The Little Magic That Remains on Our Changing Capitol Hill


Funny how since the mid-nineties The Stranger has been leading proponent of urban density, high-rises, those ridiculous aPodments and, say it with me, 'Vibrant Urban Lifestyle.'

Well, now you've got exactly what you wanted and it sucks. What are the chances?

I always hoped the folks at The Stranger would be smart enough to be careful what they wish for.
I actually think development is not the problem. im pro-apodments. my problem is we only know how to grow one way.
Or people could just move, find another neighborhood that is out of the way and undiscovered, and enjoy the same low rents and lifestyle they enjoyed back when they were younger. Why does everyone act like they are physically shackled to Capitol Hill and other gentrified neighborhoods? Be an innovator that creates a new scene instead of whining about the loss of the old one.

Guess it's just easier to be a useless crybaby.
Growth per se isn't the issu; how growth is managed, directed and shaped - or not - is.

The biggest problem with what's happening right now on Capitol Hill (and almost everywhere else in this city development is underway) is that it's completely unchecked: entire neighborhoods are undergoing wholesale disruption as block upon block upon block is knocked down, filled in, and replaced with hulking, bland, nondescript lumps of buildings possessing no character, no individual identity, little in the way of visual appeal, or at best only rudimentary attempts to integrate into the already existing design aesthetics of adjacent structures. Plus, none of them seem to be built with the intention of supporting or complementing the characteristics of the neighborhoods themselves, but rather to transform them into something, not only completely different, but apparently, deliberately at-odds with what already exists.

Meanwhile, developers flout their new cookie-cutter constructions as having ersatz "funky, vibrant, unique, hip, urban charm" as enticements to potential occupants, even while they simultaneously continue to erase everything around them actually possessing these same qualities from the surrounding landscape, in an apparent effort to redefine the very terms themselves into something more palpable to the masses of young, handsomely-compensated code-monkeys who will soon become the dominant demographic.

Clearly the "managed development train" has left the station so far as neighborhoods like Belltown, Ballard & Capitol Hill are concerned; Georgetown and Pioneer Square are probably relatively safe for the time-being. SODO, Beacon Hill & Lower Queen Anne are most likely the next targets, although perhaps they may hold out for a few more years, depending on how the overall economy does. But even so, it seems like no matter what the future holds, getting some sort of control rods in-place NOW, while it's still possible, doesn't seem out of order. If we'd done that back in the '90's, during the previous growth spurt, things might have gone very differently in the current round. Again, it's not about being opposed to change itself, but imagine what kind of neighborhood we COULD create, if only we were more sensible and pro-active about using the opportunity for growth and change to plan development that actually IS "funky, vibrant, hip and urban" - not to mention affordable, human-scaled, and aesthetically pleasing - rather than just paying lip-service to those words in a sales brochure.
"Crackheads can only exist in places that have the potential for magic."

What does this even mean? Seems like you are advocating for the presence of people addicted to a dangerous and destructive substance in order to add more "charm" or "character" to a neighborhood.
@2 That's pretty god damned naive, Charles. The developers ran this town BEFORE the density movement. What did you think was going to happen when you gave them even more power? The Stranger basically handed Developers ready voice and a cultural mandate to do what they wanted "for the good of the city." Anybody even remotely challenged the density at any-cost proponents were called NIMBY's.

Well. Here we are. aPDODments are a scam. A $64 a square foot scam so Developers can skip design revues, community integration requirements, get tax breaks and still charge premium rents. And you assholes fell for it.

But I hear maybe the Stranger will be moving off the hill in a couple of years. And of course YOU and Savage and other Stranger staffers live single family housing so... yeah. So what do you care.

I suppose there are worse things than hypocrisy.
Nope, try reading the polive reports, the problem is both frat boys & "crackheads". From the reporting on CHS, homeless/vigrants are causing as much violent hate crimes as frat boys. The stranger never follows up when it's homeless/vigrants though.

Charles, remember this?…

All of these men where vigrants in town for folk life.

Those who just blame the homeless for the violence on the hill are the same as those just blaming the bros. it's a combination of both, as well as those with extreme religious beliefs.…
@4 agreed, we should be holding the developers more accountable. There also should be higher developer fees to build in high demand areas that goes back to the support the social safety net.
@6 You're making some pretty incredible assumptions there, the biggest one being that Stranger staffers are all highly paid and living in single family homes. Perhaps you should check your facts before slinging accusations?

But hey, like you said, there are probably worse things than hypocrisy.
Charles, I think I may have lived there also. Were the landlords Dick and Nancy? Was it 1712?

I left Capitol Hill in 1999 when I was priced out of my apartment, which was soon to be demolished and replaced with a much bigger building with much smaller and more expensive apartments. Since that time I have lived on North Beacon Hill, which has gone from a heavily Asian/older population to one that is almost as gay as Capitol Hill was back in the day. There is only one traditional m/f couple on our block, there are at least three gay-friendly food & beverage establishments in the "business district" (including a restaurant that has a regular drag show), and there are times when I think the only straight people in the Red Apple are the staff members.

