Community Solar – One Year Later

IMG_4977In Seattle, energy rates are low and the skies are often cloudy. Not ideal conditions for investing in solar energy. To make things even more challenging, we decided to put an array atop the Holiday Apartments, one of CHH’s low-income housing tax credit properties with a complicated ownership structure.

The Holiday Apartment’s 26 kW solar array started generating power in December 2014. The first community solar array on an affordable housing building in Washington State, it is a pilot with Seattle City Light to counter the notion that green energy is the province of the wealthy elite.

Community Solar is crowd-funded solar generation that allows individuals and businesses to invest in and receive benefits from a system located on a community-based facility. Instead of installing their own rooftop system, participants purchase a piece of a system that’s located elsewhere and right-sized for their budgets. It allows people who can’t or don’t want to invest in their own system to reap the benefits of solar, including renters and those who can’t afford the upfront costs.

The Holiday Apartments community solar array was made possible by upfront financing and administration by Seattle City Light. For as little as $150, City Light utility customers purchased 925 “solar units” of the Holiday Apartments array, which entitled them to a portion of the production payments and the value of the electricity produced at a “community solar rate.”  The bite-sized units were sized to return $150 back to the customer over the life of the program, plus a little extra.

Thanks to a sunny year, the array exceeded year-round productivity expectations by more than 20%. In the first 12 months, the Holiday Apartments installation produced enough energy to power three homes for a year. Take a look at this nifty dashboard for real time solar data.

Customers told us that they loved the triple bottom line nature of community solar. Through their small financial investment, they were helping to reduce the long-term operating costs of affordable housing while also supporting clean, local solar power.

In the fall, just as we were developing a strategy for expanding community solar to more affordable buildings, City Light made an announcement that put our plans on hold. Rapid adoption of solar in Seattle, increased production due to sunny weather, and decreasing electricity sales meant that City Light would reach the state-imposed cap for solar production incentives much earlier than originally thought, likely sometime in 2016. Customers were told to expect a proportional 31% reduction in incentive payments. This means that Holiday Apartment community solar participants may not make their money back.

With this uncertainty, came a re-evaluation of how we might bring solar to more affordable housing buildings. There are a number of feasible concepts, such as third party owned systems and direct ownership, but community solar would be difficult under the current conditions.

That’s why we’ve joined with solar industry allies, affordable housing advocates, and solar customers to work to improve and expand the state production incentive structure and support clean energy policies that will better serve the needs of the affordable housing sector.  We will be tracking important solar legislation this year and will be advocating in Olympia for outcomes that expand the available options for solar deployment on affordable housing. We encourage you to join us in these efforts to enable low income access to clean energy benefits and ensure a bright energy future for all.

Reflections following PolicyLink’s Equity Summit

I just turned 45, so I think I can officially claim the label: Middle Aged White Guy. I am okay with my age and I like to think I own my white guy privilege, which I carried along with a small overnight bag to Los Angeles for the PolicyLink Equity Summit.

PolicyLink is a national institute advancing economic and social equity. The 2015 PolicyLink Equity Summit was the first gathering they’ve hosted since 2011. The driving theme was “Equity is the Superior Growth Model.”

At the opening plenary, Stanford economist Raj Chetty offered up an uneasy laugh line: “The chance of achieving the American Dream is 2x higher in Canada. Angela Glover Blackwell, the president of PolicyLink, urged the 3,000+ crowd, saying we need to “harden our commitment to being in the struggle…to achieve equity.”

For the past couple of years, Capitol Hill Housing and our partners on the EcoDistrict Steering Committee have been working to deepen our commitment to social equity in our ecodistrict work. We added a performance area for equity and consulted a wide range of experts and community members in development the following goals:

  • ENGAGE UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS IN ECODISTRICT DECISION-MAKING
  • INCREASE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE
  • PRESERVE AND EXPAND AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL SPACES
  • ENSURE ACCESS TO PUBLIC SPACES AND SERVICES

We formed an Equity and Engagement Working Group from members of the steering committee and other community volunteers to create an “equity lens” through which we’ll examine and evaluate every new EcoDistrict initiative.

The working group created a questionnaire that asks several key questions: Who is included in shaping and leading the project? Who does the project benefit and who is left out? And finally, how does the project strive to address oppression, both overt and systemic. The Equity and Engagement Working Group also will lead the planning for the EcoDistrict’s first major equity-focused project, the EcoDistrict Renter Engagement Program. More details soon!

At the Equity Summit, Blackwell read PolicyLink’s Equity Manifesto where equity is defined as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.” Will you join us in the struggle to achieve equity on Capitol Hill?

