A growing Seattle Central talks near-term changes to improve its streetscape, plans for new Broadway tech building, and student housing to replace its E Pine parking garage

The proposed Information Technology Education Center could eventually be part of the growing campus along Broadway

Coming decades will bring big changes to Seattle Central College with plans for several new developments currently being proposed.

The school plans to build a six-story Information Technology Education Center on Broadway with nearly 200 underground parking spots next to the Capitol Hill light rail station on Sound Transit property. The space, divided between classrooms, laboratories, and other student uses as well as office space, would be funded by the college from sources outside the state, architect Stephen Starling said in a meeting last week with the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council.

On the site of the massive, 510-stall E Pine and Harvard parking garage, there would be over 500 beds of student housing. That existing garage would be demolished and rebuilt with about 260 parking spots, which would include charging stations for electric bikes and cars, and the housing built above. 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

State Supreme Court rules Sawant recall can move forward — UPDATE

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

The recall of Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant can go forward, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. A spring and summer of signature gathering, rallying, and campaign flyers awaits.

Organizers outlined four acts they say that warranted sending the recall to the ballot. Most of the charges were from 2020 and relate to her response to protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

The court did not uphold all of the allegations made by the recall effort, arguing that one of the acts outlined was legally insufficient.

In September, the King County Superior Court certified a recall petition against the socialist council member on the four allegations, which was simply ruling on whether the charges outlined could be grounds for removal. That court was not ruling on whether or not the allegations were true. Two allegations from the original proposed petition relating to Sawant’s involvement in protests at the East Precinct and the formation of CHOP were dropped by the recall group’s attorneys.

With the court denying Sawant’s appeal, the recall proponents will have up to 180 days to gather a little over 10,000 signatures — or 25% of the nearly 43,000 votes cast in her November 2019 race — to send the issue to the ballot.

Sawant’s political fate will now move into the hands of District 3 voters.

“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true,” Sawant said in a statement following the decision. “In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”

“Big biz and the right wing are furious about the impact of socialist politics and social movements in Seattle & how we have inspired working people around the country,” the campaign formed to defend Sawant against recall posted on Twitter after the decision. “They are now trying to use the courts & their deep pockets to overturn Councilmember Sawant’s 2019 re-election and the historic victories she has spearheaded.”

After facing a deficit on Election Night 2019, Sawant clawed back to defeat Broadway Business Improvement Area leader Egan Orion by around 4% — or less than 2,000 votes — and now sits as the longest serving member of the city council.

The recall effort argues Sawant misused her office and flouted coronavirus social distancing restrictions in opening City Hall to hundreds of protesters one night last June. Continue reading

Seattle City Council approves Sawant plan to fund lawyers for tenants facing eviction

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved “right to counsel” legislation Monday that will entitle residential tenants facing eviction to an attorney at no cost.

The vote on this legislation, sponsored by District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant, was originally scheduled for two weeks ago, but was delayed via council vote to sort out possible legal concerns. The original bill could have faced a lawsuit since it looked to give everyone the right to legal counsel regardless of income. Washington’s state constitution prohibits cities from giving money to people “except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm.”

Sawant hailed the “historic renter and socialist movement’s ‘Right to Counsel’ victory” in a press release from City Hall after Monday’s vote.

“Today’s historic vote in the City Council to approve our movement’s Right to Counsel legislation from my office is a huge step forward for renters rights in our city,” Sawant said in the press release. “No longer will renters have to fear going to eviction court without the legal aid that they desperately need and justly deserve.”

She thanked several groups for helping push for the legislation including Socialist Alternative, Be:Seattle, the Tenants Union of Washington, UAW 4121, and the ACLU despite “calls from Democrats on the City Council to water down our bill.”

Sawant also filled the public comment session prior to Monday’s full council meeting with speaker after speaker in support of the legislation.

To satisfy concerns about possible legal challenges, the council overcame objections from Sawant and added an amendment to exclude tenants who are not “indigent.” Legislation from 2017 defines “indigent” as a person who is “unable to pay the anticipated cost of counsel… because the person’s available funds are insufficient for the retention of counsel.”

“I believe that this language is going to minimize legal risks of having this law survive the legal challenge, which again I believe is almost going to certainly happen, while also providing access to a right to counsel to those who need it,” said Council President Lorena González, the sponsor of the amendment.

Sawant was the only council member to vote against the González amendment, arguing that it makes tenants “jump through some kind of hoop before they qualify.” Continue reading

Stymied on right to counsel legislation, Sawant opens up new fronts in fight for Seattle tenants rights over ‘just cause’ loopholes and credit checks

Sawant’s fight for renters has ramped up as Seattle expands its reopening — and as the recall effort against the councilmember awaits the state Supreme Court (Image: Kshama Solidarity Campaign)

With her tenant right-to-counsel legislation delayed at the Seattle City Council pending legal questions, Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced Tuesday a slew of new measures she hopes to pass to aid renters.

