Your Community Forum CliffsNotes

Your Community Forum CliffsNotes

On Thursday, May 26, more than a hundred community members gathered on Capitol Hill for Gearshift 2016: Capitol Hill Housing’s 11th annual forum on issues affecting the neighborhood. Deviating from the format of years past, this Community Forum offered rapid-fire presentations by local leaders on five separate projects to advance community interests as the Hill continues its explosive growth.

The speakers were just a catalyst for the most interesting part of the evening: small group discussions among attendees to determine the community’s priorities. Kshama Sawant, Lisa Herbold and other city officials joined the discussions, gathered feedback and reported out to the larger group.

Couldn’t make it? Don’t worry – here’s the Cliffs Notes version of each presentation and breakout group discussion.

Renter’s Initiative

Zachary Pullin, President of Capitol Hill Community Council

In Seattle, property is king. Though renters make up 80% of Capitol Hill residents, a stunning majority of Seattle’s land (65%) is zoned for property owners. Renters are maligned as transients who don’t care about the community, and unlike property owners, cannot deduct rent payments from taxes. The time is right for the Renter’s Initiative, a joint project from the EcoDistrict and Capitol Hill Housing. This year the initiative will focus on recruitment and implementing the HALA recommendations—but mostly, they will be trying to build a movement.

What the community said:

Renters—including individuals, small business owners, and community activists—need to get organized. Without organization renters will always have less power.


Business Improvement Area

Sierra Hansen, Executive Director of Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce

Expanding the Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area (BIA) would help preserve community values and business diversity as the neighborhood continues to grow. An expanded BIA could fund much-needed services like regular street clean ups and holistic social services for the homeless and individuals with mental illness.

What the community said:

We need to make sure the BIA is approved by preparing to go to City Council, property owners, tenants and small businesses with a clear plan. The BIA shouldn’t replace essential services, like public safety, that the city should fund.


Arts Space Preservation

Tonya Lockyer, Artistic Director of Velocity Dance Center and Co-Chair of the Capitol Hill Arts District

Forced to rent space in a hot real estate market, artists and arts organizations are, as Tonya put it, “paupers sitting on a gold mine,” constantly at risk of being priced out of the neighborhood. Affordable housing is the number one thing that can make the Hill livable for artists. We must also provide strong incentives for developers to preserve arts spaces and create new ones. Don’t wait for the next emergency; anticipate opportunities and invest now in permanently affordable art spaces, technical support and capitalization.

What the community said:

We need to focus on preservation over new arts spaces, make sure we’re investing in Capitol Hill’s incredible arts legacy, and planning ahead rather than reacting when things go wrong.


Parking Benefit District

Alex Brennan, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict

A parking benefit district would keep a portion of local parking meter revenue in the neighborhood, instead of being added to the city’s general fund. Right now, the highest demand for parking is at night, after the City stops charging. Capitol Hill, with its vibrant night life, could extend paid parking hours and generate additional revenue to spend on neighborhood priorities.

What the community said:

Extending hours for parking fees to access untapped revenue is a good idea. Determining legal guidelines, feasibility and equitable use of the money is the next, more difficult step.


Lidding I-5

Scott Bonjukian, Lid I-5

Interstate 5 was built in the mid-1960s, creating an open trench generating air and noise pollution and disrupting pedestrian routes. Putting a lid on I-5 between Capitol/First Hill and downtown stitches the center city back together and offers open-ended possibilities: more green space, affordable housing, or crossings for bicycles and pedestrians.

What the community said:

Lidding I-5 is a great idea. Getting the City on board is the next step. The waterfront is occupying most of their time and attention, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be planning what comes next.