Sally Clark asks, Should every urban village be an EcoDistrict?

The Urban Village Strategy in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan directs growth to concentrate density in centers across the City. From the City of Seattle


The four core values of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan are: Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 12.07.31 PMCommunity – developing strong connections between a diverse range of people and places Environmental Stewardship – protect and improve the quality of our global and local natural environment Economic Opportunity and Security – a strong economy and a pathway to employment is fundamental to maintaining our quality of life Social Equity – limited resources and opportunities must be shared; and the inclusion of under-represented communities in decision-making processes is necessary Our plan’s urban village strategy supports the core values by:

  • Directing growth to existing urban centers and villages
  • Contributing to the vibrancy of our neighborhood centers
  • Reinforcing the benefits of City investments in transit, parks, utilities, community centers, and other infrastructures

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is an active effort to make that density in the Pike/Pine, Capitol Hill and 12th Avenue Urban Villages healthy and livable. During discussion of Resolution 31562 at yesterday’s PLUS Committee, Councilmember Sally Clark ponders the potential of the EcoDistrict model for other urban villages in Seattle. Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.59.29 AM

I think this is great… I’ll admit, I was one of those people who, when Chris Persons [Capitol Hill Housing CEO] started talking about [the Capitol Hill] EcoDistrict, I’m like, ‘I don’t know what that is. What is he talking about? What is that going to look like?’ And as it’s matured…now my thing is, well, do I want to have just one EcoDistrict or should every urban village really be an EcoDistrict? We’re trying [via the Urban Village strategy] to create yes, a concentration through zoning, but that doesn’t make community, and that doesn’t make progress necessarily…

Clark goes on to say that real community building is “about being really intentional about how people live together, so I think this [EcoDistrict] approach is great.”  

PLUS Committee Approves EcoDistrict Resolution

On Friday, the Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee of the Seattle City Council approved Council Resolution 31562. The Full Council will vote on it Monday at 2pm. You can watch our presentation to the PLUS Committee HERE starting at about the 28:00 minute mark. Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.08.44 AM   Resolution 35612 brings formal recognition of the EcoDistrict from the City, as well as encouragement to City Departments to work with us in the EcoDistrict’s success. Here is the meat of the Resolution:

Section 1. City departments are encouraged to recognize the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and its intersection with departmental work including, but not limited to, the Office of Sustainability and Environment, the Department of Neighborhoods, the Office of Arts and Culture, the Office of Economic Development, the Office of Housing, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Planning and Development, Seattle City Light, the Seattle Department of Transportation, and Seattle Public Utilities. Section 2. City

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departments are encouraged to review and provide feedback on EcoDistrict performance targets and provide access to available City data and analysis for tracking EcoDistrict performance targets. Section 3. 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.

We’d love a showing of community support at Monday’s Full Council meeting (2pm City Hall). Bring a friend!

Community Solar Update!

We’re over half way there! Thanks to your enthusiastic support, we’ve passed the half way mark—over 513 units of our Community Solar array have been sold! The 26kW system located atop the Holiday Apartments went LIVE in late November and (even with our

gray weather) has been producing clean, locally generated, renewable energy for the grid ever since! You can view real-time data from the system here. Want to join in on the fun? Sign up today (starting at $150)! Community Solar is a way for residents to participate and receive the benefits of solar without having their own solar arrays on their roof—and in this case also supports a great cause! Here’s how it works:

  1. Buy Solar Units: Any City Light customer can sign up, starting at $150
  2. Get Paid Back: Earn your investment back via credits on your bill until 2020
  3. Feel Good: This project produces clean energy, supports the regional economy (all of the system components and labor are locally sourced!), and reduces the long-term operating costs of affordable housing.


Follow us on facebook or twitter for all the updates!


Become a Solar Sponsor!

Know a local business or community organization interested in supporting solar and affordable housing? The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict invites local businesses and institutions to participate in the Capitol Hill Community Solar Project as “Solar Sponsors.” This is your chance to support neighborhood sustainability, get recognized for your contribution and earn back your investments via credits on your electricity bill!

See our current solar sponsors!

This is a limited time opportunity. For purchasing 7 or more solar units before March 15th, Solar Sponsors will receive the following recognition benefits:

This sponsorship is an investment via your electric bill that will be repaid to your business between now and June 2020–thus you can gain the benefits of sponsorship while earning your money back AND supporting a great community project!

Become a Solar Sponsor

For more information on the program (and to sign up as a sponsor or an individual!) visit City Light’s Community Solar page.