The centerpiece would look to strengthen the city’s just cause eviction ordinance, which requires landlords to give a reason for kicking a tenant out. Sawant argues that it has stopped a lot of evictions since its passage in 1980, but needs to be strengthened to further protect renters.

The loophole with the current law, Sawant says, is that landlords do not have to renew a six-month or year long lease, effectively evicting tenants. The current just-cause protections shield renters from no-cause evictions in the middle of their lease, but not when it expires.

“The legislation that my office wants to bring forward will contain no loopholes, no exceptions,” Sawant said during a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee. “Every tenant should be covered by just-cause protections.” Continue reading

The mayor of Capitol Hill: For those unhappy with Seattle’s ‘status quo,’ Jessyn Farrell says she’s the candidate for you

(Image: Jessyn for Mayor)

When Jessyn Farrell first ran for mayor in 2017, Seattle was facing many of the core issues it struggles with today: homelessness and housing affordability, public safety and policing.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems since Farrell, a former state lawmaker and public transit champion, finished a distant fourth in the mayoral primary four years ago. With that in mind, Farrell is making another run for the office.

“People are really suffering in so many different ways, whether it is economic hardship, racial injustice, isolation, the challenges of remote learning,” Farrell told CHS Thursday afternoon, citing her own experience as a parent. “Times are really, really hard and city leadership has really lacked the creativity and the scale around responding to these multiple crises.”

She breaks all of this down to two questions: “Is this going to be a city that people want and can afford to live in?”

Farrell, 47, represented the U-District and North Seattle in the state House from 2013 until 2017, when she resigned to focus on her first mayoral run. In high school, she was voted most likely to become a politician and went on to graduate from the University of Washington and Boston College Law School.

She was the executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, leading charges to fund an expanded light rail system. Since her previous run, she’s worked at Civic Ventures, the think tank headed by progressive taxation advocate Nick Hanauer.

Jenny Durkan’s announcement that she will not seek reelection after finishing her first — and only — term this year has led to a surge of candidates making moves to win the office.

The primary is still five months away and more than a dozen candidates have already filed to run for mayor, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, including Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk, who would be the city’s first Native mayor, city council president Lorena González, former council president Bruce Harrell, and Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston.

SEED Seattle’s interim director Lance Randall also announced his candidacy last year.

Another factor helping to power the 2021 race is the Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program which, for the first time, has been extended to include mayoral candidates. Farrell said Thursday that she is participating in the “innovative policy to keep big money out of our politics.”

In trying to delineate herself among the other candidates vying for the job, Farrell not only separated her opponents between progressive and moderate, but between insider and relative outsider, tacitly calling out González and Harrell, the early frontrunners in the race.

“There is a real hunger for problem solving and someone who has a track record of problem solving and I think that I fit that bill,” she said. “If you’re happy with the status quo, there are candidates who are currently and have been before in city government, then those are your candidates. I think though that most people are not satisfied with how things are going.”

Continue reading

‘The most precarious situation that we’ve ever seen’ — Seattle considers right to counsel and extending COVID-19 crisis eviction moratorium through 2021 — UPDATE

Items left outside after a past Capitol Hill eviction (Image: CHS)

The Seattle City Council is set to vote Monday on “right to counsel” legislation that would entitle anyone facing eviction to an attorney at no cost.

Under the bill, sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections would contract with a group of local attorneys and would be required to educate tenants about the new right to counsel in various languages. Similarly, landlords would be required to let their tenants know in eviction notices that they have this right.

Tenants would not have to accept counsel, but the measure would require that they be offered an attorney at no cost.

The councilmember and others are also calling for extension of the city’s eviction moratorium through 2021.

UPDATE 2:55 PM: Monday brought a mixed bag for Seattle tenants rights advocates with Mayor Jenny Durkan announcing the city’s ban on evictions will be extended through June while the City Council opted to hold off on Sawant’s “right to counsel” bill citing concerns about legal issues around the proposal. The council voted 6 to 3 to move a vote on the bill to the March 29th session. Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales joined Sawant in opposing the delay. Sawant was vocal in her frustration, accusing council president Lorena González and opponents of trying to weaken the bill.

Meanwhile, Durkan said “while there is hope on the horizon, the work of recovery is just beginning,” in extending the moratorium. “Seattle residents and businesses continue to feel the economic impact of this pandemic, and we will not successfully recover if we do not include the recovery needs of low-income communities and small businesses,” Durkan said. “Extending the eviction moratorium provides housing stability for our neighbors as new federal funding arrives.”

Original report: Sawant, “eviction defense experts,” and renter advocates were part of a Monday morning press conference where the District 3 rep’s office says they will explain “why the Seattle City Council should strike a double blow at evictions today, and vote for the Right to Counsel legislation without loopholes” and the moratorium extension resolution.

