Seattle Advances Shared Parking

On April 13, Mayor Durkan signed into law an omnibus neighborhood parking reform package. This package included some important steps to support shared parking, policy changes that Capitol Hill Housing and the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict have been advocating for since 2014.  While these changes are important, they have gotten less attention than some of the more controversial parts of the package.  Here’s a recap of shared parking, what will change with the new legislation, and what we still need to do to make shared parking common practice.

What is shared parking?

Shared parking is an umbrella term for a set of parking management strategies that use parking more efficiently through sharing spaces. The simplest form of shared parking refers to allowing non-tenants (people who don’t live or work in a building) to rent assigned spaces on a monthly basis in a building’s garage. More complex systems involve making spaces unassigned and sharing between users that need parking at different times of day or days of the week. All forms of shared parking achieve more efficient use of limited parking spaces. However, the more complex systems, with more different types of users, are capable of greater efficiency and can dramatically reduce the number of parking spaces needed.

Why is shared parking a good thing?

  • Parking is expensive and makes housing expensive. The Victoria Transport Institute, a leading local think tank on parking, estimates that underground parking in Seattle costs between $33,000 and $46,000 per space to build.
  • Lots of spaces go unused, but they are hard to access. King County Metro’s Right Size Parking study looked at 46,420 residential parking stalls across the county and found that 26 percent of spaces were empty in the middle of the night.
  • Use what we have before building more. We are stuck with the parking we’ve already built, but shared parking can help correct for this oversupply as we continue to grow.
  • Shared parking makes infill development more cost-competitive over sprawl. Infill projects rely on expensive underground parking spaces, while develop on the urban edge, where land costs are cheaper, have the space for cheaper surface parking. By reducing the number of spaces needed, shared parking benefits infill projects the most. Infill projects protect our farms and natural spaces, require less infrastructure investment, and help provide existing neighborhoods with the density to support high frequency transit.
  • Prevent circling for scarce on-street parking by opening up access to off-street parking. In some neighborhoods on-street parking is very full and streets are clogged with drivers looking for an available space. Providing easier access to off-street parking can reduce circling and congestion.

How is the City of Seattle encouraging shared parking?

The parking reform package includes two new strategies that promote shared parking. It more formally legalizes sharing by creating a new category of flexible use parking and it requires new garages be designed for sharing.

Legalizing Sharing

In the past Seattle permitted two types of parking – accessory use and principal use. Accessory use parking was attached to a specific use, such as an office, a retail store, or an apartment building.  Only users of this related primary use could use the accessory parking.  In contrast, principal use parking was a category for a stand along garage or surface lot.  Principal use parking could be used by anyone.  However, many areas of the city banned principal use parking.  There was no acknowledgement of parking facilities integrated into a building, but serving different types of users within the nearby walkshed.

The new code changes this in a few different ways.

  • Replaces “principal use parking” with “flexible-use parking.”
  • Outside of downtown, allows flexible use parking in most places where previously principal use parking was not allowed
  • Inside downtown, allows flexible use parking as a conditional use with staff approval
  • Lets more kinds of accessory use parking be made available to the public
  • Lets more kinds of accessory use parking be converted to more kinds of flexible use parking
  • Permits the use of flexible use parking facilities by park and ride users for the first time, in some areas
  • Eliminates parking requirements in more areas
  • Extends the walking distance within which required parking must be provided

You may notice that there are a lot of caveats implied in these changes. We would have preferred a simple change allowing short and long-term public access to all parking.  Still, taken together, these changes will radically increase the flexibility in the use of our city’s parking stock.

Designing Garages for Sharing

Many garages, especially in small and medium-sized apartment buildings, are not designed with sharing in mind. In many cases, the only pedestrian access to the garage requires walking through a private, secured residential hallway.  Not surprisingly, granting access to this portion of the building can make some tenants uneasy about sharing the garage.  To address this problem in new buildings, Seattle will require direct pedestrian connections between the garage and the street.

Some developers have already started using this approach. The image below shows a recent garage design with direct pedestrian street access.  A small door on the left provides a pedestrian only access point that does not require walking in a car lane and can be accessed with a key fob or code throughout the day.  A separate key is required for access to the residential lobby.

Signage clearly identifies the pedestrian access point for the garage.

