Belltown News


If you’ve been bumping along on your commute through Belltown for the past few months, your ride is about to get a lot smoother! The Seattle Department of Transportation started a major repaving project along Third Avenue this morning, where there has been a serious pothole problem.

The potholes are particularly bad along Third Avenue, due to its higher bus traffic and everyday wear-and-tear. The tough freezing this winter caused quite a bit of pavement cracking as well, which has been exacerbated by the impact vehicle traffic.

Construction will take place along Third Avenue between Virginia and Broad Streets.

SDOT expects this to be a 10 month project, and part of the reason for the long timeline is to reduce the impact on traffic. In order to work, SDOT will need to close the avenue down to a single lane in each direction at work sites. They are also dividing road closures for the project into intersections to reduce the impact on traffic.

Although it’s going to cause traffic headaches, it’s very, very necessary. Right now, “It’s like going through a slalom course!” one driver said.

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Want to peruse local artwork and also give your input on what you’d like our community to look like in the future? Stop by Thursday evening, April 27th  from 6-9 pm at Makers’ space (92 Lenora St.) in Belltown. The meeting is held by Project Belltown, a community-driven group, who would show maps, plans, and would like your ideas for how this neighborhood can thrive in days to come. Local art and imagery will be on display, and there will be food and drink as well.

Project Belltown has six areas of focus for improvements:
Creative Placemaking: Preserve and promote an art and entertainment district as a neighborhood center for Belltown; as a heart of Belltown. Invest in our public realm: our historic buildings, parks, alleyways, sidewalks, and open spaces.

Economic Development: Develop strategies to market and promote Belltown businesses, both as a destination for tourists and as a walkable community. Look at strategies to preserve affordable commercial rents, and align development with desired uses.

Environment: Implement the Growing Vine Street public art and water-reclamation project, build more green street projects. Promote sustainable development and explore the implementation of an EcoDistrict throughout Belltown.

Health & Safety: Advocate for increased community policing, while pursuing additional neighborhood strategies to address homelessness. Expand on community workforce development programs and increase access to services for those in need.

Mobility & Connectivity: Improve connections to the Waterfront, Pike Place, and the Seattle Center. Promote mobility through a Belltown Connector, pedestrian, and bike connections. Build out east/west connections to Denny Triangle.

Workforce Housing: Develop a Belltown-based strategy for affordable and workforce housing. Consider a district to preserve existing housing, in alignment with HALA recommendations, and using an expanded TDR program to fund new workforce housing. Consider incentive programs tied to up-zoning.

Interior of Makers, where meet & art will be held. Photo: Makers site

Makers, where the meeting will be held, is a co-working space for entrepreneurial spirits who see the benefit of a shared working environment, camaraderie, and resources.

Come join us!

By Ryan Takeo

A Washington State Department of Labor and Industries crane expert began an investigation Wednesday, one day after a crane cable snapped and sent a metal piece of debris flying.

No one was injured, but the debris almost hit a bicyclist.

Compass General Construction runs the site at Western Avenue and Blanchard Street. Its vice president, Bob Strum, said workers were parking the crane Tuesday when part of the cable failed.

“They were parking the crane for the night and running the cable up at the end of the day, and a part of it failed and (the debris) fell,” he said.

He added the company is also conducting its own investigation to find out what exactly happened.

The metal debris, called a block, was attached to the cable. The block fell near workers below and then to the nearby street, where it almost hit bicyclist Chris Behrens.

“I was riding my bike up the hill and I heard a loud snap,” recalled Behrens after the incident.

Compass’ L&I inspections over the last four years showed 16 of the 19 inspections had no violations. One 2016 inspection showed two ‘severe’ violations. An L&I spokesperson added context that Compass’ violations were fairly common and the resulting fines were only about $5,000 combined. One inspection is under appeal and another had a “general” violation, which is the most minor type, according to the spokesperson.

Strum said Compass has no open cases he knows of and stood by his company’s safety record.

“It’s a big part of what we do. It’s a part of everyday conversation,” he said. “There are rigorous protocols to maintain safe hoisting practices. Cranes are regularly inspected and maintained by people who that’s all they do. “

Strum added the crane was inspected the day before the incident. He declined to name the inspection company. He said the crane will stay parked for the time being.

“We’re going to have the manufacturer come out to inspect it,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are going to go through it very carefully and we’ll just leave it parked until all of that’s been done.”

A carpenters union recently picketed the construction site, claiming safety concerns.

Compass says it believes the union was and is trying to recruit new members. Several workers did not have the same safety concerns the union described.

The L&I investigation is expected to take about six months.

Syndicated from

By Daniel Beekman

Seattle leaders say a proposed upzone of downtown and South Lake Union would help make the city more affordable and diverse.

But some Belltown residents are worried it would fail to stop their downtown neighborhood from becoming more expensive and exclusive.

The upzone would enable new buildings to climb one or several stories higher than is now allowed.

Though it would trigger a new Mayor Ed Murray program requiring developers to create rent-restricted housing, the developers would be allowed to pay fees to the city rather than include the affordable units in their own buildings.

And downtown, officials have said, they expect developers of high-rise buildings to choose to pay those fees.

The fees would serve a worthy purpose: The city would use them to help nonprofit organizations develop rent-restricted housing.