Parking Budget Amendments Adopted by Council

On Monday, Seattle City Council Chambers were packed with supporters organized by Kshama Sawant to support her budget amendments to address homelessness, establish a new LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill and fund a municipal broadband pilot. Public comment lasted nearly an hour. I was there to track the progress of two specific amendments that will help advance EcoDistrict goals around parking.

GS 100–1–A-2

The Council uses Green Sheets to modify the Mayor’s proposed budget by increasing or decreasing spending for specific programs and services. In the case of GS 100-1-A-2, a green sheet sponsored by Tim Burgess, the Council voted to add $20,000 to the SDOT budget to address regulatory barriers to shared parking and develop design guidelines for off-street parking garages to encourage sharing. This work is recommended by our report published this summer. In the grand scheme of things (i.e., a proposed $5.1 billion City budget), $20,000 isn’t much money, but this is a very tactical investment in better use of off-street parking.

SLI 100-2-A-1

The Council uses Statements of Legislative Intent (SLIs) for a variety of purposes, including calling for a study of a new concept or approach. SLI 100-2-A-1 is a very exciting step towards creating Parking Benefit Districts in Seattle. Also sponsored by Burgess, this is a direct response to a recommendation out of the HALA report.

What are Parking Benefit Districts?

130129_parkingbigParking Benefit Districts are a way for neighborhoods to directly benefit from the money collected at parking meters. In Seattle, every dollar that a motorist plugs into a meter goes to the City’s general fund. This is an important part of the City’s budget and the lion’s share of meter revenue needs to be centrally collected to insure that every neighborhood sees some benefit. However, there is also a strong argument for at least some meter revenue staying local to support the neighborhood where it’s collected.

Donald Shoup, parking guru out of UCLA, explains it this way: “A Parking Benefit District offers non-residents the option of paying a fair market price to park (rather than simply prohibiting them from parking), and it offers neighborhood residents public revenues derived from non-residents.” (see more from Shoup on the subject here.)

In other words, people coming into Capitol Hill to enjoy its many attractions, especially the nightlife, can help to pay for improving the neighborhood for the many residents that call the Hill their home.

Parking Benefit Districts are a priority for HALA member Alan Durning, director of Sightline. When asked how parking fits into an affordable housing agenda, Durning replied: “Parking requirements increase the cost of housing and decrease its supply, making it dramatically less affordable. Moving Seattle away from parking mandates toward better management of its existing parking spaces is an essential component of HALA’s plan for affordability.”

Durning contends, as do we, that creating a parking benefit district on Capitol Hill is part of a suite of parking reforms to counteract the parking territoriality (and resultant costs) rampant not just on our neighborhood streets, but across the City.  More from Durning:

“Curb parking, it seems, is the stuff of neighborhood psy-ops. It brings out the crazy in people. And that fact—our intense, animalistic territoriality about curb parking—is among the fundamental realities of urban politics. It’s a root cause, I argue, of most of what’s wrong with how cities manage parking. And much is wrong with how cities manage parking. Consequently, somehow defusing or counteracting this territoriality could release a cascade of good news, if it allows cities to manage parking better. Parking policy is a secret key to solving urban problems ranging from housing affordability to traffic, from economic vitality to carbon pollution—plus a snarl of other ills. Parking reform is that important…” – Sightline, 2013

I should note that the SLI passed by Council this week does not actually set up a parking benefit district on Capitol Hill or anywhere else. It simply instructs SDOT to examine the legal and political hurdles to parking benefit districts and recommend a path forward to pilot a parking benefit district on Capitol Hill. This is a critical baby step. Look for the announcement of an actual pilot sometime next year.

Thanks, Council!

Pedestrian Street Debrief Process

Below is an update from the City of Seattle about the community debrief process for the Pedestrian Street Pilot:

The Office of Economic Development, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Police Department, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce collaborated this August to temporarily open sections of Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine corridor to pedestrians. On three Saturday nights in August, Pike Street was open to pedestrians between Broadway and 12th Avenue. The sustained nightlife explosion in Pike/Pine has created a vibrant, public scene, but has also generated mobility, safety, and civility concerns.  In response, the project increased pedestrian access, improved police monitoring, and tested ways to create cultural change in the streets while celebrating the neighborhood’s LGBTQ identity and artistic culture.

The pedestrian street pilot is one part of a broad economic development strategy – the Capitol Hill 2020 Plan – to support a vibrant commercial district where daytime and nighttime businesses thrive. The full Capitol Hill 2020 Plan can be seen at www.capitolhill2020.org.

