard. A thirteenth apartment is perched over the building’s garage.

It changed hands a few times until it was purchased by Ken Van Dyke in 1982. Van Dyke died earlier this year, leaving residents worried that the new owners might want to redevelop the property.

Chelsea Bolan, who has lived in the building since 2003, said they don’t know for certain that redevelopment was planned in the immediate future, but they started hearing rumors from people in contact with the new owners.

“He suggested, if we wanted to do a landmark, do it now,” Bolan said. Continue reading

Seven-story development set to rise on 12th Ave Car Tender block faces design review

The multimillion dollar driver behind the exit of longtime auto garage Car Tender from Capitol Hill will kick into gear this week as the development set to replace it brings its new, larger vision to the city’s design review process.

The seven-story development set for review Thursday is set for 1710 12th Ave E, on property formerly home to the Car Tender auto repair shop, Bergman’s Lock and Key and the former home of the Scratch Deli. The auto shop which became a center of private security activity during the Capitol Hill occupied protest, is relocating to Shoreline. The project set to replace it had started the design review process in November 2019, well before any of this summer’s events.

In its place, Hill residents will get a few hundred new neighbors. In plans from the Runberg Architecture Group, developer Mack Real Estate Group proposes a 170,000 square foot building with 145 apartments, including a mix of studio, and 1- and 2-bedroom units. It would include a total of 3,500 square feet of commercial use broken up into three spaces, one at the corner of 12th and Olive, and the other two along 12th.  There will also be 90 parking stalls. Amenities include a fitness center, co-working space, and a rooftop deck. Continue reading

Housing of God? St. Mark’s Cathedral considers future plans for its St. Nicholas building home to Gage Academy and Bright Water School

The St. Nicholas building (Image: The Bright Water School)

There could someday be more than housing for more than the Maker at St. Mark’s Cathedral but any possible changes are still years off as the congregation of Saint Mark’s is beginning considerations of what to do with a signature part of its 10th Ave E campus, the St. Nicholas building. A consultant has recommended changing the building into a multi-family residential development.

The building at 1501 10th Ave E, just north of the cathedral proper, is home to the Gage Academy of Art and the Bright Water Waldorf School. Both of these schools have leases that run through 2023, and the church is in the early phases of deciding what to do with the building when those leases run out.

Even though the consultants have made a recommendation, the Very Rev. Steven Thomason, dean and rector of St. Mark’s stressed that the church is still weighing its options, and that nothing is happening in the immediate future.

“We are not making any decision, any time soon, about what to do with the building,” he said.

The church’s involvement in the property stretches back to 2003. At the time, St. Mark’s and a group called the Willow Trust purchased the building from then-owner Cornish with an eye toward converting it into a parish life center. The church wasn’t ready to move forward with the life center at the time, and so they began renting it out (technically subleasing it, since the building is officially owned by an LLC made up of the church and the trust and then leased to the church) to Gage and Bright Water.

Now the members of the Willow Trust, who have thus far remained anonymous, are granting full ownership of the building to the church. So, the church is beginning consideration of what it will do with the property. Continue reading

Civic duty: Take a tour and a survey on the plans for the Montlake Lid

For a change of pace from the Capitol Hill protest zone and yet another civic duty deadline — Tuesday night! — how about some reporting on a water fountain at a new park in Montlake. The Washington State Department of Transportation is hosting an online open house about the state Route 520 project near Montlake Blvd. The open house includes a survey asking about the sorts of amenities people may want when the park lidding 520 is completed. Consider it an entertainment option for the rest of your Tuesday.

In the COVID-19 era, what would normally be a public, in-person open house has been moved to the Internet. The “open house” documents are fairly compact, though some of them do get into a bit of detail. Continue reading