Capitol Hill Housing planning mass timber apartment building on E Union

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

For years, prime real estate neighboring the brick Helen V apartment building on Union has hosted a surface parking lot used by a few local residents and Capitol Hill Housing vehicles.

On its face, a new eight-story, affordable project set to rise there doesn’t seem much different than the many sprouting on Capitol Hill but there is one major difference. The new building will have a mass timber structural system, which Atelier Jones principal architect Susan Jones says allows for more density. She said that the shift to timber away from concrete or steel made a 114-unit goal for the affordable project possible. Standard construction would have produced only 88.

Mass timber buildings like these are a trend in the Pacific Northwest, Jones says. Continue reading

What does federal inquiry mean for Madison RapidRide project?

As part of a criminal inquiry into local transportation projects that use federal dollars, several Seattle projects are coming under further scrutiny including the planned Madison Bus Rapid Transit line set to break ground this summer.

Seattle Department of Transportation officials were ordered via subpoena to produce records related to the projects earlier this month, according to Crosscut. The transportation projects include the RapidRide bus route on Madison and the Center City Connector streetcar.

In late November, Mary Kay Langan-Feirson, an assistant inspector general at the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced the audit into SDOT’s federal grants.

“Recently, the Office of Inspector General received several complaints concerning federally funded projects for the City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that are subject to DOT’s oversight,” she wrote in the Nov. 25 announcement. “Given the significant amount of departmental funds allocated to State and local governments for transportation-related projects and that we have not conducted an audit of the flow of DOT funds to SDOT or WSDOT, we are initiating this review.”

The criminal inquiry has come as a surprise.

SDOT receives federal funding in two ways, according to Langan-Feirson. SDOT can either receive direct financial assistance awards from a federal operating administrator or an operating administrator can grant funds to the state transportation department, which then sends the money to the city. Continue reading

Owning ‘nothing’ on Capitol Hill a little harder in 2020 with bike and car share pullbacks

(Image: CHS)

For Capitol Hill’s transportation share options, the end of 2019 feels a little like when you look at your app and see no available rides on your map. Those green and yellow bikes are following “floating” car share off the Hill.

This week, Lime announced it was pulling its rental bikes off Seattle streets for the winter while it negotiates a deal under the city’s new rules for scooter shares.

And Share Now, which was formed from a merger with car2go, announced before the holidays that it was closing its car-sharing services not just in Seattle, but in all of North America at the end of February.

“We want to say thank you to our customers, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Mayor and city council, who have supported us since we launched in the market in 2012,” the company wrote in an email to supporters. “We are saddened by this decision and deeply apologize for the inconvenience this will cause you when service ends.” Continue reading

Di$trict 3: Can Seattle cut corporate cash from its elections?

Money from outside groups and corporations played an outsized role in last month’s Seattle City Council elections. And nowhere in Seattle more so than in District 3, where challenger Egan Orion was the beneficiary of almost $600,000 in independent expenditures. From the start of the campaign, incumbent Kshama Sawant said she knew money would be the key to the race.

The biggest expenditures were from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee (PAC), but local firefighters chipped in nearly $75,000 and People for Seattle spent over $55,000 in the contentious race to represent Capitol Hill and the Central District.

Independent expenditure spending skyrocketed to over $4 million across the city this year, up from under $700,000 in 2015, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

New legislation is being proposed to fight this wave of outside money. The measure, introduced by citywide council member Lorena González is set to be heard for the first time Wednesday morning. Continue reading

Mapping Sawant’s 2019 win shows continued strength of District 3’s political divide

Sawant again performed strongly in the southwest core of District 3

It was a tale of two districts.

To the east and north were the wealthier homeowners of North Capitol Hill, Madrona, Montlake, and Broadmoor, where voters picked the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-backed Egan Orion.

Meanwhile, in the more densely populated Broadway and Pike/Pine cores and the Central District, residents sided with the re-election of socialist Seattle City Council incumbent Kshama Sawant.

While the path to victory in 2019 included a dramatic shift from Election Night totals, Sawant’s win, in the end, looks extremely familiar.

To Erin Schultz, a consultant that worked on the Orion campaign, the voting distribution of District 3 looks like what Sawant saw in 2015 as she defeated Pamela Banks for the seat.

“The mapped results are similar to results Sawant has gotten in every election, but we were obviously hoping to close the narrow gap, especially after the Primary performance,” Schultz said in an email. She believes that Amazon’s late $1 million contribution turned the election into a “referendum on corporate influence in elections rather than solutions to addressing homelessness, improving affordability, and the many other issues our city is struggling with.”
Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s leaders in Olympia look ahead to 2020: capital gains, carbon tax, behavioral health, rent control ban, and the ‘Tim Eyman disaster’

Frank Chopp, Jamie Pedersen, and Nicole Macri

(Image: @43rdDems)

Coming into the 2019 legislative session in January after the midterms, Washington Democrats held hefty majorities in both chambers in Olympia, allowing them to pass progressive legislation that had been on the backburner for years with close margins or Republican control of the state Senate.

And Democrats passed a suite of legislation, including expanded higher education funding, increased renter protections, and a public option. But, despite the advantage, they still fell short on other policy goals, like clean fuel standards, banning high capacity magazines for firearms, and comprehensive sexual health education in the state’s schools.