Based on input from community stakeholders, two concepts were tested – with and without community focused programming. Now that the Pike Street pedestrian pilot is complete, project partners want to get feedback on the pedestrian street experience.

Community feedback will be collected through an online survey until September 30 at www.surveymonkey.com/r/PikeStreet.

We have also scheduled two community meetings to hear from residents, businesses and others at 12th Avenue Arts (Pike Pine Room – 1620 12th Avenue) on:

  • Tuesday, September 22 from 6:00-7:30 pm, and
  • Thursday, September 24 from 9:00-10:30 am

Seattle Department of Transportation is processing data collected during the pilot to compare the pilot nights with other summer weekend nights, including intercept surveys, pedestrian counts, and activity mapping. Over 700 surveys were collected on six nights in late-July and August, both before and during the pilot.

Initial survey results shed light on what Capitol Hill is like on weekend nights—a mixed-use, multi-modal neighborhood. About 70% of people walked, biked, or used transit or rideshare as part of their trip to and from the area. During their visit, 59% of people visited a shop or restaurant, got coffee, went grocery shopping, or were there for work, in addition to many visiting the nightlife establishments. About one third (36%) live in Capitol Hill, First Hill, or the Central District, and about one third (36%) live somewhere else in Seattle. Most people (59%) also said they visited throughout the week, in addition to the weekend nights.

A full summary of input and data collected throughout the pilot as well as safety and available business data, will be available in late October.

Key contacts:

Heidi Hall, Office of Economic Development – 206-733-9967 and Heidi.Hall@seattle.gov

Brian Henry, Seattle Department of Transportation – 206-684-5146 and Brian.Henry@seattle.gov

Alex Brennan, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict – 206-204-3832 and ABrennan@capitolhillhousing.org

Final Weekend of the Pedestrian Streets Pilot (weather permitting)

Update: Cancelled because of the weather.

Original Post:

This Saturday marks the fourth and final weekend of a pedestrian-only zone on E Pike Street. During the month of August the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, in partnership with the Seattle Office of Economic Development, Department of Transportation, and Police Department, piloted an initiative to temporarily open three blocks of E Pike Street to pedestrians on crowded Saturday nights with the intention of creating a better experience for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

We have been collecting data on how street space is used during these pilot nights and on other, comparable nights throughout the summer. These results along with public safety and business data will be presented as part of debrief discussions in September. People interested in providing input will have opportunities to attend meetings and submit feedback online. Announcements about meeting dates and online survey links will be posted on this blog as soon as the details are finalized. We need to decide as a neighborhood whether we want these pedestrian street experiences to happen again next year.

We are actively tracking the rain forecast. We’ll be sure to post weather updates/cancellation notices here as the week progresses. Assuming the weather holds, here’s a rundown of what you can expect on the 29th.

8pm-10pm Free Swing and Salsa Classes 

Starting at 8pm, on the Broadway to 10th Ave block of Pike St, Century Ballroom is hosting queer friendly swing and salsa dance classes. The classes are free, so grab your partner and dance the night away!

All amplified sound will be done by 10pm.

10pm-2:15am Street Performers (sorry, no mimes!)

After the dance classes wind down, silent (or very quiet) performers will be in the streets from 10:00pm to 2:00am. Then, for a half hour right around closing time, musicians will serenade people goodnight and indicate that it’s time to get out of the street, get some food or head home.

We still need more silent performers and we do have a budget to pay performers. Please respond to the contact information below if you know people that are interested.

For questions contact Alex Brennan at abrennan(at)capitolhillhousing(dot)org, (206) 204-3832.

New Pike Street Traffic Control Plan for August 22nd and 29th

PIKE/PINE PEDESTRIAN STREETS EVENT NOTICE

Planned Street Closures Saturday August 22, 2015

On Saturday, August 22nd a permitted event will close sections of E Pike Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue to vehicle traffic.

From 8PM to 3AM, E Pike Street will be available to pedestrians only (except for drivers needing to access off-street parking on those blocks) from:
Broadway to 10th Avenue;
10th Avenue to 11th Avenue;
11th Avenue to 12th Avenue.
10th and 11th avenues will remain open to vehicle traffic.

