With renewed focus on equity and ‘Just Growth’ agenda, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict makes move to growing Seattle Urban League

A building acquired by Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle for affordable housing last fall

A REVIVAL market at Capitol Hill Station (Image: Capitol Hill EcoDistrict)

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, one of the closest organizations the neighborhood currently has to an independent community group representing the area’s neighborhoods in the city’s growth and development process, is moving under the wings of Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle with a renewed focus on equity.

“This next phase of partnership with the Urban League is an opportunity for the EcoDistrict to co-create a future for equitable community development at scale,” EcoDistrict executive director Donna Moodie said in the announcement.

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict took shape more than a decade ago as it as formed by what was then known as Capitol Hill Housing. The developer and manager of affordable housing across Capitol Hill recognized its shifting focus to a larger citywide mandate with a change of its name to Community Roots Housing in the time since. Now the community-focused organization it helped create to address environmental and social concerns in the area’s development is ready for a larger mandate.

The Urban League is growing. Last week, it announced plans to move from its Central District headquarters at 14th and Yesler to Rainier Ave as part of a major development to create both a new hq and around 300 new affordable apartment units.

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Equity, sustainability, and maybe a ‘superblock’ — Capitol Hill business owner is new EcoDistrict leader

Moodie at a conference with Capitol Hill business owners discussing the COVID-19 impact earlier this month (Image: CHS)

By Andrew LaChapelle, UW News Lab/Special to CHS

There are other problems in the world — and opportunities to address them — beyond COVID-19. Donna Moodie, a longtime Seattle restaurateur and owner of 14th and Union’s Marjorie, is already thinking about how to solve them.

Moodie took the helm as executive director of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict program to start 2020.

Her organization is dedicated to equity and sustainability.

“I’ve been really inspired with the youth movement, trying to be more aware of the state we are leaving things in for the next generations to come,” Moodie said. Continue reading

How $150K ‘Public Life Study’ could be start of creating a Capitol Hill pedestrian and bike-only superblock

It took two decades of community planning to guide the affordable housing and community space-rich “transit oriented development” set to open above Capitol Hill Station in 2020. Proponents hope a new community-driven plan will play out faster to grow the neighborhood’s Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and — ultimately — create a pedestrian-and cyclist-first “superblock” in the middle of the neighborhood.

The start of this new “Public Life” plan began this summer in Copenhagen and will, officials hope, take a small, $150,000 step forward this fall as the Seattle City Council puts its touches on the city’s next fiscal budget. The discussion will begin Friday in council chambers.

“It’s about focusing on the EcoDistrict to make it more pedestrian friendly and a model for sustainability,” citywide representative Lorena González tells CHS about her proposal to add funding for a “Public Life Study” of Capitol Hill and the longterm hopes for the plan to shape the neighborhood: Continue reading

Citywide rep González part of Capitol Hill EcoDistrict delegation on ‘sustainable, urban strategies’ European field trip

(Image: @cmlgonzalez)

To break the the mayor’s veto of the Seattle City Council’s Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue plan, citywide council member Lorena González had to make an international phone call in the middle of the night to cast her decisive vote Monday afternoon Seattle time.

Turns out, González is abroad this week studying “sustainable, urban strategies” thanks to the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.

The council member is part of a huge delegation, according to Capitol Hill Housing which started the EcoDistrict effort in 2013 with funding from The Bullitt Foundation to increase sustainability efforts in the neighborhood.  Continue reading

Renter Summit seeks to build tenant power on Capitol Hill

13925584_1033358373447357_8610625736069031429_oRenters make up roughly 80% of Capitol Hill residents but organizers of an upcoming summit say most are left out of crucial public policy decisions. In an effort to kickstart a renter power movement in Seattle, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is holding its first Capitol Hill Renter Summit September 24th.

“It’s about giving the silent majority of the neighborhood a voice,” said EcoDistrict director Joel Sisolak.

The summit will feature issue briefings followed by breakout discussion groups. Leading up to the event, EcoDistrict organizers reached out to renters on Capitol Hill to head the discussions. Mayor Ed Murray will give an opening address, and House Speaker Frank Chopp and State Senator Jamie Pederson will join other local elected officials for a live Q&A session.

