About Ari Cetron

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

More parking? How you can help answer Seattle Central’s next big development question

SCC also has hopes of expanding north (Image: CHS)

Anyone who wants a say in what will happen to the built environment along Broadway around Seattle Central College now has their chance. The community oversight committee which reviews proposed changes to the college is looking for a new member — or two. The school’s reach extends farther into the neighborhood than you might think. And there’s a massive decision on parking on the horizon.

Seattle has a master plan which governs land use on a large scale all around the city. Some places, generally hospitals and colleges, have their own separate plan which fits into the larger plan. Typically, these institutions are in what would otherwise be a residential area, and so need a degree of special treatment.

“We kind of give them a bubble,” said Maureen Sheehan, of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Each of these institutions has a corresponding advisory committee, made up of people who live or work in the neighborhood. When the institution wants to make a change, for example, to build or demolish a building, the plan is presented to the committee. Continue reading

Tutu’s Pantry and the Backpack Brigade help keep Capitol Hill school kids fed

Can by can, donations help Tutu’s Pantry keep kids fed (Image: CHS)

Hundreds of students at local schools don’t have reliable access to food, particularly on weekends, and a network of volunteer-run organizations has stepped in to assist them.

There are a number of programs in place to help students from lower income families get meals during school. Most common is the free and reduced meals program administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The federal government helps provide funding that gives children from families below a certain income threshold (this year in Seattle, for a family of four, it is an annual income of less than $46,435 for reduced price meals and $32,630 for free meals) access to breakfast and lunch every school day. Across the district, 34% of students qualify for the program.

Then the weekend comes, and that assistance dries up.

So Seattle schools have developed a patchwork of parent-run groups to help fill the gap. Typically, the programs provide needy students with a backpack full of food on Friday to help get them through the weekend, though the specifics can vary greatly by school.

At Stevens Elementary, which serves children in North Capitol Hill, the program is known as Tutu’s Pantry.  Tutu’s Pantry provide backpacks on Fridays and larger boxes of food in advance of longer breaks. They also try to accommodate dietary restrictions.

It might be difficult to imagine that a school flanked by multi-million dollar homes has children in it who are food-insecure. “A lot of the families that we serve are struggling,” said Lori Bugaj, who runs Stevens’ program.

Continue reading

With John/Thomas corridor work underway, 2019 will bring $2.2M Safe Routes to School pedestrian improvements across Capitol Hill

Guess what? What’s safer for students will also be safer for everybody crossing 15th Ave E (Images: CHS)

Students walking to Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary and Meany Middle School should be greeted by a number of safety improvements on their way to school next year.

The Safe Routes to School program is administered by the Seattle Department of Transportation with an eye toward making it easier and safer for children to walk and bike to school. In a 2016 report, program officials touted 18 projects at schools around the city. Projects range from installing speed bumps to rebuilding or installing sidewalks and other pedestrian safety enhancements.

In the coming year, SDOT projects it will make improvements at 31 schools around Seattle. Capitol Hill will get in on the program with a grab-bag of safety measures on streets and at intersections around Lowell and Meany, which may begin construction in the summer of 2019. Continue reading

Seattle has a school bus problem

Families around Seattle may soon see some relief from the persistent problem of late school buses. The public school district has announced it has found a second bus company to help deliver children to and from school, which will add 15 new buses, and drivers, into the mix.

Problems began last year. Labor troubles with First Student, the company which runs the bus system, began shortly after the beginning of the previous school year, with drivers going on a one-day strike in November 2017, followed by another strike in February that lasted eight days.

Even after the strikes ended, First Student struggled to find enough drivers. Some routes in the previous (2017-18) school year were so chronically late that district officials took to giving secondary school students ORCA cards, acknowledging that school buses simply couldn’t do the job. The issue has continued this year. Since the first day of school, some routes have run one or even two hours late, leaving parents worried and frustrated, and children milling around waiting for a bus to show up. There is no district policy on how, or whether, to provide supervision for children waiting for a delayed bus. Continue reading

Toughest problem on November’s ballot for Seattle voters? Maybe the new school levy

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King County Elections says that early ballot returns are on pace for a big turnout for the November 6th election — it received 60,000 ballots in the mail Wednesday morning, more than twice what it expected. That likely means at least a few Seattle voters have already sorted out one of the stickiest problems on this year’s ballot — what to do about the new school levy.

If approved, Seattle’s proposed Families and Education Levy would expand services for the city’s school-aged children. And in this case, the term school aged would mean people from preschool to college. The project would fund a laundry list of services within those grade levels, but some education activists are pushing back on the proposal.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has championed the levy as building “a school to opportunity pipeline.” “The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said in April as she rolled out the proposal.

