Capitol Hill Public Life

Capitol Hill Public Life: Observational Counts

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Capitol Hill Public Life Program Goals

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Renter Initiative

Renters make up 80% of the people living in the heart of Capitol Hill, but historically they  have lacked a voice in important decisions about our neighborhood.  To address this disparity, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict has launched a Renter Initiative.

As rents spiral upward and the City and electorate consider big housing and livability policies, decisions we make now will shape the future of Capitol Hill and Seattle for many years to come.  Renters’ voices need to be front and center in these decisions.

We are a group of community members committed to addressing our neighborhood's affordability and mobility challenges and advancing the voice of renters in City Hall. With support from Capitol Hill Housing staff, Renter Initiative members receive the training and resources required to take action on policy issues. We connect each other with community partners and host opportunities to engage with City Officials. We believe that action can take on many different forms and want to help you find a level of involvement that will work for you.

In 2016, we grew to over 100 active members, hosted Capitol Hill's first ever Renter Summit, and helped pass citywide tenants' rights legislation and a framework for mandatory housing affordability. Going into 2017, we will continue to build on that momentum.

Are you a renter on Capitol Hill? Join us!

Sign up for information on our upcoming events, and other ways to get involved.

Join our Facebook group

Renter Initiative Program Goals

Forming a Seattle Renters Commission

Increasing statewide tenants' rights and state housing trust fund

Passing "mandatory housing affordability" zoning changes

Regulating AirBnB

Making it easier to build backyard cottages

Improving pedestrian and bicycle safety

Reducing transit costs for low income people

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Convention Center Public Benefits
Culture Transportation Equity

The Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) is building new convention center space on two downtown city blocks at the edge of Capitol Hill. With projected development costs hovering around $1.6 billion, it’s the most expensive development project in Seattle’s history.

On behalf of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, we are closely tracking the project as it proceeds through the City’s review process. Together with First Hill Improvement Association, Lid I-5, Freeway park Association, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and the Housing Development Consortium, we formed the Community Package Coalition to ensure that the design of the project is a net positive for the community and ensure that the final public benefits package contributes to the affordability and livability of Seattle.

The Community Package is $61 million of investments in what the community needs most: public open spaces, safe routes for people walking and bicycling, and homes affordable to working families. This investment, in addition to the $20 million already proposed by the WSCC, is commensurate with the scale of the vacation petition and is comparable to other recent large, multi-block developments. We’re proud of the process and the outcomes, and hope to set an example and precedent for what’s possible when community and developers work in partnership.

Convention Center Public Benefits Program Goals

Ensure affordable housing is a primary public benefit of the WSCC expansion.

Support plans to lid I-5 adjacent to convention center site.

Advocate for high quality design and streetscape improvements.

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Affordable Housing Transit Passes
Transportation Equity

Low income people are more likely to ride transit but less likely to get transit pass discounts through programs like the Employee Orca Passport program. With support from the Seattle Department of Transportation, EcoDistrict staff are helping Capitol Hill Housing rectify this disparity by becoming the first affordable housing provider to offer discounted monthly transit passes to residents. The program is currently being piloted in 3 buildings, the Villa, Boylston-Howell, and Holiday, serving 122 households.

Transit pass costs vary from $10 to $17 per month, depending on the building. In addition to support from the Seattle Department of Transportation, the program takes advantage of a new King County Metro Multi-Family Passport program that allows property managers to offer the same transit pass deal that has long been available only through employers. The program extends the EcoDistrict’s efforts to reduce dependence on driving and car ownership, especially for low income residents.

Affordable Housing Transit Passes Program Goals

Reduce transportation costs for low income residents

Reduce need for car ownership and parking

Reduce traffic congestion and pollution from driving

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Parking Benefit District
Transportation Health

A Parking Benefit District directs a portion of on-street parking meter revenue towards neighborhood needs. These districts reward neighborhoods for participating in parking metering that provides citywide benefits such as reducing congestion from circling, increasing user turnover, to allow more customers to use a space in a given day, and accurately pricing scarce space for vehicle storage.