With Seattle and the state’s moratorium on all evictions during the COVID-19 crisis slated to end this month, Sawant is championing a resolution calling on the city to extend the prohibition through the end of the year. 50 community groups and tenants rights organizations have also called on Durkan to extend the restrictions. In February, a King County Superior Court judge upheld the city’s ban.

To provide eviction defense services, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections has contracted with the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project since 2019. Edmund Witter, the project’s senior managing attorney, said they handle about 2,500 eviction cases per year across King County and the legal assistance usually costs between $300 and $500. Continue reading

43rd District legislators talk holding police accountable, taxing capital gains, and helping renters at town hall

Capitol Hill-area lawmakers talked reforming police accountability, taxing capital gains, and helping renters in a virtual town hall with constituents Saturday afternoon.

The full recording of Saturday’s online session is below.

Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the chair of his chamber’s Law and Justice Committee, said law enforcement reform and gun control were his top priorities this session in Olympia.

“We experienced first-hand the real cries of frustration of a lot of people about the police and how they have interacted with our communities,” he said, noting he lives closest to Cal Anderson Park of any 43rd District lawmaker.

He highlighted several bills moving through the Legislature that would change policing in Washington, from more stringent audits and prohibitions on chokeholds and guidelines on the use of crowd control weapons to the creation of an independent office to investigate police use of force and setting standards for when law enforcement can use force. All four of these measures have passed through the state House and are set for Thursday votes in Pedersen’s committee. Continue reading

Amazon Fresh hopes at 23rd and Jackson: Neighborhood hires, human cashiers, cheaper groceries, and local business neighbors

Yes, the Vulcan development home to Jackson Apartments is shaped like a 12. Founder Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018, also owned the Seattle Seahawks (Image: Vulcan Real Estate)

(Image: Amazon Fresh)

Plans for the new Vulcan development at 23rd and Jackson are shaping up with new business tenants coming in and Amazon Fresh working on plans for its first of its kind grocery stores in Washington. The companies discussed details of the new development and soon to open store in a community meeting Thursday night.

QueenCare, a body-care company, became the first of three 500-square-foot retail tenants to open facing S Jackson and comfort food cafe Simply Soulful is set to expand with a 1,900-square-foot space this summer. Currently based in Madison Valley, Simply Soulful plans to reserve some of its space for local artists to display and sell their work.

The signature anchor tenant of the apartment development, however, is Amazon Fresh, which the company’s senior external affairs manager Taylor Hoang likened to conventional grocers like Safeway and QFC. Unlike the nearly employee-less and checkout-less Amazon Go, which opened on E Pike in early 2020, the store will still have human cashiers and unlike Whole Foods, also owned by the tech giant, it is expected to be more affordable.

“Anything that you can expect from a grocery store, this is what this is,” Hoang said at a Thursday evening meeting of the Central Area Neighborhoods District Council. She said they could possibly try a socially distanced walkthrough of the store before it opens. Continue reading

City has few answers in neighborhood meeting over Miller Playfield encampments

(Image: CHS)

When an encampment at Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park was swept in December, nearby parks saw a growth in tents as some unsheltered people looked for new places to go. One of those growing campsites is 19th Ave’s Miller Playfield.

Now with the district making plans for students to return to the adjacent Meany Middle School and the kids at nearby St. Joseph’s School already back in the classroom, neighbors met virtually Wednesday night with Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller and other city officials. The meeting organized by the Jesuit parish was set ostensibly, organizers said, to hear the city’s plans for interacting with the encampments over the next couple weeks and implore the city to prioritize removing individuals from Miller and find housing options for them.

“We invite you to join us, but want to make clear this will not be an open forum where anyone can speak,” the invite read. “We want to be very focused on getting concrete responses from the Deputy Mayor.”

“It’s an emergency, so if the city isn’t up to it, we need to know that,” one attendee said, summing up the tone of the night’s conversation.

The meeting came amid growing complaints about trash and disorder blamed on the encampments even as the COVID-19 crisis continues and limits safe options for shelter during the pandemic. It also fell only hours after Seattle Police officers and parks employees cleared about 20 people from Denny Park earlier Wednesday. Public health guidelines advise against sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis if there are no safe shelter alternatives available.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has taken to touting the pounds of trash collected under a “Clean City” surge program set to end in April that has been focused on “removing trash to begin to set Seattle up for clear road to recovery—for our businesses, schools, neighborhoods, and residents.”

“Our challenges here at the city are not just about CDC guidance,” Sixkiller told the attendees of St. Joseph’s online session Wednesday night. “It is about access to services, it’s access to housing… We don’t have places for people to go and so as a result folks have found other ways to survive through the past year.” Continue reading