You can find additional sponsorship information for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict here or get in touch with Joel Sisolak at

Hill Wonk

I’m pretty excited to be the newest “Hill Wonk” columnist for CHS Seattle.  Here’s a link to my first column. A brief excerpt below.


solar installWhy should we care about a little solar project? 90% of the electricity we use in Seattle is from hydroelectric dams, including City-owned dams on the Skagit, Pend Oreille and Cedar Rivers.  As energy sources go, hydro is already low carbon and renewable. You might say, “90%, that’s great!  A solid ‘A-minus!’”

But where does the other 10% come from? Some of it is wind power, but about half is nuclear and coal fired energy purchased from Bonneville Power Administration by City Light. Nuclear and coal power bought and sold by the “nation’s greenest utility?!”

We can and should do better. Seattle needs to stop importing BPA’s dirty power and become a net exporter of clean energy to cities more heavily reliant on nuclear, coal and oil.  This can happen, even as our city continues growing, via conservation and investment in solar. With a mix of private and public investment, our whole city could begin to “spin the dial backwards” as we send solar and hydro electrons streaming out of Seattle.

In Capitol Hill, we are helping to lead this (counter)revolution. A 25kW system isn’t much, but it’s a promising start. The Holiday Apartments array is City Light’s 3rd community solar project and its first on Capitol Hill.

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, we have tons to be thankful for. Today I want to give special props and gratitude to the EcoDistrict Steering Committee: Michael Mariano (co-chair) Schemata Workshop Neelima Shah (co-chair) Bullitt Foundation Alicia Uhlig GGLO Charles Bowers CBRE/Group Health Clayton Smith Sustainable Capitol Hill David Dologite

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Capitol Hill Housing/Pike-Pine Urban Neighborhood Council Erik Rundell EcoNW Erika Melroy Recology CleanScapes Heather Burpee University of Washington/Integrated Design Lab Julie West Seattle King County Public Health Leon Garnett Centerstone/Squire Park CommunityCouncil Liz Dunn Dunn & Hobbes/Pike-Pine Urban Neighborhood Council/CHH Board Matthew Combe Seattle 2030 District Michelle Caulfield City of Seattle – OSE Michelle Hippler Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce Rob Schwartz Seattle University/CHH Board Ric Cochrane Milepost Consulting Whitney Fraser Environment International LTD/Dyke March   THANK YOU!

Green Biz Program

This Fall, we’re making it easier for local businesses to conserve resources, save money and improve our neighborhood! Local businesses are key stakeholders in creating a vibrant and sustainable neighborhood. Too often, however, they lack the resources, support or time to take the next steps towards that goal. In partnership with the City and other community organizations, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict’s Green Business

program supports local businesses and acknowledges their efforts on behalf of the planet. Check out the different opportunities here and get in touch with Arielle Lawson ( participate.

EcoDistrict Update – October

Welcome to our monthly update!

Rendering of the soon-to-be installed solar panels atop the Holiday(image: Bonneville Environmental Foundation)

Rendering of the soon-to-be installed solar panels atop the Holiday (image: Bonneville Environmental Foundation)

It’s been a busy few weeks – We moved our office to 12th Avenue Arts, launched a community solar program (more below), and unveiled this website!

Monthly updates are new, too. Our mini-dispatches will feature the latest news from the EcoDistrict. We promise to keep it short – with important info and clear invitations to action.

Let us know what you think!  If you like what you see, please share with your friends and colleagues. If you have suggestions on content you’d like to see here, send them our way.

Community Solar is Launched

Our biggest news is the official launch of Capitol Hill Community Solar, a collaborative venture with Seattle City Light. You may have heard about it in the Seattle Weekly or Capitol Hill Seattle blog. You can “buy in” to the program for as little as $150 spread across your next two electric bills. The more solar units you buy, the more you’ll benefit affordable housing, local jobs and the growing clean energy sector AND the more you stand to save on your electric bill.

takeaction  Enroll in Community Solar today

NOTE: You’ll need your Seattle City Light account number to sign up. If you don’t have your account number handy, there’s a phone number on the page you can call to get it during business hours. Once you enter your account number, you’ll be able to choose to support the Capitol Hill project.

Community Solar — Capitol Hill is Launched!