Such revenue sharing arrangements are increasingly common in many parts of the country but rare in Washington State and have never been tried in Seattle. Revenue would likely need to be dedicated towards neighborhood transportation needs. In 2015, we introduced the concept to the neighborhood, seeking feedback, and exploring the possibility of piloting such a district on Capitol Hill. We also advocated for City funding to pilot a parking benefit district within the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.

Funding was included in the City’s 2017 budget to develop a parking benefit district pilot to be implemented in 2018.

Piloting a Parking Benefit District was one of the 65 recommendations of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). The concept was originally advanced by parking policy trailblazer (yes that's a real thing) Donald Shoup. You can read more about his thinking here.

Parking Benefit District Program Goals

Reduce Congestion

Improve business district access for retail customers

Reduce driving subsidies

Generate revenue for neighborhood transportation needs

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Land Use Review Committee
Water Habitat Culture Energy Materials Transportation Health Equity

The fabric and nature of Capitol Hill continue to shift as old buildings are renovated and new buildings are constructed. The systems for permitting such projects, from design review to the issuance of building permits, are focused primarily on a limited set of issues related to the design and orientation of a building. Community concerns such as affordability, sustainability, and overall neighborhood character are not addressed through the formal design review process, leaving residents feeling helpless in shaping Capitol Hill’s future and leading to negative interactions between developers and residents. We will initiate conversations with potential developers much earlier so we can address these issues.

That’s why we are forming the Land Use Review Committee (LURC), a community group composed of residents, property owners and professional stakeholders, to create a more open dialogue between community members and incoming developers early in the design process.

How It Will Work

Each new development is an opportunity to improve the health and resiliency of the neighborhood. Each month, the Committee will invite developers to engage in a public two-way dialogue regarding their preliminary design proposals.

While giving guidance to the developer, the Committee will give consideration to the developer’s aspirations and limitations for a project, recognizing that getting to yes may involve compromises from both parties. The Committee will also provide documentation to the City of Seattle, ensuring that any work done at the community level is communicated and recorded through official channels as well.

The goal of this group is not to stop development but to make it better than it otherwise would be had the neighborhood not engaged the developer in discussion.

In addition to project-specific review, the Committee will also influence and shape land use and mobility plans and policies affecting Capitol Hill, such as large-scale rezoning efforts or updates to neighborhood design guidelines.

Get Involved!

If you would like to get on the LURC mailing list, serve as a Committee member, or would simply like to participate in the community meetings, please contact McCaela Daffern at

(photo credit:


Land Use Review Committee Program Goals

Create a space for constructive dialogue between residents and developers.

Help community members shape the future of the neighborhood.

Advocate for good development and desirable land use.

Incorporate EcoDistrict principles into new development.

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Partner Projects
Seattle Food Rescue
Health Equity

Seattle Food Rescue is a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington whose goal is to facilitate the transportation and redistribution of otherwise wasted food from businesses, to charities and agencies that serve hungry, unhoused, and low-income individuals.

Seattle Food Rescue picks up food and delivers it by bicycle to destinations within a mile of the originating site. Through a partnership with Capitol Hill Housing, Seattle Food Rescue will now deliver food directly to the residences of very low income residents at two apartment complexes managed by Capitol Hill Housing: The Haines Apartments and the Cal Anderson.

Seattle Food Rescue Program Goals

Increase health and food security for low-income residents on Capitol Hill.

Reduce food waste.

Promote the Seattle food Rescue model that rescues than delivers food via bicycle to people in need.

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Cal Anderson Park Lighting
Transportation Health

“Just stay out of Cal Anderson after dark, you’ll be fine.” This advice was posted on TripAdvisor last spring in response to a tourist planning a visit to Capitol Hill.