A simpler pedestrian garage access configuration is shown (below left) with the pedestrian door immediately adjacent to a closed garage door. Many older garages already have these doors for evacuation.  The doors can be retrofitted with their own key or code access to be accessible from the outside.  This design can provide a lower cost option for some garages.

These designs can help developers avoid situations like the one below right, where the only pedestrian option is to walk in the drive lane, down a steep pedestrian ramp, or enter through the residential lobby.

More Work to Do – Parking Taxes

Unfortunately, parking taxes remain a major barrier to shared parking. The Washington State and Seattle tax codes directly penalize the essential ingredients for shared parking: unassigned spaces and multiple users.

Since 2007, Seattle has exercised its authority to impose a commercial parking tax. That tax, now at 12.5 percent[1], is levied on top of the general sales tax, 10.1 percent in Seattle in 2018[2], for a combined tax of 22.6 percent on commercial parking revenue. While many assume that this tax is applied uniformly to all parking, that is not the case. Parking that is reserved for only one user for 30 days or more (most parking today) is considered real property and therefore exempt from the tax. However, as soon as that parking is shared with someone else, the tax is triggered.

In focus groups held by CHH in 2014, property managers expressed strong concerns about the financial impact of being subject to the tax. Property managers liked that shared parking has the potential to add revenue through new users paying for time when spaces otherwise sit empty.  However, because of the tax, revenues would need to increase by 29.2 percent to break even.  Property managers have communicated that such a high threshold for new revenue is prohibitive, especially in the context of uncertainty around adopting an unfamiliar management practice.


Taxes aside, Seattle has shown a real commitment to innovative parking policies, including shared parking.  It is through many incremental changes like these that we will begin to tackle the big challenges of affordability and climate change.  As Councilmember O’Brien stated during the final Council vote, “We need to commit as a community to taking actions to fight climate change locally. We’re going to have to take hundreds of actions like this one today. These are hard actions because they require each of us to slightly change the way we live in our communities.




Reflection and Refraction

Health Equity Fellow Andy presenting survey findings to the LGBTQ advisory committee.

Health Equity Fellow Andy presenting survey findings to the LGBTQ advisory committee.


Andy Post is a Health Equity Fellow placed with Capitol Hill Housing for the summer through Humanity in Action. The fellowship, in partnership with Virginia Mason, focuses on the intersection of health and housing in LGBTQ care in Seattle. This is his reflection. 


I entered Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) at the beginning of the summer, dropped off by the number 49 bus a block away from the turf at Cal Anderson Park. My task, as I knew it then, was to help with pre-development research to support a new apartment building for low-income seniors that affirms the needs of LGBTQ elders in the community. But what exactly is pre-development? I gradually learned the outlines of the process: CHH was working to establish an advisory committee of leaders from LGBTQ community organizers, health care providers, and nonprofits. On my fifth day, we had an initial meeting with some of these leaders. The main topic of conversation: who in the LGBTQ community was not there that should be? Which community groups encompassed by the rainbow of letters L-G-B-T and Q in the King County area, would influence the design, planning, and character of the project?


This question only provokes further questions: why affordable housing for LGBTQ elders? Who needs access to affordable housing the most? What are their needs in the housing process? How can this process be a celebration of care for this community, rather than a divisive struggle for limited resources?


LGBTQ elders face many challenges compared to their heterosexual peers. Thanks to research from Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen with University of Washington and Generations Aging with Pride, the needs of LGBTQ elders are beginning to be documented. Results show disparities in health, income, and social status that make aging difficult for LGBTQ seniors. 54% of LGBTQ elders in King County suffer from social isolation (linked to higher risk of poor health and premature mortality), nearly half of elderly transgender adults had household incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and in 200 nationwide trials testing for differential treatment in seniors seeking senior housing, the tester with a same-sex partner experienced adverse treatment. Based on these national and local surveys, LGBTQ seniors are more likely to be in poverty, are at higher risk for illness, face discrimination when seeking a home, and are less likely to have support of biological children or family.


Data collection in the world of community development and healthcare is political. Data influences our ability to advocate for, legislate, build, and care for different demographics. While the current administration is taking steps to eliminate LGBTQ identity from national surveys, the research from leaders on LGBTQ gerontology is clear: LGBTQ elders need affordable housing solutions and culturally competent care. But the question arrives again: which cohort within the community?