But Murray’s program wouldn’t require that housing to be located in the downtown neighborhoods generating the fees.

The Belltown residents say the affordable units funded by the fees would most likely end up in neighborhoods far from downtown, where land is cheaper.

“This legislation would treat our neighborhood like an ATM,” Evan Clifthorne, of the new community group Project Belltown, wrote in a letter to the City Council last month.

Downtown and South Lake Union are among more than two dozen parts of the city that Murray wants to upzone this year and next, each in tandem with the requirements of his Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program.

The mayor has said the MHA program can produce 6,000 units of rent-restricted housing in a decade, and he’s counting on downtown and South Lake Union development to generate about 2,100 of those units.

The council got started in February, approving an upzone of the University District. A final vote on the downtown and South Lake Union upzone is happened for Monday.

In certain neighborhoods, debates about Murray’s plan are following a familiar script.

Some homeowners are accusing the city of acquiescing to overdevelopment, while some urbanists are slamming the mayor’s critics as “not in my backyard” obstructionists.

Belltown’s narrative is somewhat different, says Merlée Sherman, a 24-year-old food educator raising two children with her partner in a 250-square-foot studio apartment.

Sherman and her neighbors aren’t afraid of density. Belltown already is very urban. And they aren’t particularly upset about what the upzone would do. They’re more upset about what it might not do — help people of all incomes remain in their neighborhood.

“I want other families to be able to live downtown,” Sherman said earlier this month. “We walk everywhere. Everything is accessible. You’d think 250 square feet would be hell, but when we walk outside we have everything.”

Sherman discussed the upzone with Clifthorne after taking part in a Project Belltown “visioning event” last month. They and some of their neighbors say the legislation should ensure the construction of affordable housing in Belltown. They say it should also consider the needs of people struggling to climb into and stay in the middle class.

The MHA program is set up to create housing for families making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. For a single person, 60 percent of the median is about $40,000 per year, and for a family of four, 60 percent is about $55,000 per year.

By giving Belltown developers the option of paying fees and by helping households making below 60 percent, “you say no” to some middle-class workers, Sherman said.

“You say no to the insurance broker, to the mechanic, the list goes on,” she said.

Terique Scott, who moved to Belltown from Cleveland four years ago, shares Sherman’s perspective. The 30-year-old Belltown Community Council board member says a neighborhood “where you still have black, white, rich, poor, homeless” has become less diverse as rents have soared.

“There should be more workforce housing,” Scott said, sitting around a meeting with Clifthorne and Sherman in the Makers co-working space on Lenora Street. “They’re just making it low-income and high-income. They’re killing the middle class.”

Fees option

Clifthorne, who was an aide to former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, says council members are well-meaning and says the MHA program is a good idea, overall.

But some details of the plan bother him. Clifthorne says the fees option exists partly because developers believe low-income tenants make their buildings less marketable.

And he says the upzone could exacerbate segregation between neighborhoods by using luxury buildings downtown to fund affordable housing in less-wealthy areas.

“The perception that we can’t have poor people living close to rich people is a driving factor,” Clifthorne said.

For a better Belltown, the city could let downtown developers include units for households making up to 80 percent of the median, he says.

The council also could boost incentives for developers who buy existing buildings near their luxury buildings and then keep the rents affordable, Clifthorne says.

Finally, the MHA program could allow developers to spend less on the rent-restricted units they include in their luxury buildings. The program now requires a building’s rent-restricted and market-rate units to have similar dimensions and amenities.

“We’re not being creative enough,” Clifthorne said.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who ushered the upzone through the council’s land-use committee, says he understands the anxiety in Belltown but stands by the plan.

The fees option is valuable because construction dollars go further in neighborhoods such as Rainier Beach and Lake City, Johnson says. In other words, a downtown developer paying fees rather than including units means more affordable housing.

“There’s a natural tension around this throughout the city,” Johnson said.

Though the MHA program doesn’t require the city to use the fees in the same neighborhoods where they were generated, the program makes proximity a consideration, the council member says. The city has a track record of funding low-income housing in all sorts of neighborhoods, including Belltown, Johnson notes.

By targeting families making no more than 60 percent of the median, Johnson says, the program is meant to help people making up to just above the minimum wage.

That’s different from most of Belltown’s existing affordable buildings, which are reserved for people making no more than 30 percent of the median, he says.

Another angle

Clifthorne doesn’t expect the council to make any drastic changes Monday in response to Belltown concerns, he says.

But another angle on the upzone could lead to heated debate. Councilmember Lisa Herbold plans to propose an amendment that would increase the requirements on downtown developers, who are being asked to do less than developers elsewhere.

She says the upzone, as proposed, could yield fewer affordable units in some cases than Seattle’s existing Incentive Zoning program, which is voluntary for developers.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.

A man was shot at about 3 a.m. this morning (Monday, April 3rd) in Belltown, near Battery Street in the 2400 block of 1st Avenue. Witnesses heard a single shot, then reported seeing a male victim run north on 1st Avenue and two other men were seen fleeing the scene.

Seattle Police responded to the scene, and found a 40-year-old man injured with a gunshot wound to the stomach. Police performed first aid until the medics arrived and transported the man to Harborview Medical Center. The victim had life-threatening injuries from the wound.

Police continue to look for the gunman and suspect(s) connected with this shooting, since they were unable to locate the suspects after an extensive search.

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