It is deeply unfortunate that the “Central Park” of Capitol Hill, a 10+ acre green space that serves as the backyard for thousands of local residents, has earned such a reputation. In 2013, a stabbing, a rash of muggings and a violent rape in the Park led to a temporary increase in patrols, but those patrols were scaled back and the problems have resumed. As nighttime pedestrian use grows with the arrival of the Broadway Light Rail Station and increasing neighborhood density, Cal Anderson Park needs a more permanent solution to its safety issues.

The nighttime safety of Cal Anderson Park will be greatly improved by better lighting. In December 2015, dark/light design delivered a Lighting Master Plan (“the Plan”) for the Park to the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED). The Plan was developed through a process involving the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Capitol Hill Arts District and the dark/light design team. Funded by the Only in Seattle grant program, the Plan presents overall concepts for luminaires, light sources, and illumination levels and provides a framework for future lighting improvements.

The Cal Anderson Park Alliance is leading the effort to implement the study. Capitol Hill Housing is assisting in seeking funds to support the implementation. Other partners include the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and Capitol Hill Champion.

Cal Anderson Park Lighting Program Goals

Increase public safety.

Increase access to green space.

Improve the pedestrian experience in and around Capitol Hill’s biggest park

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Better Buildings Challenge – CHH

Capitol Hill Housing is committed to walking the talk by addressing the environmental footprint of our own properties and operations.  In 2011, we joined the Better Buildings Challenge, a national leadership initiative that calls on multifamily housing owners, managers and operators to participate in the green economy by improving energy efficiency.  We are committing to reduce energy intensity across our entire portfolio of 48 multifamily and mixed use properties by at least 20 percent within 10 years.

Learn more about the better building challenge.

Better Buildings Challenge – CHH Program Goals

Commit to improving energy intensity of CHH portfolio by 20+ percent by 2020 or within 10 years.

Develop an organization-wide plan to achieve those energy savings.

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Capitol Hill 2030

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Water Habitat Materials

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and the Seattle 2030 District, a downtown-based nonprofit, have joined forces to support owners and managers in improving the performance of buildings on Capitol Hill.

Buildings account for 39 percent of total energy consumption in the United States, more than either the transportation or industry sectors.  Rising costs plus increasingly stringent state building codes are driving building owners to improve the energy performance of their properties.  A similar story is playing out with water.  Water, drainage and sewerage costs are rising. Building owners are jumping to increase the efficiency of their buildings and encourage residents to lower their usage.

The following EcoDistrict property owners/managers are already members of the Seattle 2030 District: Seattle University, Seattle Central College, Capitol Hill Housing, Bellwether Housing, and Hunters Capital.

More info:

Capitol Hill 2030 Program Goals

Total Building Energy Use: 50% reduction by 2030.

Total Building Water Use: 50% reduction by 2030.

CO2e of Auto and Freight: 50% reduction by 2030

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Partner Projects
Capitol Hill Arts District

The Capitol Hill Arts District is a deep collaboration between Capitol Hill Housing, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, the City of Seattle and the neighborhood arts organizations and artists.  With the strong arts infrastructure and deep working relationship with the City of Seattle already in place, we can keep the arts at the center of Capitol Hill’s identity, and provide a template for other neighborhoods.

A neighborhood constellation of the arts, anchored by several non-profits, has organically formed on Capitol Hill around East Pike/Pine and 12th Avenue.  As this has happened without a coordinating plan or structure, few in the region are aware of the breadth of opportunities.  A key example of Creative Placemaking, the next steps are to first organize, frame, and market a formal Capitol Hill Arts District, and second, leverage the arts as the means to achieve neighborhood goals.

This neighborhood is experiencing rapid change and gentrification. The existing arts organizations are under real threat of being displaced by rising rents and redevelopment. Capitol Hill is increasingly perceived as being in danger of losing its soul.

A cultural problem needs a cultural solution.