For over 40 years, Capitol Hill Housing has worked to build vibrant and engaged communities by responding to community needs. But who we engage and the extent to which we can incorporate their input will greatly shape the final project. As part of my fellowship, I visited Virginia Mason’s Bailey Boushay House, a care center for people living with HIV/AIDS. Over half of their clientele currently experiences homelessness. That same day, I participated in a focus group with Living Positively, a social and support group organized by Lifelong for HIV positive men, many of whom are living on a fixed income. The differing needs of these two cohorts only begins to illustrate how who we listen to and how we synthesize their input will greatly change the result of the project. For example, if we prioritize the needs of the portion of the LGBTQ community experiencing homelessness, the services and design of the building will look different than if we prioritize fixed or low-income renters. Even these examples are weighed heavily towards older white gay men living with HIV. Our process of community outreach has just begun, but we are committed to employing a race and social justice analysis to our efforts. Our project—and our community—will be best served by a project that acknowledges and confronts structural racism.


The key word in community development work truly is process. Over the summer, I worked to interview seniors who are reflective of the broader LGBTQ community. These interviews provide insight not only into health and aging needs, but the individual stories that inform the tradition of care we hope to participate in. We hope to feature 7-8 of these interviews in a short film that speaks to why LGBTQ senior affordable housing is needed here in Capitol Hill. Yet again, because 7-8 people cannot represent the full breadth of this project, we will continue to work with and expand our Advisory Committee to hear from as many relevant voices as possible.


In addition to the short film, we are planning a queer gathering; an event to invoke our muses in LGBTQ care and include the larger public in this community development process. On September 21st, we will convene stakeholders and community members to illuminate the tradition of caring for LGBTQ elders in Capitol Hill. Queer art, delicious food, and music, featuring artists such as Storme Webber and Michael Woodward, will bring generations together to create a strong foundation for CHH’s project. You can register for the event here, or on Facebook.

refraction diagram


Process, process, process. I stalled over whether to use this clichéd symbol, but I looked up the physics of forming a rainbow this morning. A layer of water droplets forms a medium of different opacity that disperses white light in a particular way. What results is a refraction of the visible light spectrum, each color appearing as distinct in an arc of light. The task of pre-development and community development is to be the water droplets: those who absorb incoming light and help align internal and external reflection.


This summer I have had the opportunity to meet with over thirty members of the LGBTQ senior community in King County, and over twenty organizations that fight for LGBTQ rights throughout the state. Their stories and openness to share are a testament to the strength of this community—and the necessity of creating a central home and gathering place on Capitol Hill.


My experience began with a solitary morning walk through Cal Anderson. And so it continues. A few weeks back, I visited the Cal Anderson House, and interviewed two wonderful men who shared their history as residents of the building named after Washington state’s first openly gay legislator. Hearing about the resilience, struggles, and continued advocacy of these community members reminds me what is at stake in this work.


Andy Post is a Health Equity Fellow placed with Capitol Hill Housing for the summer through Humanity in Action. The fellowship, in partnership with Virginia Mason, focuses on the intersection of health and housing in LGBTQ care in Seattle. 

Capitol Hill Garage Sale and Farmers Market THIS SUNDAY

Grab some coffee and a pastry, then hit the ATM on Sunday morning. You’ll want cash in your pocket and perhaps a map (download here or pick one up in the Park) for all the garage and yard sales happening in Cal Anderson Park and across the neighborhood.

It’s time again for the Capitol Hill Garage Sale and this year it’s going to be huge with more than 100 registered sellers! About half will be selling items in Cal Anderson Park and another 50+ will be laying out their wares on lawns, by sidewalks, and in front of their homes. We suggest you start in the Park where a DJ will be spinning AND the Capitol Hill Tool Library will have a booth.

Oh yeah, you’ll also want to bring your dull knives. The Tool Library will be where you can get your dull knives and tools sharpened for FREE. There also will be folks in the tents with info on how to support Cal Anderson Park, get engaged with fellow renter activists, and join the work of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict  to make our neighborhood safer, greener and more equitable.