Times change, neighborhoods change.
@9 Maybe you better brush up on your fundamental reading comprehension. Read what I wrote again.

#1 I never mentioned Stranger staff pay. You hallucinated that little detail all on your own.

#2 BOTH Dan Savage and Charles live in single family houses. As do a couple other current and former staffers. Including Publisher Tim Keck. I didn't say ALL the staffers did.

Check YOUR facts. it would take all of five minutes searching archives. But I'll let other Sloggers back up this long, well known, ironic Stranger factoid.
@11: Times change, neighborhoods change.

Yes, and change is inevitably lamented by those who've been economically or culturally displaced by it.

Seattle's underground has been one of the city's chief exports to the world. It's what drew me here, along with lots of like-minded people. And Capitol Hill was the epicenter. Where will that vibe go now? Away to other cities?
@13 No, you didn't comment directly on Stranger staffers' pay, but one might argue that it was heavily implied.

I think it's extremely unfair to assume that people (anyone, really - not just Stranger staffers) living in single family homes don't give a shit about these newer developments. No one wants to see more of these ridiculous condos and apodments sprout up. As mentioned in comment #4, the biggest problem with what's happening is that it's unchecked. It's changing the entire appearance and character of our city, which is something that every Seattleite should care about.
@15 Jesus Christ. Every statement you make is one long blithering series of straw man arguments.

The only thing "heavily implied" is that you're a conclusion jumper who can't read or follow a thought without some kind of delusional foray into your own imagination.

Show a splinter of integrity and admit you didn't really read my first comment, that you were wrong (everything I stated was totally accurate) and move on for fuck sake.
@4: Columbia City will hit critical mass on all the stuff before SODO or Beacon Hill. They're going to put up over 1000 housing units down there in the next year or two: PCC building (already happening and opening this summer), current site of the post office on Alaskan. Zion Academy site, both the northeast and northwest corners of MLK/Alaskan by the light rail. Then you've already got that green building on Hudson. It's a little crazy to think about. Not sure what Fremont is anymore. But Columbia City is soon to be a slightly more multi-cultural version of what Fremont was.

One imagines that it won't be long before the BOA building gets torn down and redeveloped. From there, I expect we'll see more single family houses torn down on Edmunds between the PCC and the light rail. Just walked by there last night and there was a sign, where they were offering an old craftsman house for sale to be moved to a different location. So one imagines we'll see a few more of those Dwell Mag Boxes going up on that lot.

Some of this stuff was probably slowed down by the housing crash. But it's back in a big way now, because the light rail will be going to Capitol Hill in under a year.

Beacon Hill has been slower. But once the El Centro de la Raza project is completed, I suspect we'll see a lot more private-sector building around the light rail. For now there's just the one building (The Denning).

There are also two vacant lots on Beacon Ave S waiting for development (north of Tippe and Drague and south of Victrola). They're not huge lots, but they'll still be NC-40 buildings.

The project on 15th Ave S and Oregon is also finally going forward. That's 39 units near McPherson's.
Places of magic tend to be more visible to people under 30 than they are to people over 40, because people under 30 are still formulating their magic place aesthetic, whereas the magic place aesthetic is much more firmly formed in people over 40.

Put that together with the over-40, middle-aged, dawning reality that life is shorter than you think, dreams don't always come true, and everything is not forever going to be an open canvas of boundless possibilities, and you wind up in a paradise-lost, elegiac mode like this article.

A neighborhood is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
What on earth? This article and its counterpart in the Times would seem to suggest that the wholesale redevelopment of our neighborhood is sad, because it's driving up prices, displacing vulnerable and valued community members, eliminating space for artists and other magic-makers, and turning the whole thing into a sterile playground for the nouveau riche.

But I know that can't be right, because I've been reading right here in The Stranger how urban redevelopment is basically charity work that developers do to help poor people and keep housing prices low.

I bet if we just deregulate the housing market further, and let developers do whatever they want, all this will resolve itself in no time!
@16 I was just attempting to respond to your original "what do you care" comment. At this point, I no longer care to debate the issue with you. Have a good night.
Charles I've lived here since 1995 and your employer, The Stranger, has been one of the biggest cheerleaders of what has been happening on Capitol Hill.

You helped make the bed now sleep in in. And for a "socialist" you sure seem to support a whole lot of the worse kinds of capitalistic tendencies.
Part of what made Seattle such a great place in the 70-80's was the Boeing Bust. That slowed everything down and allowed for people like Sam Israel to run real estate empires based on benevolent decay that allowed creative types to flourish in his lofts and warehouses. It also allowed middle-income people to acquire quality real estate at rock bottom prices. I have a friend who worked at the Swift Packing House for years and also managed to buy up a good chunk of the West Seattle Junction and downtown Burien. Those people are getting up in years, and they (or their kids) understandably want to sell and reap the rewards.

Barring another cataclysmic economic downturn locally, followed by a bigger national recession (which also helped keep Seattle cheap for a long time) things are not going to change. And since Seattle no longer has a monoeconomy, that is unlikely.