Capitol Hill Arts District Program Goals

Work with neighborhood arts groups to utilize new City arts space incentives to preserve the arts Market the Arts District and organizations as a destination, using tools such as sidewalk kiosks, street sign caps, custom painted sidewalks, mapping tools, and others

Explore collective resources to draw audiences, preserve arts uses and build staff capacity for the Arts District

Explore and pilot a shared arts destination district benefits: ticketing discount model, map or wayfinding, neighborhood arts festival, collective media buys

Actively support real estate development projects using arts district incentives

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Partner Projects
Capitol Hill Saves!

A key hurdle to improving small business energy efficiency is that decision-makers are too busy running their business to think about energy, let alone how to use less.

The Preservation Green Lab (PGL), a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) have partnered to pilot America Saves!, PGL’s program to support small businesses via energy efficiency improvements.

The primary goal of the PGL/CHH pilot is to test new DOE-funded analytical tools designed to streamline the energy efficiency assessment process and move businesses and property owners quickly from sharing access to their utilities data to a point of decision on how to invest in energy conservation measures. PGL will utilize basic utility and building attribute data to perform free remote assessments of approximately150 properties on Capitol Hill and make recommendations for energy conservation measures supported by rebates or other local incentive programs.

We’ll be doing outreach to businesses in 2014.  Coming to a business near you!

To sign up your business email

More about America Saves!

Capitol Hill Saves! Program Goals

Streamline the energy efficiency assessment process.

Provide Capitol Hill businesses and property owners with easy to digest energy use data to inform their decisions about energy retrofits.

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Partner Projects
Capitol Hill Tool Library
Culture Materials Equity

The Capitol Hill Tool Library is a project of Sustainable Capitol Hill, a local “network of neighbors, businesses and community groups dedicated to making Capitol Hill a sustainable community.” With the Tool Library, Sustainable Capitol Hill aims to build community, empower people and the neighborhood to be more resilient, and reduce waste associated with individual consumption. It is located at 1552 Crawford Place and is open Wednesdays 6-9pm, Saturdays 9am-noon, and Sundays 4-7pm.

The Tool Library hosts a variety of items that a person might only use occasionally, such as the usual woodworking and gardening tools, but also cooking equipment, food preservation gear, sewing stuff, etc. The Capitol Hill Tool Library also hosts classes, events and fix-it collectives.

Rent or donate a tool today!

The vision for the tool library is larger than simply making tools available to borrow. This space is used to host workshops to help people learn various skills from using the tools in the library, to fixing broken items, to other self-sufficiency classes such as food growing and preservation. Some of the workshops may also be focused on completing tangible sustainability projects such as: parks restoration, building worm bins or solar cookers, etc. Join us for workshops, fixer nights, or just to borrow a tool!

Want to learn more and support this project?

Feel free to get in touch with Sustainable Capitol Hill if you have any questions or want to know other ways you can help!

Capitol Hill Tool Library Program Goals

Build community by bringing the members of the neighborhood together to share tools, time and skills

Develop neighborhood resiliency by making tools available for general use as well as teaching the community how to make and repair things

Reduce unnecessary consumerism and waste by sharing resources as a community rather than buying them separately as individuals

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Partner Projects
Central Seattle Greenways
Transportation Equity

Central Seattle Greenways advocates for greenways, protected bike lanes, safer intersections, parklets, and other improvements that make our neighborhood streets more people-focused. Neighborhood greenways are traffic-calmed residential streets that are safe and comfortable for people walking, biking, pushing strollers, and using wheelchairs. Based on Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan, SDOT is building a greenway network throughout the city.

Join the Central Seattle Greenways group in advocating for safe streets for all! Stay connected on facebook or stop by a monthly meeting, the second Monday of each month at Cortona Cafe – all are welcome!

The Central Area Neighborhood Greenway, built in conjunction with the 23rd Avenue repaving project, will provide a comfortable path for people walking and biking parallel to 23rd Ave from Rainier Ave S to E Roanoke St. The project is divided into three phases: Phase 1, from S Jackson to E John, will be finished by late July 2015. Phases 2 and 3, which extend the greenway south to 24th & Rainier and north to E Roanoke St, should be completed by early 2016.