When you’re done popping tags, you’ll probably be hungry again. Head from the Garage Sale to the Capitol Hill Farmers Market. If you haven’t been to the Market in a while, it’s peak season for peaches, nectarines, melons, tomatoes, peppers, and all that the summer has to offer! While you’re there, make sure to say ‘hi’ to Leah Litwak, the new manager of the Market. She’s a great addition to the community and eager to meet neighbors.

Finally, we want to say a huge thank you to all of the sponsors that are making this even possible: Capitol Hill HousingAIDS Healthcare FoundationSchemata Workshop, Hunters CapitalBoard and Vellum, and Recology CleanScapes. An extra special thanks to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog for nurturing this incredible neighborhood tradition over the years.

See you out there!

The “8th ANNUAL CAPITOL HILL GARAGE SALE DAY” will take place on Sunday, August 27th, starting at 10:00 a.m. throughout the heart of Capitol Hill and in Cal Anderson Park. Individuals without a garage or front yard can sign up for table space in Cal Anderson park. A $10 donation to the Cal Anderson Park Alliance secures a spot. For more information or a map, go to Printed maps will also be available on August 27th at the information table in Cal Anderson Park. Follow along on social media: #NoGarageNoProblem2017 or become a fan on Facebook: @CalAndersonPark.

Vision Zero by 2030 (in case I live that long)

Last December, an idiot sideswiped me when he cut into the southbound bike lane to park his car by Seattle U. The accident cost me a concussion and scars on my nose and leg.

Last night, another idiot, this one on a bicycle, pulled a Jersey left at the intersection of 12th with Union and Madison. Again, I was traveling south on 12th on my way home from work. Both of us ended up sprawled on the street just a couple of blocks from the site of my December accident. No major injuries this time, thank God. My bike took some damage, but mostly just cosmetic. Steel frames are amazing.

I’m not damaged, but it may be a while again before I bike to work. Before December, I rode pretty religiously 3-5 times per week. After the concussion, it was about 3 months before I got back in the saddle and then it was only for the occasional sunny day ride. My bike commuting went from 3-5 times per week to 3-5 times per month. Last night was one of those rare rides.

It’s a little ironic, at least Alanis Morisette ironic, that as I walked my bike out of the office yesterday, I mentioned to a co-worker that I don’t ride as much as I used to since my December crash. She wished me a safe ride home.

It’s the good advice that I just didn’t take

Who would’ve thought, it figures.

Before gearing up for my ride home, I spent some time with a different co-worker checking out a new collision reporting web site. Tim Ganter does a nice job ranking and mapping auto collisions (car on car, car on pedestrian, car on bike) in Seattle since 2006. Turns out that Capitol Hill is a popular spot for ramming people and parked cars. In the past 12 months, we rank third in number of collisions (508), first in collision-related serious injuries (10), and first in collisions with possible injuries (59). We rank first in number of parked cars hit (97), second in DUI cases (20), second in number of pedestrians struck (37) and first in number of cyclists struck (23).

WTF, Capitol Hill drivers?

For the record, that last number is low. I looked at Ganter’s map and my December run-in with the sideswiper didn’t get counted. Also not counted are collisions between two or more bicycles, or collisions of bicycles with pedestrians, or pedestrians with pedestrians, or pedestrians with parked cars.

Ganter is pulling data from SDOT, and I suppose a focus on collisions involving cars (weighing 4000+ pounds) are the ones most concerning. I can attest that colliding with another bicycle sucks and cyclists can be fucking IDIOTS (I’m talking about you, Katherine A!). But a car crash can kill you. Seven people have died in Capitol Hill car collisions in just the past six months. We can and must do better.

In 2015, the City of Seattle “launched” (their word, I wonder how one launches a vision) Vision Zero setting a goal of zero car crash fatalities or serious injury related accidents by 2030. Clearly, we have a long way to go in Capitol Hill and across the City, especially in Seattle’s denser urban villages where 80 percent of pedestrian-impacted collisions occur and where crashes with pedestrians and bicycles most frequently happen during commute hours.

It’s no wonder people are afraid to bike to work, or even walk through certain intersections on Capitol Hill. If we’re to achieve zero fatalities or serious injury accidents by 2030 (and preferably before then), even as more people move into the neighborhood, there are a few things we need to prioritize:

    1. Slower speeds
    2. Safer separation for pedestrians and cyclists
    3. Better crossings for pedestrians and cyclists
    4. Better enforcement of traffic and parking laws
    5. Fewer idiots

Okay, it’s hard to control for number 5, so can we please hurry up with 1-4?