I'm not sure what government can do. Rent Control? That's not very effective, open to being gamed pretty easily, and not likely to fly out here in the American West where property rights are the name of the game. Repeal the Growth Management Act? Conservatives would love it, but we are still constrained by geography. More subsidized housing? That helps the institutionally poor, but not many others.

Why don't we just put up a billboard on the interstate that reads "Will the next person moving to Seattle turn on the 'No Vacancy" sign? Because we're full!"
It is sad what happened to Capitol Hill, but I think you will find this is true of world in general. Most people have nostalgia for there past but must move on. The real problem is simply over population; more and more people arrive in the area every day and they will need a place to stay. Another issue is the "cool" factor. Everyone wants to be cool; the streets are paved with gold there, jobs aplenty. Young people are drawn like moths to a flame that soon burns out.
"Crackheads can only exist in places that have the potential for magic. Frat boys tend to shun such places. They don't look like fun. The space open to drag queens can never be that desperate."

What are the job requirements at The Stranger? I know a lot of unemployed people who can write better than this.
@22: Great historical points!
@20 you were attempting to respond to your own invented conclusions and didn't take five seconds to think before shitting out nonsense.

What do they care? As pretty much everybody has pointed out in this thread The Stranger has been a non-stop cheerleader for growth. They characterized anybody that remotely question exactly what is happening as NIMBY's. The bars and clubs that flood our streets with homophobic drunks and the new big development The Stranger gets advertising dollars from these people.

And the many of the loudest Editorial voices for "density" at the Stranger live in single family homes. Now there is talk of the offices moving.

So. What do they care? Well they certainly don't care enough to do ANYTHING that effects themselves directly. Everybody else needs to live in $50-$64 per square foot aPODments. Not them. All these problems caused by the very policies the say they loved they're for OTHER people to actually do anything about. You know. The aWful NIMBY's that actually built the community up here.

The paper has always been hypocritical. But it's good to remind everybody just how much. Clearly you forgot. Next time you come out swinging unbury your nose from the ass of The Stranger and get your facts straight.
@22 wow. That was defeatist. So. Go back ten years. You think gay marriage and pot would've ever been legal if everybody just accepted the status quo and whinned like that?

Jesus. The lack of imagination, cognitive dissonance, and acceptance of bullshit in here in astounding. OF COURSE WE CAN CHANGE WHAT IS HAPPENING. Yes. Rent control can help. There are lots of ways to do rent controls. Christ almighty. All shit about how rent controls don't work is propagandist bullshit. They DO work. Imperfectly. But they work. And you know who games the system? Banks and developers. That's who.

Subsidized or city owned housing? OF COURSE THAT CAN WORK. If you integrate incomes and housing into established neighborhoods it works. It was developers and banks that rigged all that shit, too.

There are places in the world where all this shit works when communities actually get involved.
tkc dear, You are right. I was being a tad defeatist, I suppose. You inspired me to look up rent control, and I was actually quite impressed with San Francisco's program - although it is limited to older structures, and doesn't seem to have any restrictions against redevelopment.

The city of Seattle - via SHA, which is a quasi-governmental agency - is trying to provide housing for people who are below the average income but not quite down to the level of their traditional rental base of the SHA (which is defined as below 30% of the Average Median Income). If I recall correctly, there will be 1100 or so units of "lower income" (people with incomes from 30-60% of the Average Median Income) and "workforce" housing (less than 80% of the Average Median Income), which isn't much, but is a start. Obviously, there's a lot riding on the success of the new Yesler Terrace. If you want to expand the traditional definition of "subsidized housing", that probably starts in Congress.

Here's the thing: While I hate to use cliches like "broad coalition", the housing-rights activists really do need to speak with a unified voice. Fighting amongst the homeless advocates, low income advocates and working class advocates doesn't do anyone any good and worsens the current condition. It's like racism: If the monied interests can keep the poor and middle class people sniping at each other over something like race, it makes it much easier for the wealthy to continue to steal from them.

Seattle's creative utopia, as evidenced by the article, was an organic movement based on benign neglect and depressed economic conditions. Now that Seattle is a hot commodity, it will take institutional structures to preserve that space. Will people rise to the occasion, or will we continue to mope about "the good old days"?
#27, The Stranger not been a nonstop cheerleader for rampant growth. That is a relatively recent change, sometime in the past 10 years. The Stranger of the 1990's and early 2000's would decry the current paper as a corporate shill for the DSA.

There was once a time when The Stranger fought rampant growth for growth's sake. It has been called a NIMBY paper in the past, and has fought against that label.

The discord you see between posters and Slog comes from the fact that many of the posters are the crowd that heralded that old paper, and are doing anything possible to try and bring it back. There was a time when The Stranger was Seattle's paper of record. Now it has slid in the ranks below the and soon may even dip below the Times into Seattle Weakly territory.
What breaks my heart is not development but the loss of the tangible things that made Capitol Hill a magic place to live: 15th St Video and Harvard Exit.