It will not come cheaply. The levy, proposed by the city, not the school district, would raise about $619 million over seven years. In 2019, it would mean a property tax rate of up to 36.5 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. A citywide median home of $665,000 would pay $242 in taxes. Continue reading

Here’s your chance to help shape new Pike/Pine protected bike lanes

Planning is underway for new protected Pike/Pine bike lanes, and a community group wants to hear from residents about it.

The idea of protected bike lanes along Pike and Pine streets, connecting existing lanes on 2nd Ave and Broadway has long been in the city’s plans. Earlier this year, there had been some mixed messaging about how high a priority the lanes were, until the City Council in July voted to make them a priority.

The city is hoping that connecting these two sections will help increase bike ridership by forming a connected bike network throughout the core of Seattle.

The plan now is for the lanes to be operational, if not entirely permanent, by the end of 2019. The plan recognizes that there are some complications likely with the western portion of the lanes. Construction on major expansion of the convention center will begin relatively soon. And the “Pike Pine Renaissance” project will reshape the downtown portion of the corridor.

For those reasons, the city is hesitant to spend too much money on bike lanes west of the freeway, only to have them torn up during one of those projects. But there will be something, with plans for interim lanes generally between Bellevue and 2nd Ave.

The Capitol Hill portion of the lanes is likely to be a more permanent section, said Brie Gyncild, who is working on the project with Central Seattle Greenways. The group is sponsoring a workshop to discuss options for how the new lanes might be designed. Continue reading

Why save Capitol Hill’s Roy Vue? ‘A lot more to it than just the number of units’

An effort to extend landmark protections to the Roy Vue building marks the Capitol Hill Historical Society’s first foray into preservation, but it won’t be the last.

“This is a sign of our involvement in the community,” said Rob Ketcherside, vice president of the society and a CHS contributor on Capitol Hill history. He said the nearly two-year-old group is hoping to do more such work, as long as members of the all-volunteer organization can find the time for it.

“It’s not about trying to control every property in the city. It’s about holding on to the heritage properties we have,” Ketcherside said. Continue reading

Pierogi and community at Dom Polski: 100 years of the Polish Home on Capitol Hill

1937 (Image courtesy the Polish Home Association)

In 1918, the same year the modern state of Poland was formed, a group of Poles came together on Capitol Hill. The neighborhood barely existed at the time, and the group purchased what had been a country club, remaking it into the Polish Home.

100 years later, the Polish Home still stands on 18th Ave.

As America was forming, Poland was falling apart. In the last decades of the 1700s, the country we now know as Poland had dissolved and was divvied up by Prussia, Russia and Austria. Once that happened, Poles starting emigrating in waves, explained Pawel Krupa, president of the Polish Home Association.

By 1918, after World War I and the Russian Revolution, the countries that had once controlled Poland were shadows of themselves, if they still existed. Poles took the opportunity and modern Poland was formed.

But more than a century of upheaval had caused many Poles to look for a better life in other parts of the world, including America. While most who came here stayed on the East Coast, Krupa explains that some, inevitably, made their way westward. A lot, he said, were miners, drawn to the coal mines in eastern King County like those at Black Diamond.

Once here, they sought each other out. Like many immigrant groups, they wanted a sense of community: people who speak the same language, have a taste for the same food, and know the same dances. They also sought a place to commiserate about the difficulties of assimilating into a culture that was, as it can still be, both overtly and covertly hostile to new immigrants. The Polish Home was born. Continue reading

50 years after ‘Freeway Revolt,’ I-5 lid between Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle visions take shape

There’s a sort-of joke that floats around in land use circles that when deciding what to put on a piece of property: They’re not making any more land.

But if a Seattle group has its way, the city just might make more land — smack in the middle of it all — by putting a lid on I-5.

“A freeway lid is literally making land out of thin air,” said David Yeaworth, a consultant who worked with the group proposing the idea.

Lid I-5 Collaborative // Final Presentations

A citizen-led effort to put a lid over I-5, and develop ideas for what to do with the new real estate, is nearing a new phase with a presentation event next Wednesday night, October 3rd, on Capitol Hill. Teams will share their ideas shaped over months of community design gatherings for how a lidded I-5 might look, and what sorts of buildings and facilities could possibly go on it. Continue reading

New Seattle design review rules will give neighbors earlier say and, hopefully, better buildings

“This new requirement is for developers to begin conversation with community members before project designs are complete.”

New rules are designed to give Seattle residents early opportunities to comment on new developments in their neighborhoods. Just don’t expect it to usher in a new era of neighborhood-led construction plans.

Stemming from an ordinance passed by the City Council in 2017, the new rules went into effect July 1, and will apply to any project which starts its development permitting process after that date.

The changes simplify the rules for which projects are subject to design review. Then, if a project is subject to any level of design review – streamlined, administrative, or a full board review – the developer must actively solicit community input before beginning the design review process. Continue reading