Meet the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative Leadership Committee!

In early spring, six neighborhood advocates were nominated and confirmed to join the first Leadership Committee for the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative. This vibrant group of renters come to their new roles with a diverse range of interests and lived experiences and share a united vision for creating a more sustainable and affordable Capitol Hill. Throughout the next year these leaders will provide guidance and strategic direction for CHRI advocacy, shaping our outreach efforts while affirming CHRI’s commitment to elevating the voice of renters’ in Capitol Hill.

As they grow into their role, this group of dedicated renter leaders will play a vital part in advocating for the vision, goals, and future of the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative, help us welcome them into their new roles!

Learn more about each of our new renter leaders:

Ryan (Jonesy) Jones

My name is Ryan Jones (Jonesy) and I have been living in Seattle just shy of two and a half years in the same Capitol Hill apartment.  Living in a micro-apartment has inspired me to better understand the issues surrounding this type of housing as well as other issues related to housing in Seattle.  I really believe in the work that CHRI does and I would be pleased to assist with the strategic direction of CHRI as well as work on some of its specific projects and efforts.  I have always been interested in environmental issues and I view housing, transportation, and planning as being integral to the ecological and social well-being of communities.

Austin Valeske

I’m a software engineer with Socrata, a civic tech company where we help government make data driven decisions and open data to the public. I spend the rest of my time fighting for transit justice, housing affordability, inclusive zoning, and racial justice by organizing with the Capitol Hill Renter’s Initiative, Seattle Tech Solidarity, and the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Action Coalition. Increasing density, access to opportunity, and access to transit is a fundamental piece of fighting climate change and reducing inequity in our city.

Myra Lara

I’m an architectural designer by day and cartoonist by night. I moved to Seattle in 2010 for the sole purpose of living sustainably, growing creatively, and fighting “the man” among like-minded people. My current priorities are housing affordability for all peoples (especially new multifamily affordable housing and re-legalizing the “missing middle” in single family zones), racial justice (learning about, acknowledging our complicity, and actively fixing our segregated cities – to especially have women of color as urban leaders), mass transit and neighborhood connectivity. I live on the hill because I live car-less, bike-full, and thrive on art, living near friends, and weirdness. I’ve been living in this neighborhood since 2010.

Zach Lubarsky

I’m Zach, a ~3-month Capitol Hill/First Hill resident. I lived in Belltown for 3 years, and New York State before that. I’m interested in zoning and how that interacts with community building and affordability. I’d love to give renters a bigger ear to our city wide and district politicians, city, county, and, state.

Noelle Symanski

As a Capitol Hill renter, I feel committed to the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative’s goal of addressing affordability and mobility challenges. Capitol Hill is a vibrant and diverse neighborhood, and I wish to support my community members in building a coalition that gives voice to renters from all backgrounds. I am particularly passionate about recruiting and affirming involvement of Capitol Hill residents that are not traditionally represented in neighborhood groups or state and local government processes.

 Andy Katz

After watching Capitol Hill grow and change over the eight years I’ve rented here, I now have the time to engage more actively with our community and to advocate on behalf of the renters who comprise the majority of Capitol Hill residents, including the most vulnerable and marginalized.  I’m most passionate about affordable housing and transit advocacy, and I’m excited to deepen my understanding of inclusionary land use initiatives like MHA upzones so we can build the best, most affordable, and most equitable Seattle possible.  If time and energy permit, I’d also like to explore connecting our renter livability work group with city and county efforts to address the homelessness and opioid addiction crisis, e.g. by creating supervised consumption sites.  I’m excited about the opportunity to meet and serve alongside my Capitol Hill neighbors.

Thank you to our renter leaders for your dedication and service to the community!

As we grow into 2017, it’s important for the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative to reflect the diverse interests of renters in Capitol Hill. This includes building a leadership structure that reflects the diversity of the neighborhood. We reserved at least one spot on the Leadership Committee for a renter living in subsidized affordable housing. We are also open to expanding membership to include diverse and intersectional perspectives. We encourage folks from all identities including people of color, and LGBTQ people, women, and renters from all ages and abilities to talk to us about joining the Leadership Committee. No need for previous experience, just an interest in taking on a leadership role and passion for renter advocacy. Contact for more details or if you have questions.  

