‘Coffee with Kshama Sawant’ — District 3 representative holds rare community meeting

(Image: @cmkshama)

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant met with a standing room only crowd of constituents to discuss issues ranging from affordable housing and gentrification to low internet speeds and privacy at Squirrel Chops, a coffeeshop in Seattle’s Central District, Saturday morning.

“There’s a lot of issues facing us as a district with skyrocketing rents and hypergentrification and we’ve certainly seen the increase in gun violence,” Squirrel Chops co-owner Shirley Henderson said while introducing council member Sawant. “A lot of that is tied to our economic reality and the shifts that are happening.”

Sawant, who came with her husband and dog, opened the event by highlighting her struggles for $15 per hour minimum wage and Friday’s King County Superior Court ruling that upheld a Seattle law that capped move-in fees for renters. She also noted the broad struggles ahead in terms of achieving economic equality and racial justice.

“We are all getting screwed together,” Sawant said. “Ultimately, whether you’re talking about city politics or state level, we’re going to have to build movements to win any of these things.” Continue reading

50 years ago, the Seattle Freeway Revolt kept the Central District from being ripped apart

Seattle ARCH (Activists Remembered, Celebrated, and Honored) has plans for a “Ramps to Nowhere” memorial (Image: Seattle ARCH)

(Image: Seattle ARCH)

Priscilla Arsove remembers sitting in her family’s living room as her father called hundreds of volunteers and city officials throughout the evening on their house’s single landline telephone to stop freeway projects that he saw as troubling throughout Seattle. Now, she’s working to maintain that legacy as the work of her father and hundreds of others celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

On Sunday September 23, a 50th anniversary celebration of their work will be held at the Central Area Senior Center.

Maynard Arsove was pushed to action by the construction of I-5 which effectively separated Capitol Hill and First Hill from downtown.

The “Freeway Revolt” began in 1960 when voters approved the Bay Freeway, which was set to be a link between I-5 and Seattle Center, and bonds to fund the R.H. Thomson Expressway, a 15-mile roadway that would have stretched from Duwamish to Bothell, thus setting in motion the creation of a transportation system that would have a greater freeway density than Los Angeles.

The R.H. Thomson Expressway would have destroyed up to 3,000 homes and displaced as many as 8,000 people. The Bay Freeway would have walled off South Lake Union from the rest of the city. These possibilities fostered a public outcry that resulted in a public outcry from affected residents which saw the citizens suing the city two years later. Widely-attended public hearings on the future of transportation in Seattle ensued before Citizens Against the RH Thomson (CARHT) and Citizens Against Freeways (CAF) formed in 1968.

“An arrogant disregard for the needs and the interests of the people that lived in the area,” Anna Rudd, a former anti-freeway activist, said of the city’s plan. Continue reading

‘Keep public land in public hands for public good’ — Seattle looks for path to use surplus city land for affordable housing

“The Mercer Megablock”

During Wednesday afternoon’s Seattle City Council finance and neighborhoods committee hearing, the council members and housing advocates will discuss revised policies and procedures for dealing with city-owned surplus land, building on a resolution sponsored by Council member Teresa Mosqueda that allows Seattle City Light “to sell surplus property for affordable housing purposes at a price and on terms and conditions negotiated by City Light, and as approved by the City Council through ordinance authorizing such disposition,” according to the resolution.

“Keep public land in public hands for public good,” Laura Loe Bernstein, founder of Share The Cities, said “This is the bare minimum we should be doing to prevent the next housing crisis.” Continue reading

Forum discusses connections between gentrification and violence on Capitol Hill

The “What’s Gentrification Got To Do With It?: Hate and Violence in Capitol Hill” forum covered “hate, violence, policing and gentrification occurring in Capitol Hill.”

At 12th Avenue Arts Thursday night, the Northwest Network Pink Shield Project hosted a panel discussion on hate violence, policing, and gentrification in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Much of the conversation revolved around the connection between these three topics, including how greater inequality in recent years in Seattle has created a situation that breeds hate violence, whether it be against people of color or the LGBTQIA+ population.

“You have wealth to a certain community increasing, inequality expanding, poverty worsening, homelessness skyrocketing,” Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, a panelist, said. “At the same time, you will see correlated with that, increase in violence, crimes, car break-ins, and house break-ins.” Continue reading

SPD responds to ‘7 in 72 hours’ Central District gun incidents with increased presence, arrests

Following CHS’s report on a spate of gun violence in the Central District. a Seattle Police official said Thursday night the department is making progress quelling the uptick in shootings and has made arrests in connection with some of the recent incidents.

At Seattle University on Thursday, the monthly East Precinct Advisory Council (EastPAC) meeting was attended by a standing-room only crowd as anxious community members hoped to hear about SPD’s plans to stunt the recent spate of shootings in the Central District.