Sisolak hopes the summit will inspire a pipeline of building ambassadors that will see themselves as the rightful advocates for a crucial segment of Seattle’s population. “The renters summit is more of a launch than an endpoint,” he said.

You can RSVP for the free event here. The first 50 people to sign up get a free “renter power” t-shirt. Continue reading

Positive 2015 results — and a couple bad data points — in Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Index

Roof Garden

In advance of Earth Day 2016, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict — a neighborhood sustainability and community development project led by Capitol Hill Housing — has released its EcoDistrict Index update of neighborhood sustainability based on data from the previous year. Overall, the update bears mostly good news for the area around Capitol Hill with a smidgen of bad.

One of the more surprising measurements? When it comes to usage of Metro buses, the update showed a negative trend, with a small decrease of use as measured by the index in 2015 compared to 2014, judging from Metro’s route and stop specific ridership data.

“Originally, when we were looking at those numbers, it was puzzling,” said EcoDistrict senior planner at Capitol Hill Housing, Alex Brennan. “More people are walking and biking … but then we looked at the actual use data for Metro — that’s going down a bit.”

But the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict team are attributing this to the cuts. updates, and optimizations to Metro service (like the 47), that kicked into gear in 2014. Brennan said that they looked at Metro ridership data from February through May of 2015, a timeframe that fell just short of when cut routes were restored in the summer and fall of the same year.

“If we had gone another month or two we’d probably seen different kinds of numbers,” said Brennan, adding that with the cut Metro routes restored and the opening and heavy usage of the Capitol Hill light rail station, next year’s Index update will be both more representative of transit usage and promise.

(Image: Capitol Hill EcoDistrict)

(Image: Capitol Hill EcoDistrict)

The Index, which uses a set of metrics and data from various sources to judge the neighborhood’s progress in achieving sustainability targets (like achieving zero annual traffic collision related fatalities and reducing the rate of car commuting), showed positive trends in both neighborhood transportation modal choices, street safety, and usage of the local farmers market held outside Seattle Central College on Broadway.

The green Hill loves the local farmers market, which, according to annual individual transaction totals, showed a 23% increase in shoppers in 2015 from 2014. And a quarter of these shoppers used EBT and WIC food assistance money to purchase goods via the market’s Fresh Bucks Program. Continue reading

EcoDistrict growing into Hill’s next big thing

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 5.20.46 PMSprouted from a grant from Capitol Hill’s super-green Bullitt Center and backed by one of the neighborhood’s most quietly powerful organizations in Capitol Hill Housing, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is apparently ready to blossom into a major player in the neighborhood’s growth.

The district took a turn in the spotlight in front of City Council Tuesday afternoon to highlight its environmental accomplishments since its rainy April 2013 start and what green initiatives director Joel Sisolak has planned next for the organization beyond the intriguing E Pike pedestrian zone test. But it was the discussion with Council members about a different kind of green on Capitol Hill following the presentation that might be the most important harbinger of EcoDistrict things to come.

A Capitol Hill 2020 initiative spearheaded by director Michael Wells and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce has laid the groundwork for a major expansion of the Broadway BIA that currently funds cleaning, and marketing along the street into a much wider-ranging entity — with a much more significant budget that could put more than $2 million in funding annually into motion around the Hill.

Many of the initiatives Seattle City Hall would like to see to win its needed approval of the expansion — especially from the planning and land use perspective — line up with the EcoDistrict’s direction presented Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t want to be dealing with the BIA and the EcoDistrict separately,” Burgess said at Tuesday’s hearing with EcoDistrict director Sisolak. Continue reading

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict | Rent control, yes or no and why?

15-0709 POLL on Rent Controlby Joel Sisolak, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict

How do you feel about rent control? We want to know. Participate in the Dialogue.

Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata are squaring off against Smart Growth Seattle Director Roger Valdez (and a player to be named later) on the topic of rent control. Scheduled for July 20th, this free-to-view cage match (kidding about the cage) promises to be bloody.

Both sides are passionate and articulate advocates from opposite sides of one of the most hotly debated topics in Seattle. Rent control, love it or hate it, is a possible intervention being considered for addressing the skyrocketing rents in Capitol Hill and across King County.

Where do you stand?