Build Wisely, Protect the Environment, and Fight for the People

Last Friday, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict hosted a conversation on climate mitigation and resilience, featuring a panel of local actors and activists committed to combatting the effects of climate change.  Susan Wickwire (Seattle 2030 District), Hodan Hasan (Got Green), Kelly Hall (Climate Solutions), and Edie Gilliss (City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment) joined our steering committee and members of the public to share their perspectives on the work being done in the field, the impact on our region, and what we can do as a community to make a difference.

Much of what was shared was good news: while pulling out of the Paris Accords sent a strong message to the international community about the U.S.’s lack of commitment to combatting climate change, many local organizations had already been working beyond Paris’ admittedly modest goals, and more states and businesses have now felt compelled to step up to fill the gap left by the federal government. Agencies, departments, and organizations are also increasingly working together and sharing knowledge – understanding the interplay and interdependencies of much of their work and project goals.

We also discussed how climate change has/will affect the Seattle area directly.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we will still see rising sea levels of up to two feet, an increase in temperatures and forest fires, and a dramatic decrease in air quality.  These effects will most heavily affect people already facing other challenges – those with limited financial resources, people of color, and other minorities feeling the push of displacement especially in the south Seattle region. To combat this, Hodan Hasan from Got Green, stressed the need for conscientious planning when addressing climate change mitigation and adaption strategies. For example, while an expanded and improved transportation and light rail system can decrease our carbon footprint and increase connectivity for a community, it can also contribute to displacement by making those same communities more desirable (read: expensive) places to live.

The general tone of the morning was that we are lucky to live in Seattle – a city with so many natural resources, with a progressive stance on climate change issues, and with a culture that so many people want to be a part of.  Yet as we grow, it is our responsibility to preserve these aspects of our city – to build wisely, to protect our environment, and to fight to keep Seattle a place where people of all incomes and backgrounds can thrive.

Local Conversation on Climate Change and Resilience

Today is a bad day for the US and the planet. Donald Trump just officially pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement 10 years in the making at the UN. We’re breaking faith with 194 other countries who signed the accord in 2015.

Only three nations have opted out of the Paris Climate Accord: Nicaragua, Syria, and now the United States. Of those three, guess which has the largest carbon footprint? Give up? Here’s a map that might help. It shows countries by carbon dioxide emissions in thousands of tons per annum, via the burning of fossil fuels (blue the highest and green the lowest).

There is a small group of optimists who believe Trump’s formal departure from the climate agreement may be better, or at least more honest than claiming to stay in the accord, which as Susan Matthews writes for Slate, “is largely a voluntary gentleman’s agreement.” As Matthews points out, “Trump has exhibited absolutely no gentlemanly interest in keeping the light promises America has made under the agreement, regardless of whether we pull out.” She suggests that the rest of the world might be less encumbered without America dragging everyone down by watering down and consistently failing to meet targets under the Paris agreement.

So, we can hope that the rest of the world stays on course and the departure of the world’s biggest cumulative carbon polluter doesn’t create an unraveling effect on the Paris agreement. Here at home, we will need to rely on forces outside the DC Beltway (and those disruptive heroes still embedded in federal agencies) to push toward carbon sanity.

Fortunately, there are many smart people in the public, private and nonprofit sectors who remain committed to work at various scales and across sectors to move our economies towards lower carbon emissions and adapt to the changes (e.g. higher temperatures, bigger storms) that are already here or coming. We’ll have a few of these smart people on hand next Friday for a discussion of what WE can do as an urban community to help pick up Trump’s slack on addressing climate change.

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee will host a small forum on climate mitigation and resilience with panelists from the University of Washington, City of Seattle (OSE), Got Green and the Seattle 2030 District. EcoDistrict staff will outline the strategies we’re currently working on and host a conversation about what else we could and should be doing and how YOU and others can help. We’ll also discuss a pledge from the EcoDistrict to address climate resilience as central to its purpose going forward.

We invite you to join the conversation. Here are the details:

June 9: 9-10:30am, Pike Pine Room, 12th Avenue Arts

Please RSVP on Facebook: We’ll host as many people as we can fit in the community room at 12th Avenue Arts.