You’ve been thinking, when will they launch that community solar deal so I can buy in? You waited patiently until your patience started to strain. Is today the day?, you wondered. Where can I sign up!? WTF?! Easy does it! The wait is over. You can give your twiddled thumbs a rest and sign up at Seattle City Light’s

community solar page. Here’s the URL in case you want to share it with friends. Sun, sun, sun, here it comes Sun, sun, sun, here it comes Sun, sun, sun, here it comes Sun, sun, sun, here it comes Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

sun clock on holiday-image CHS

Sun clock on the side of the Holiday Apartments – Image CHS

Image: William Wright
Image: William Wright


O’zapft is!


Celebrating my Bavarian roots (mother’s side) with Dad and brother at the East Patrick Street Fairgrounds in Frederick, Maryland.

At high noon on September 20th, the Mayor of Munich tapped the first keg and officially opened Oktoberfest with the traditional cry of “O’zapft is!” (“it’s tapped!”) So began another 16-day international celebration of hard drinking and tube-shaped meats.

Germans take their beer very seriously. Since the Middle Ages, beer purity laws have strictly limited both the ingredients (water, malted barley, hops and yeast) and process allowed for brewing. And their beers are damn good, some would say unrivaled, because the Teutons take it so damn seriously. The same can be said for German cars, soccer teams, and of course, sausage.

Through focused investment, the Germans are now unrivaled in solar energy as well. This seems an unlikely technology focus for a nation that has a not-so-sunny climate similar to Seattle’s.  Actually, it’s more similar to Alaska’s. There’s a reason Germans go to Greece to vacation and not the reverse.  So, what gives?  Are they betrunken

No, they’re focused.  Germany’s Energiewende, or “energy transformation,” aims to power the country entirely on renewable sources by 2050. By the end of 2012, Germany had installed about 30 gigawatts of photovoltaics. During the summer, solar generation now provides close to 50 percent of the country’s electricity.

How is a country with less sunshine than our cloudiest state kicking US ass in solar? Policy is a big factor. The German government has heavily subsidized renewables for years. Now that solar power has a solid foothold, Germany can ease off the subsidy pedal.

Here in the States, “soft costs” remain the biggest obstacle to competing in the renewables sector. But there’s hope for us, according to Kiley Kroh at Climate Progress:

America’s own German-style solar boom may be just around the corner. Residential solar installations in 2012 reached 488 megawatts — a 62 percent increase over 2011 installations. Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently told Greentech Media that solar is growing so quickly, “it could double every two years.” He continued that other renewable sources will supplement solar, “but at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”

Community Solar in the EcoDistrict

Here in Seattle, our weather is better suited for solar generation than Germany’s. Seattle City Light has been building community solar projects on some of the City’s landmarks—Jefferson Park, the Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo.

Now they’re planning to build one in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict atop the Holiday, one of Capitol Hill Housing’s

Rendering of the soon-to-be installed solar panels atop the Holiday(image: Bonneville Environmental Foundation)

Rendering of the soon-to-be installed solar panels atop the Holiday(image: Bonneville Environmental Foundation)

affordable apartment buildings in partnership with the Capitol Hill Housing Foundation. With capital funding from SCL, the Foundation has contracted A&R Solar to put a 25.92 kW photovoltaic system on the roof of the Holiday. Construction should be complete in November.

Community solar is a democratization of solar power – making it affordable as an investment to even lower and moderate income Seattle families.  “Solar units” of $150 per unit will be available soon for purchase via the Seattle City Light website.  Then, based on how much the array atop the Holiday produces, the utility will credit investors on their electrical bills through the year 2020. We expect that investors will be paid back in full.

From the Seattle City Light website:

Seattle City Light pays to build and maintain a large solar array in a location optimally situated for solar exposure and chosen for its community appeal. The array generates electricity to the Seattle City Light electric grid, which further diversifies our clean energy power sources. Anyone with a Seattle City Light electric account can sign up.

Each year through 2020, the utility credits participating Community Solar customers for a portion of the power produced by the Community Solar array. Plus, participants receive a Washington State Production Incentive specifically designed for Community Solar customers, which is double the production incentive paid to individual customers who generate solar electricity on their homes.

The Washington Production Incentive is what makes this program go.  It is a subsidy, so if you’re like Mitt Romney and hate solar subsidies, this program isn’t for you.  But if you think the Germans may be on to something with their Energiewende and believe as I do that it’s time to get serious about renewable energy, then INVEST TODAY.  (Note: you must have a Seattle City Light account #).

Another reason to buy solar units at the Holiday: in July 2020, ownership of the array will transfer to Capitol Hill Housing and will provide approximately 25,000 kWh of free clean power annually to offset the considerable cost of providing affordable housing on Capitol Hill.

Invest today!


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