Additionally, an East West Central Greenway along E Columbia from Broadway to 34th Ave is in the planning stages, and we expect SDOT to complete it in 2017. A greenway on E Denny, from 21st Ave to Broadway, linking East Capitol Hill with the new light rail station, is on SDOT's work plan for completion in 2019. Central Seattle Greenways is working with several community groups, including Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, to make improvements at the key intersection of 12th Ave E and E Denny closer to the time of the light rail station's opening. The Ridge Route greenway, which follows the ridge of the hill from Judkins Park to Volunteer Park, is also on SDOT's work plan to be completed in 2019.

Learn more about greenways in Seattle

Join Central Seattle Greenways! Learn more on their website, stay connected on facebook or stop by a monthly meeting, the second Monday of each month at Cortona Cafe - all are welcome!

Central Seattle Greenways Program Goals

Empower neighbors to identify, advocate for, and activate safe and healthy streets for all people.

Create a connected network of safe, pleasant, and healthy streets in Seattle.

Make it easier for people to choose to walk, bike, or take transit for their daily transportation.

Make it easier for kids to walk and bike to school safely.

Work with the city to eliminate serious and fatal crashes (Vision Zero).

Prioritize people over cars.

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Partner Projects
Affordable Solar

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Energy Equity

Many people either can’t afford to put solar panels on their own homes or they don’t have the roof space. Participants in our Affordable Solar program have “subscribed” to receive the benefits of solar via systems built and maintained by Seattle City Light on the rooftop of a Capitol Hill Housing building. The Capitol Hill Affordable Solar project serves three primary goals: produces clean energy, supports the regional clean energy economy (all of the system components and labor are locally sourced!), and reduces the long-term operating costs of affordable housing.



UPDATE: ALL SOLD!  All 925 units in our Affordable Solar project in Capitol Hill have now been sold.

How it works: Participants buy in for as low as $150, support the program, then get their money back via credits on their Seattle City Light bill. The link between clean energy and affordability is one of the most exciting aspects of this project. As far as we know, this is the ONLY community solar project on affordable housing IN THE COUNTRY!

Seattle City Light provided the capital for the 2014 purchase and installation of photovoltaic arrays and associated equipment and provide maintenance on those systems through June 2020. Capitol Hill Housing hosts the arrays on the Holiday Apartments, an affordable housing property on the Hill.

Participants in the affordable solar program receive reimbursement for their contribution from City Light via a credit on their utility bills through June 2020.  In July 2020, full ownership and management of the systems will be transferred to CHH from City Light and the energy generated going forward would help to reduce the costs of operating affordable housing.

Read more about Affordable Solar - Capitol Hill on our News page.

Affordable Solar Program Goals

Clean Energy – the system will generate approximately 25,000 kWh of clean electricity annually.

Local Economy – all of the system components are made in Washington and the installer is Seattle-based.

Affordable Housing – after the participants (you!) are paid back, ownership of the system will transfer to Capitol Hill Housing to reduce its operating costs for the Holiday Apartments.

Reduce the long-term operating costs of affordable housing

Test community interest in affordable solar and lay the foundation for bringing affordable solar to scale in the EcoDistrict.

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Dumpsters in the Right of Way
Materials Transportation Health

In a dense neighborhood without many alleys, finding the space to store dumpsters in a safe, clean manner is often a challenge, especially along commercial corridors. The boom in construction, especially in Pike-Pine, has exacerbated the problem.

With funding from Only In Seattle, the EcoDistrict partnered with the Capitol Hill Chamber to document these challenges and explore waste management alternatives in Capitol Hill. This report was issued in December 2015. We will continue to work with the Chamber, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Department of Transportation, haulers and local retailers to improve the situation.