SPD Deputy Chief Marc Garth-Green announced that three arrests have been made in connection with the recent shootings. Continue reading

‘We don’t want to do that’ — Following rare strike in 2015, Seattle Schools, teachers work on new deal

A 2015 picket outside Garfield High during the first Seattle teachers strike in 30 years (Image: CHS)

With just two weeks before students are set to arrive, Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) are still hashing out details of a new contract for the more than 3,200 educators in the district.

“I know that for many of us we are feeling the crunch of time now,” Laura Lehni, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Washington Middle School, said.

While strides have been made on student safety, race and equity concerns, and the size of school nursing staffs, the discussion regarding compensation for educators has moved slowly. Both sides desperately want to avoid the heightened tensions that led to a five-day strike in 2015.

“We don’t want to do that, but we also need a competitive professional wage,” SEA president Phyllis Campano said. Continue reading

On 22nd Ave, listening in on Seattle’s new design review community process

The community meeting was held at the site of the planned development (Image: CHS)

Seattle has a new design review process designed to add more community time and discussion as developers continue to reshape many areas of the city. Hybrid, a Capitol Hill architecture firm located on E Pike, held one of Seattle’s first early community outreach meetings as mandated by the new design review process last week.

As CHS reported last month, an ordinance passed last year that went into effect July 1st requires developers to “actively solicit community input before beginning the design review process” if the project begins its development permitting process after that date.

This new rule allows Seattle residents early opportunities to shape local developments and, hopefully, create more transparency and community engagement in the design process.

The meeting on 162 22nd Ave dealt with the demolition of an existing blue single-family home that sits on this property to create room for the construction of three new townhouse units and one single family residence. Five neighbors from the surrounding houses attended the outreach gathering hosted by three members of the Hybrid team.

“What are your guys’ main concerns about it? Is it the fact that it’s here at all? Is it the density? Is it the parking? Is it the building form?” Continue reading

What has bubbled to the top of ’30 ideas’ for saving — and developing — Seattle studios, galleries, and music venues

Not everything is about preservation. The new Hugo House is set to open soon on 11th Ave.

As Seattle once again wrestles with the fragility of its arts spaces in the face of continued growth, change, and development, the Seattle City Council this week heard an update on City Hall’s efforts to preserve and grow the number of studios, galleries, and performance venues on Capitol Hill and across the city.

Tuesday, the Seattle Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee convened to discuss the cultural space access and stabilization project currently being undertaken by the Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS).

ARTS has been working for the past eight months to implement concepts proposed in The CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation and Preservation of Cultural Space (PDF), which was published by ARTS last year. ARTS is assessing the feasibility of the project and working on a racial equity toolkit to ensure the communities of color that will be impacted have their voices heard.

Council member Lisa Herbold, chair of the committee, expressed her support for the project and its research.

“Our ability to preserve cultural spaces is really important,” Herbold said. “It goes beyond one particular threatened cultural space and we really need to figure out what the tools are that we have available.” Continue reading

Rental study finds challenging times for Seattle renters *and* landlords — and confirms what you probably already assumed about Capitol Hill’s new, larger buildings: They charge more

(Image: Excelsior Apartments)

Outcomes of a new effort at City Hall to study rental housing trends show challenges for both tenants and landlords — and that larger developments are asking for higher rents than smaller buildings.

A group of researchers from the University of Washington surveyed both landlords and renters in the Seattle area to learn about the state of the rental market and the effectiveness of recent ordinances enacted by the City Council.

While the Seattle Rental Housing Study did not deal with broader trends, such as overall rent prices, it did deal with the attitudes of those involved in the rental market. The research was required by two city ordinances passed in 2016 and included in the 2017 budget. Ordinance 125114 prohibits unfair practices for screening and choosing tenants and Ordinance 125222 limits security deposits and non-refundable move-in fees.

Despite their goal of aiding renters, the team’s focus groups had no familiarity with the new ordinances and were skeptical about their effectiveness.

“All of the renters that we spoke to in all of the focus groups, they expressed a high level of barriers to housing access,” research lead Kyle Crowder said at a July 24th meeting of the Seattle City Council’s renters rights committee about recent movers his team surveyed,

The barriers renters are referring to are more numerous than just the lack of affordability in Seattle, but that was one of the most frequently cited issues.

“The renters that we spoke to in our focus groups feel squeezed financially by the housing market,” Crowder, a professor of sociology at the UW, said at the meeting. “That was a common theme.”

Other problems mentioned by renters were a “lack of transparency in application/leasing process” and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or source of income, especially for voucher recipients, according to the study. Continue reading

The Eldridge, preservation plus seven stories on Broadway — and in ‘the sweet spot’ of affordability

(Image: Mithun)

Local community members got the first look at plans for The Eldridge, a preservation-friendly seven-story affordable housing development on the property of the auto row-era Eldridge Tire building, located on the 1500 block of Broadway between Pike and Pine, earlier this month at a meeting of the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council.

Walter Zisette, the associate director of real estate development at Capitol Hill Housing, one of the developers of the project, said that the level of planned affordable housing is in “the sweet spot” compared to other developments in the neighborhood. Continue reading