No parking will be allowed on E Pike Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue, and the east side of 11th Avenue 150 feet north of E Pike Street, from 6PM until 3AM.
The following left turn lanes will
be closed from 8PM to 3AM:
-Southbound Broadway at Pike
-Northbound 12th Avenue at Pike
Closure details:
Three blocks of E Pike Street will be closed to vehicles from 8PM Saturday until 3AM Sunday
Parking on E Pike Street will be closed between Broadway and 11th Avenue starting at 6PM Saturday

For more information contact:
Brian Henry, SDOT Public Space Program (206) 684-5146
Brian(dot)Henry(at)seattle(dot)gov
Event information: http://bottomline.seattle.gov/2015/08/07/seattle-to-open-pikepine-corridor

Updated map image

Pedestrian Streets Pilot Programming

New details about the programming for the Pedestrian Streets Pilot are now solidified!! 

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the first two nights, August 8 and 15, will be shorter and focus on crowd management and public safety. The second two nights, August 22 and 29, will expand on this concept with community based programming that starts earlier in the
night.

August 22nd

From Laura Culberg, the owner and instructor: “The SweatBox is a Bikram influenced studio offering traditional Hatha Yoga, usually in a hot room. For this Pike-Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot class, The SweatBox owner Laura Culberg will offer a beginners level class, primarily standing series that’s appropriate for all levels and all ages. Wear yoga gear and bring a mat if you want, or just show up in your street clothes and try something new. Join us for a fun class and start your journey to health and wellness.”

From Jackie Hell, the Host: “You won’t be the only drag queen on E Pike St this night! The lineup includes some of Seattle’s finest, including: Freckles Riverside, of New Noise Productions (the King of F’ing with Burlesque). RainbowGore Cake, the 12 year old, drag superstar.  Samuel L. JackYouSon, bringing you Drag King realness.  Ade, the sultry singer we all love.  Honey Bucket, Pac Highway’s hottest Ho. Hosted by Jackie Hell.  We’ll announce additional performers as they are confirmed.

  • These performances and all amplified sound will be done by 10pm.

August 29th

  • 8:00 to 10:00pm Century Ballroom will be hosting queer friendly swing and salsa partner dance classes in the street.
  • Again, these activities and all amplified sound will be done by 10pm.

Both Nights

  • The plan for both nights is to have silent (or very quiet) performers from 10:00pm to 1:00am including human statues, clowns, and dancers.
  • Then, for a half hour right around closing time, we’ll have musicians serenade people goodnight and indicate that it’s time to get out of the street, get some food or head home.
  • We still need more silent performers and string musicians and we do have a budget to pay performers.  Please respond to the contact information below if you know people that are interested.
  • The Imperial Court has also generously offered to be out and about in regalia, handing out condoms, establishing their presence throughout the night.  Other LGBTQ and community groups are welcome and encouraged to participate in similar ways.
  • We are also working to bring the Deehubs image projections back, building on what was done for Pride and SelfID with a chance for people to comment on the pilots, add to the Here and Queer and SelfID comments, and see those comments up on neighborhood walls in real time once it gets dark.

For questions contact Alex Brennan at abrennan(at)capitolhillhousing(dot)org, (206) 204-3832.

Volunteers Needed for Pedestrian Streets!

A Pedestrian Streets Pilot is coming to Pike Pine this summer –we need YOUR HELP to make it possible! 

(I am excited to announce that we can now offer a $15 stipend for your volunteer shift!! -Alex)

Volunteers should meet organizers at 10th and Pike to sign-in for their shifts.  Sign up links are below.

In collaboration with Capitol Hill Housing, SDOT, Office of Economic Development, Seattle Police Department and neighborhood supporters and volunteers, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict will be testing out a series of pilot street closures in the Pike Pine area of Capitol Hill this August. See the latest update and information on the project.

The sustained nightlife explosion in that neighborhood has created a vibrant, public scene, but has also generated mobility, safety, and civility concerns.  The pilot street closure project is intended to release the pressure that is built up on the limited sidewalk space. These temporarily open streets will allow for increased pedestrian mobility, improved police monitoring, and more positive activation through community-led programming.

Learn more about the pilot

To better understand the dynamics and scale of this unique street environment, we will be conducting a series of pedestrian counts and surveys during weekend nights in July and August. With eight nights targeted for study, we need a lot of help! We are looking for volunteers to collect data as well as help with the community programming. Email Alex Brennan at abrennan(at)capitolhillhousing.org if interested or sign up below. 

Volunteer with data collection: sign up here. This will be an opportunity to gain first-hand experience with data collection as well as help provide important quantitative and qualitative feedback on the outcome of these pedestrian street closures to guide future plans. The study will be conducted in three shifts (8p-10p, 10p-1a, 1a-3a) on the following dates:

  • Baseline data counts – 7/31, 8/1, 8/7, and 10/3
  • Street closure events –8/8, 8/15, 8/22, and 8/29

Volunteer with day-of event/programming: Sign up here. The community programming will happen on the evenings of 8/22 and 8/29. The shifts are still: 8p-10p, 10p-1a, 1a-3a. (*final schedule coming soon*)

Do you have photography and/or video skills (all levels welcome)? We’re also looking for people to help document the street closures. Email Alex at abrennan(at)capitolhillhousing.org if interested!