Dumpsters in the Right of Way Program Goals

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Get On the Map – Capitol Hill
Water Habitat

The Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) Green Business Program offers free tools and assistance to help Seattle area businesses conserve resources and prevent pollution.  The EcoDistrict is partnering with SPU to work with businesses on Capitol Hill and invite them to “Get on the Map” by conserving water, reducing waste and protecting the water going into local waterways.  We visited local businesses through the end of 2014.

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is working with SPU to provide outreach and free technical assistance to small businesses in the EcoDistrict. We focus on building awareness, preventing stormwater pollution, conserving potable water, protecting wastewater infrastructure, and increasing waste prevention, recycling, and compliance with City ordinances.

Get On the Map – Capitol Hill Program Goals

Prevent stormwater pollution.

Protect wastewater infrastructure.

Conserve drinking water.

Decrease waste and increase recycling.

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Pike Pine Conservation District Overlay
Culture Materials

The EcoDistrict has supported the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council’s (PPUNC) work with leaders at the City of Seattle to develop a unique set of land use regulations and incentives that welcome new development while preserving the Pike/Pine corridor’s historic character.  This set of regulations, codified as the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District, has been updated several times to hone the effectiveness of the program. 

A new update may be needed to maintain preservation incentives after the adoption of Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning changes.  Get involved by attending a PPUNC meeting

Learn more about the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District.

Pike Pine Conservation District Overlay Program Goals

Promote mixed-use development

Keep new development compatible and in scale with the neighborhood

Encourage small, diverse local businesses

Preserve pre-1940 buildings (called “character structures” in the Land Use Code) that contribute to the character of the neighborhood

Retain and attract arts and cultural uses.

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Pike Pine District Shared Parking
Transportation Equity

Parking is one of the most local of transportation issues, a hidden factor shaping the built environment.  Parking is expensive to build and operate in dense urban neighborhoods like Capitol Hill.  Oversupply and inefficient use of parking can needlessly drive up the cost of living while subsidizing car ownership.  Lack of on-site parking can also motivate property owners to demolish treasured older buildings. 

To address these issues the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict has developed an exciting new parking management strategy, district shared parking.  The potential for such a strategy in Pike Pine is detailed in our 2015 report District Shared Parking: Program, Policy, and Technology – Strategies for a More Resilient Parking System in Pike Pine.  Since the publication of the report, we’ve been hard at work changing garage management practices, advocating for municipal policy changes, and testing new data technologies.  Stay tuned for exciting announcements in 2017!

District shared parking is the idea that many parking garages in a growing, walkable district should work together and share users almost as if they were one garage.  The concept combines the benefits of many types of sharing - people in buildings without enough parking can lease spaces from buildings that have too much parking, new buildings can lease spaces from existing buildings that have excess supply, and daytime users and nighttime users can share a pool of spaces to reduce overall demand – with the scale, flexibility, and redundancy of a distributed district system.

In 2015, Capitol Hill Housing is beginning to implement recommendations from the report.  For more information please contact Alex Brennan at abrennan[at]capitolhillecodistrict[dot]org

Pike Pine District Shared Parking Program Goals

Reduce rent required to subsidize under used parking.

Preserve older buildings.

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Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot
Culture Transportation

In 2015, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict led a community engagement and planning process – in partnership with other community groups and City departments – to pilot pedestrian-only streets in Pike Pine on Saturday nights August.  We then collaborated with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to map street use patterns, survey about 1,000 people about the project, hold in depth debrief discussions with local businesses, property owners and resident groups, and identify next steps.  Check out the full evaluation report here.

In 2016, SDOT has continued to experiment with temporary pedestrian-only street configurations and collected more data and feedback.  Continued community discussion will address future plans in 2017.  Our streets are public right of way.  As a community member, you can shape the way we use these vital spaces.  Let us know your thoughts on this project.


Pike Pine Pedestrian Streets Pilot Program Goals

Improve safety

Facilitate nightlife and crowd management/mitigation

Open the street to positive community-led programming to promote an inclusive and safe nightlife environment

Celebrate the LGBTQ and artistic culture and history of the neighborhood

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