Mr. Valdez contends that we don’t need rent control; that rent control feels good (“who doesn’t want to the cost of rent to just stop?”) but actually makes housing prices go up and is, by the way, prohibited by state law.

Councilmember Sawant wants tenants, unions and community organizations to organize to pressure the state to remove its ban on rent control. Councilmember Licata agrees.

There are thousands of people in Seattle already living in rent controlled apartments, also known as affordable or subsidized housing, like the 47 buildings operated by Capitol Hill Housing. But there are far more apartment buildings that are not subsidized where rent rises and falls with the market.

How do you feel about rent control? Do you believe the City of Seattle should institute rent control as a partial solution to skyrocketing rents?

PARTICIPATE NOW IN A PUBLIC DIALOGUE ON RENT CONTROL: https://capitolhillecodistrict.consider.it/Rent_Control


Capitol Hill EcoDistrict | Communal living on Capitol Hill — Calling all ‘Building Ambassadors’

coverA couple of years ago, I helped to facilitate a retreat at an old Boy Scout camp near Monroe. It was a cold wet November weekend and the accommodations were Spartan, which is generally code for uncomfortable and in this case, moldy.

Somehow the weather and smelly cabins didn’t faze the participants, a few dozen bright eyed volunteers with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). These 20-somethings had agreed to be paid $100 per month and live in shared housing for a year while working in various direct service jobs in the Pacific Northwest. The theme of the retreat was “living in community.”

(Image: PRAG House)

(Image: PRAG House)

Some folks love communal living. PRAG House on Capitol Hill is “an urban housing cooperative that seeks to foster community and sustainable lifestyles” and many others live on Capitol Hill in less formal shared arrangements because it’s more affordable than a 1-bedroom apartment and it can be nice to have a ready group to hang out with on the weekends.

At the retreat I opened my talk with a quote from Heraclitus of Ephesus, aka the “Weeping Philosopher,” who said, “Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus was a recluse with few friends, which is not so surprising. He reminded everyone that the universe is dynamic, ever changing, and that shit happens. That makes for a good bumper sticker, but isn’t a very popular message. Continue reading

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict | Metrics for Capitol Hill –- Version 1.0 of the EcoDistrict Index released

We’ve asked Joel Sisolak, project director for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, to contribute to CHS about the district and the environment on a semi-regular basis. If you’re an expert and want to share with the community in a recurring CHS column, we’d like to hear from you.

IBM estimates that 2.5 quintillion, that’s 2.5 billion billion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data are created every day. The bulk is from social media, machine data (e.g., coming from automated sensors like the ones on the Capitol Hill Community Solar project), and transactional data from when we buy stuff. Companies like IBM are racing to improve their ability to sift, interpret and sell this data as a commodity. In 2015 the market for data analysis services will reach $16.8B and is expected to grow exponentially into the foreseeable future.

The promise of big data, according to Steve Lohr at the New York Times, “is smarter, data-driven decision-making in every field.” The private sector is cashing in. Community activists are catching on and seeking ways to access and analyze data for the public good. Maurice Mitchell, a community organizer in Manhattan, claims that “prescriptions for our most pressing social issues emerge from the patterns found in the bonanza of collected data points.” He points to how analyzing data from the NYPD’s stops and arrests helped to uncover the racially disproportionate application of stop-and-frisk.

City Council set to formally recognize the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict
The Seattle City Council will vote Monday on Resolution 31562 formally recognizing the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict. The district plan moved forward in 2013 as Capitol Hill Housing partnered on programs to encourage green building and retrofitting and reach out to local businesses to encourage waste reduction and water savings. “City departments are encouraged to explore tools and incentives that may advance the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and remove identified regulatory barriers that thwart EcoDistrict initiatives in the context of the City’s broader sustainability and neighborhood development goals,” a portion of the resolution states.

On Capitol Hill, we will use publicly available data to help track progress in meeting the goals of the EcoDistrict. Last month we launched the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Index, a set of performance metrics backed by data from a variety of sources, from local street counts to the U.S. Census. Performance targets are set for the year 2030. We aligned the timeframe with our partners at the Seattle 2030 District, in part because we share a commitment to reducing the water and climate impacts of buildings, but also because 15 years seems long enough to make real progress and short enough to express urgency in addressing serious challenges related to climate change and neighborhood health.

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