A Convention Center Redo for the People

With a $1.6 billion price tag, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) addition will be the single largest real estate development in Seattle history — more costly than Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field combined. This project is to be built on public land, by a public agency and financed with tax dollars. As a city, that means we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in what the community needs most: public open spaces, safe routes for people walking and biking, and homes affordable to working families.

In February, the convention center proposed a package of public benefits in exchange for repurposing 1.28 acres of aboveground and underground streets and alleyways owned by the public. The package of benefits is supposed to be proportional with what the WSCC is asking the public to give up as well as the permanent impacts of the project.

It doesn’t even come close.

The expansion will forever transform a part of our city center. The project will result in years of construction, require the permanent removal of public rights of way and contribute to our housing shortage by adding thousands of low-wage jobs to Seattle. We ask that these challenges be acknowledged and be treated as opportunities to address our city’s most pressing needs head on.

A group of nine community organizations has come together to speak with a unified voice for an alternative to the convention center’s benefit proposal: The Community Package. It represents up to $86 million of investments in projects with meaningful and lasting benefits for our city.

The Community Package creates new parks and open spaces in our dense city center. It makes this highly trafficked area safer for people walking and biking in the neighborhood. It mitigates, rather than worsens, our housing shortage by helping build 300 affordable homes for working families.

In total, the Community Package includes investments in 11 projects. It includes safety improvements for people walking and biking in the Pike-Pine corridor and around the Interstate 5 interchanges. It also includes an expansion of Plymouth Pillars Park with a small lid over I-5 and funding for a feasibility study to explore lidding other parts of the freeway in the future. It creates new people-friendly public spaces on First Hill and in the Denny Triangle while improving existing spaces like Freeway Park to make them safer and more accessible. Critically, the package includes funding to construct affordable housing close to the expansion to ensure families of all backgrounds can enjoy these investments.

The Community Package puts the public on the path to a fair deal. It matches the scale of what the WSCC is asking the public to give up, and is comparable to other benefits packages for recent large, multi-block developments.

More importantly, the investments are interrelated and ensure that the expansion will improve the surrounding neighborhoods, and help the area remain livable as we welcome the many new visitors, staff and traffic the project will bring.

The convention center project team has stated admirable principles: benefiting the city at-large, creating rich mixed-use neighborhoods and strengthening our urban framework. The Community Package offers exactly the type of community-identified projects that get the expansion closer to its own stated objectives.

We want to see our downtown businesses and hospitality industry succeed. We also want to ensure the convention center provides a public benefits package that reflects the massive impact this project will have on our city. With the Community Package, we have a chance to demonstrate how developers and civic projects can build a legacy of positive, long-term improvements in Seattle’s central neighborhoods.

With the next meeting of the Seattle Design Commission set for April 20, the convention center has plenty of time to revise its initial proposal. This is the beginning, not the end, of a conversation with the public. The Community Package should be the starting point for the design commission and City Council in further discussions of proposed benefits.

At the February design commission meeting, an official representing the project remarked that when it came to community benefits, the convention center didn’t want to “spread the peanut butter too thin.” Perhaps it’s time to add more peanut butter.


This piece was originally published in the Seattle Times Opinion Section, 10 April 2017. It was written by McCaela Daffern, Sustainability Manager at Capitol Hill Housing; Alex Hudson, Director of First Hill Improvement Association; and Blake Trask, Senior Policy Director at Cascade Bicycle Club.  Click here to read the full article.


Learn more about the Community Package

Do Small Businesses Also Need a Renters’ Commission?

The City Council Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee voted yesterday to move legislation to create the nation’s first Renters’ Commission. The legislation will go to the full City Council for consideration on Monday, March 20th.

During Committee discussion, members expressed excitement for the new Renters’ Commission and discussed another group that might similarly benefit from direct engagement with City Hall. CM Johnson pointed out that, like households that rent, commercial tenants face a high risk of displacement by rising costs.