So when the 43rd District legislative delegation — which includes Capitol Hill, First Hill, and other parts of the city — came to Seattle Central College Tuesday night to preview their priorities for the 2020 session, one of the lawmakers’ biggest pleas was to expand that Democratic majority through other parts of the state to make passing progressive legislation simpler.

The environment, gun safety, behavioral health, and housing, were some of the top issues for the delegation, made up of Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Rep. Nicole Macri, and Rep. Frank Chopp, who Pedersen called “speaker emeritus” given his extensive time serving as the top lawmaker in the House that came to an end in 2019. Continue reading

DISTRICT 3 GET OUT THE VOTE: phone banking, text banking, and Sawant canvassers vs. Orion canvassers on the streets of D3

Sawant volunteers gathered Saturday in Cal Anderson for “get out the vote” efforts (Image: Vote Sawant)

Phone banking for Orion (Image: Egan for Seattle)

It would be ironic if the uber expensive, cash and digital advertising-infused, about as dirty as Seattle political fighting gets District 3 race came down to an old-fashioned “get out the vote” push but that didn’t stop both campaigns duking it out until Tuesday’s 8 PM ballot deadline from rolling out a busy weekend of action across Capitol Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods.

As pamphlet after pamphlet and canvasser after canvasser spread across the neighborhoods, incumbent Kshama Sawant and challenger Egan Orion continued to draw national attention as they battle in a contentious and costly race that serves in many ways as a microcosm for the rest of the city.

For Sawant, the push meant a Saturday morning rally at Capitol Hill’s Chop Suey with what the campaign said were over 160 volunteers that then spent the afternoon at 20 stations across the neighborhood they see as a hub of untapped voters for their Socialist Alternative incumbent fighting for her political life.

One organizer said that only 13% of the Capitol Hill Sawant supporters they’ve identified had voted just three days before the election.

“There are literally thousands of people out there that we need to reach,” Sawant said Saturday. “Many of our people haven’t voted yet, so this weekend is extremely crucial.”

Orion’s campaign was similarly trying to reach voters on North Capitol Hill when CHS visited its 21st and Union office Saturday afternoon.  Continue reading

In Africatown ‘showdown,’ Sawant and Orion trade blows over who shows up — and who calls each campaign’s shots

Stills from Africatown Seattle’s video of Friday’s forum

Tensions have been building in District 3’s Seattle City Council race for months.

After a recent forum, candidate Egan Orion even texted CHS: “Gloves are off.”

This friction was only intensified after Amazon’s recent $1 million contribution to the business-friendly Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, which has endorsed Orion over Socialist Alternative incumbent Kshama Sawant.

In recent days, Sawant has been able to earn the support of fellow progressive city council members who had been reluctant to endorse her due in part to her sometimes polarizing governing tactics. The tech giant’s heavy-handed spending has apparently changed their minds.

These tensions spilled over into a Friday night forum — just a week and a half from election day — at the Central Area Senior Center as Sawant and Orion swapped jabs on their attendance records and the sources of their support: the chamber for Orion and the national network of Socialist Alternative for Sawant.  Continue reading

With ballots out, here’s where District 3 candidates stand on housing and affordability

A view from a Pike/Pine crane

Kshama Sawant once again took on corporations and challenger Egan Orion was a no show in a forum on housing and homelessness Monday downtown, posing next month’s election as one between a champion of the working class against a business-backed candidate.

“Amazon, big business, the [Seattle Metropolitan] Chamber of Commerce are engaged in an attempted hostile corporate takeover of this election,” Sawant said. “They want to flip City Hall to the right.”

Sawant has made this pitch at countless forums in the past several months, but this time her opponent wasn’t there to defend himself. Challenger Orion didn’t attend the forum despite being listed as confirmed to attend on the organizer’s website. The Broadway Business Improvement Area head — who has been the beneficiary of more than $163,000 in independent expenditures from the Amazon-funded Chamber’s political action committee in the general election — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On housing, Sawant highlighted her controversial push for citywide residential rent control, which she has pushed despite little momentum in Olympia to overturn the statewide ban on the practice.

“It is going to be the most important citywide anti-displacement strategy because people who are homeless now or economically evicted now, today, will be economically evicted next year, next month, even next week,” Sawant said, after also calling for commercial rent control and ending sweeps of homeless encampments.  Continue reading

Sawant vs. Orion on police accountability: ‘Public safety problems are not because we don’t have enough police, it’s because of inequality’

It was a busy 24 hours for police accountability in Seattle.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Robart issued a ruling clarifying that the city still needs to correct issues in its police accountability system. These problems led Robart to rule earlier this year that the Seattle Police Department had fallen partly out of compliance with a 2012 federal consent decree mandating that the city address allegations of bias in policing and the use of excessive force.

Robart also ruled Tuesday that, in finding ways to mend flaws in the SPD’s internal investigations of officer misconduct, Seattle may consult outside advisers.

And on Wednesday, an internal SPD inquiry found that an officer acted reasonably when he shot and killed a man armed with a handgun after a traffic stop last year, a shooting that has drawn deep scrutiny.

So Wednesday’s night’s police accountability forum at Centilia Cultural Center in Beacon Hill with candidates from many of the Seattle City Council races, was timely to say the least. And this time, both Kshama Sawant and Egan Orion were there. Continue reading