Help us reclaim the streets!

Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot – UPDATE!

After soliciting feedback from businesses, residents, and City departments, and looking at examples in other cities, we can now confirm and share more details on the Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot.

 Click here to learn more about the Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot

Pedestrian-streets-meeting-pic

Here’s the plan: The pilot will close three blocks of Pike Street to car traffic on four Saturday nights in August. The first two nights, August 8 and 15, will be shorter and focus on crowd management and public safety. The second two nights, August 22 and 29, will expand on this concept with community based programming. Volunteers needed for data collection!

WHERE: Pike Street from Broadway to 12th Ave

WHEN: August 8th and 15th (10pm to 3am) & August 22nd and 29th (8pm to 3am)

See the traffic control plan and map

*Daytime and weekday times originally considered didn’t make it to this pilot, but could be an option in the future if there’s continued interest and support to make it happen.

Vehicular Traffic: 

  • E Pike Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue will be closed to car traffic.
  • The Pike and 10th Avenue and Pike and 11th Ave intersections will be closed as well, but 10th and 11th Avenues will remain open for local access.

Parking and Loading: 

  • On-street parking will be restricted on Pike Street and on the east side of 11th Avenue between Pike and Pine.  All other on-street parking on 10th and 11th will be preserved.
  • Off-street parking garages and lots and loading docks on 10th and 11th Avenue will be fully accessible.
  • Off-street parking garages and lots and loading docks on Pike Street will be accessible based on specific arrangements with those facilities.

Programming: 

  • August 22 and 29 will include a variety of LGBT and community focused activities and small performances earlier in the night. Later in the night programming will be quiet and focus on promoting a calm atmosphere and directing activity off of the streets at the end of the night. Details and schedule will be announced soon!

See more about the background and development of the Pike Pine Pedestrian Street Pilot

Help volunteer with data collection and community programming!

If you have questions or would like to learn more, contact Alex Brennan at abrennan@capitolhillhousing.org, (206) 204-3832 or seth.geiser@seattle.gov, (206) 615-1035

input 3

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback!

Learn more about the Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict has been leading a community engagement and planning process – in partnership with other community groups and City departments – about piloting pedestrian-only streets in Pike Pine since the spring. Based on feedback from local businesses, residents, and City departments, and looking at examples in other cities, we think this idea has potential. 

In collaboration with Capitol Hill Housing, SDOT, Office of Economic Development, and Seattle Police Department, we will be testing out a series of pilot street closures in the Pike Pine area of Capitol Hill this August. See the latest update and details on the project here. 

Get involved – volunteer!

Why pedestrian-only streets?

The sustained nightlife explosion in that neighborhood has created a vibrant, public scene, but has also generated mobility, safety, and civility concerns. Other neighborhoods and cities have had success with the strategy of limiting vehicle access at certain times to make more space for people on foot and improve the feel of the street. The aim of this pilot is to test out and fine tune this approach to address the challenges our neighborhood is facing.

What do we want to achieve?

The pilot street closure project is intended to release the pressure that is built up on the limited sidewalk space. These temporarily open streets will allow for increased pedestrian mobility, improved police monitoring, and positive street activation through community-led programming.

We want streets where:

  • Everyone feels safe and welcome
  • We celebrate the LGBTQ and artistic culture and history of the neighborhood
  • The street is a platform for building community
  • There are no gates, no fences, no drinking in the street
  • Garage, delivery, and emergency vehicle access is maintained

Following up

As a pilot, the Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets will allow us to test out and experiment with temporary interventions that can then inform future nightlife management strategies. A key component of the pilot is *data collection as well as a community debrief and feedback process from the street experience. If the pilots go well, they could be recurring (monthly or weekly) in 2016.

*To better understand the dynamics and scale of this unique street environment, we will be conducting a series of pedestrian counts and surveys during weekend nights in July and August. With eight nights targeted for study, we need help. Interested in volunteering? Learn more here or contact Alex at abrennan(at)capitolhillhousing.org with questions.

More Resources:

Slides: PPPS Presentation – part 1PPPS Presentation – part 2

Case Study: Vancouver’s Street of Shame Report

Inspiration: Bogota’s night time Cyclovia [Video] 

Press coverage:

photo

Examples of various “Open Streets” initiatives

 

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