CM Herbold suggested revitalizing the Economic Development Commission (EDC), which was decommissioned about nine months ago, to represent the interests of small businesses operating out of rented space. This would represent a major shift from the past incarnation of the EDC, whose former roster was dominated by multinationals, venture capitalists, big institutions and property interests, including Amazon, the Port of Seattle, 360° Hotel Group, the University of Washington and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

According to former EDC member and Columbia City developer Rob Mohn, the EDC focused on how to keep Seattle economically competitive by addressing broad issues like quality of life, education attainment, work readiness, and the built environment. His focus was on the City planning process and believes EDC findings and recommendations informed last year’s restructuring of Seattle’s planning office into its current two departments.

When asked if the EDC addressed issues of commercial affordability for small businesses, Mohn responded, “No, not at all. That wasn’t on our radar.”

Mohn, who serves on the board of the Columbia City Business Improvement Area and participates in the Columbia City Business Association, wonders how the City can help struggling businesses short of providing subsidies to help with rent.

Last year, Mayor Murray empaneled a Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee to address this very question. Following the Committee’s September 2016 recommendations, the Mayor delivered his Commercial Affordability Action Plan, which involves earmarking Community Development Block Grant dollars for technical assistance, tenant improvements to commercial spaces, and microbusiness loans. The Mayor didn’t establish a means for small business renters to provide ongoing consultation to the City on their emerging issues.

It’s not entirely clear why the Mayor disbanded the EDC. Re-organizing it to address the needs of commercial renters is an idea worth exploring. Healthy small businesses, as well as nonprofit organizations who tend to rent commercial space, are an essential part of what makes neighborhoods like Capitol Hill livable.

Renters’ Commission Will Be Good for Seattle Neighborhoods

Last month, affordable housing developer Mercy Housing completed a large new building with a total of 108 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments, a block from my home. I live with my wife and daughter in a small single family home in the Othello neighborhood of the Rainier Valley. We’re close to a light rail station and our block is part of a proposed expansion and upzone of the Othello Urban Village. Not all of my neighbors are happy about the Mercy Housing project or the development of more apartment buildings expected to follow. Some people worry about losing the parking in front of their homes. Others argue that renters don’t take care of things as well as owners, that they are transient. Others think that owners and long-time residents have earned a louder voice in the decisions affecting our block. After all, they have more at stake.

Thankfully, not all of my neighbors feel this way. Some recognize that “folks have to live somewhere” and buying a home is out of reach for most of the people they know. In fact, half the 2,100 applications to live in the affordable units at the Mercy Housing buildings are from our neighborhood. At a recent community meeting, I even heard some of my neighbors advocate for a bigger expansion of the urban village. Some locals know that renters can be great neighbors, just as some property owners can be assholes.

Renter households now outnumber homeowner households across the City, and as with Seattle homeowners, “Seattle renters” comprise a large and diverse group. They are families and individuals, professionals and students, queer and straight, young and old, white and people of color, low and middle income, long-time renters and people saving to buy a first home. They live in studios, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments, single family homes, townhomes, dormitories, mother-in-law apartments, SROs and aPodments. Groups of roommates share space while some individuals live alone either by choice or circumstance.

The Capitol Hill Renter Initiative (CHRI) was started a year ago to engage local members of this diverse group to advocate for things renters seem to universally want, the very same things I wanted 20 years ago when I rented a little studio on Fremont Ave: affordability, mobility (i.e walkability, bikeability, transit access), public safety, and access to nearby amenities and necessities, like groceries and green space. Green space is critical, since most renters don’t have a backyard to relax in, garden, raise chickens or barbecue ribs.

The renters engaged in the CHRI are motivated, insightful community leaders who care deeply about the neighborhood and care deeply about keeping it livable for the many residents who want to live in a dense urban setting. They are the opposite of the stereotypes some owners like to throw out as arguments against empowering renters to affect local and municipal governance. CHRI members show up to testify for affordability and livability legislation, they show up to support greenways and protected bike lanes, they show up to advocate for better transit access, they show up for green space.

Last week, City Councilmembers Burgess, O’Brien and Herbold announced their plan to introduce legislation that will form the first Renters’ Commission in the country. It will address development and affordability issues, as well as transportation, open space, education, and public health. This bodes well for Seattle’s neighborhoods and should be welcomed by all of Seattle’s renters and owners. Through the CHRI, we have found that with a bit of education, coordination and encouragement, renters can be motivated, insightful and effective advocates for the very things that make Capitol Hill, and all of Seattle, great.

This post originally appeared on the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, 2 March 2017.

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