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In 2017, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict partnered with Community Roots Housing property management and resident services departments to pilot discounted transit through the ORCA Multifamily Passport program (a new transit product for multifamily residential buildings) to 122 households living in three Community Roots buildings. A resounding success, residents were able to save money and access increased services across the region. The program reached many residents who could not afford transit otherwise, even through existing discount programs like LIFT. The Affordable ORCA Passport Pilot received funding from the Seattle Department of Transportation and Enterprise Community Partners with coordination support from King County Metro and Sound Transit. In 2018, we wrote about the need to expand this program to affordable housing residents across King County.

The City of Seattle announced a year-long free transit pass program for 1,500 Seattle Housing Authority residents using the same delivery model based on the ORCA Multifamily Passport. This is a welcome next step for increasing access for low income residents of affordable housing and demonstrates the value of our 2017 pilot. We commend the City of Seattle for this program and hope to see this program expand to include even more affordable housing residents across King County in the future.

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


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 “subscribed” to receive the benefits of solar via systems built and maintained by Seattle City Light on the rooftop of a Community Roots Housing building. The Capitol Hill Affordable Solar project served three primary goals: produce clean energy, support the regional clean energy economy (all of the system components and labor were locally sourced), and reduce the long-term operating costs of affordable housing.

How It Worked

The program offered 925 units, all of which were sold. Participants bought in for as low as $150, supported the program, then got 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. Seattle City Light provided the capital for the 2014 purchase and installation of photovoltaic arrays and associated equipment. Seattle City Light also volunteered maintenance on those systems for several years. Community Roots Housing hosts the arrays on the Holiday Apartments, an affordable housing property on the Hill.

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

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 are paid back, ownership of the system will transfer to Community Roots 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


Community Roots Housing is committed to addressing the environmental footprint of our 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 nearly 50 multifamily and mixed-use properties by at least 20 percent within 10 years.

Community Roots Housing joined the Better Buildings Challenge with the EcoDistrict at the helm. Now this project is carried on through Community Roots’ asset management department.

Better Buildings Challenge Community Roots Program Goals

  • Commit to improving energy intensity of Community Roots portfolio by 20 or more percent by 2020 or within 10 years
  • Develop an organization-wide plan to achieve those energy savings


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

It is deeply unfortunate that the “Central Park” of Capitol Hill, a 7+ acre green space that serves as the backyard for thousands of local residents, has earned such a reputation. 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 for the park to the Seattle Office of Economic Development. 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. Community Roots Housing is assisting in seeking funds to support the implementation. Other partners include the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and Capitol Hill Champion.

UPDATE: In January 2021, string lights were draped around the trees along the western edge of the park on Nagle Place between Barbara Bailey Way and Pine Street.

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


The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and the Seattle 2030 District joined forces to support owners and managers in improving the performance of buildings on Capitol Hill. This effort is an ongoing pursuit, and the EcoDistrict and Seattle 2030 District continue to find ways to work together.

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, Community Roots Housing, Bellwether Housing, and Hunters Capital.

Capitol Hill 2030 Program Goals

  • 50% reductions in total building energy use, building water use and C02e of auto and freight by 2030


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 Community Roots Housing partnered to pilot America Saves!, PGL’s program to support small businesses via energy efficiency improvements.

The primary goal of the PGL/Community Roots pilot was 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 utilized basic utility and building attribute data to perform free remote assessments of approximately 150 properties on Capitol Hill and make recommendations for energy conservation measures supported by rebates or other local incentive programs.

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


The Capitol Hill Tool Library is an active 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.

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 accessories, etc. The Capitol Hill Tool Library also hosts classes, events, and fix-it collectives.

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, from 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, crafting a solar cooker, etc.

Though the library is FREE and open to all, your donations and membership fees are what keep the doors open. You can also donate your tools – donated tools must be in working order and non-gasoline powered.


The Tool Library is always looking for extra help. 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, in addition to 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


Launched in the spring and funded by Bank of America, the Community Kitchens for Affordable Housing Residents program paid local restaurants to prepare free, nutritious meals for neighbors in need. Restaurants created dietarily-responsive meal kits that were easily portable to food-insecure families, individuals, and at-risk seniors, allowing housing providers to meet food insecurity needs safely during the height of the pandemic. For four months in 2020, Community Roots Housing worked to distribute meals from local restaurants to residents. During that time, Community Roots volunteers delivered over 8,000 meals to residents experiencing food insecurity. The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict coordinated the effort, serving as liaison between the restaurants, while directing volunteer efforts.


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 totaling nearly $2 billion, it’s the most expensive development project in Seattle’s history.

On behalf of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, we continue to closely track 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 millions of dollars 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 we hope to set an example and precedent for what’s possible when community and developers work together 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


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 documented these challenges and explored waste management alternatives in Capitol Hill. This report was issued in December 2015. We will continue to work with Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Department of Transportation, haulers, and local retailers to improve the situation.


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 partnered 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.

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict worked with SPU to provide outreach and free technical assistance to small businesses in the EcoDistrict. We focused on building awareness, preventing stormwater pollution, conserving potable water, protecting wastewater infrastructure, and increasing waste prevention, recycling, and compliance with City ordinances. We visited local businesses through the end of 2014.

Get On the Map – Capitol Hill Program Goals

  • Prevent stormwater pollution
  • Protect wastewater infrastructure
  • Conserve drinking water
  • Decrease waste and increase recycling


This is an ongoing effort. The fabric and nature of Capitol Hill continues 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 formed the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council (PPUNC). The PPUNC is the Land Use Review Committee for Capitol Hill. It is a community group composed of residents, property owners, and professional stakeholders, and our goal is to create a more open dialogue between community members and incoming developers early in the design process. At the moment, we are focused on the Pike-Pine corridor. If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, reach out to us at

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 rather 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 P/PUNC mailing list, serve as a Committee member, or would simply like to participate in the community meetings, please contact

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


A Parking Benefit District directs a portion of on-street parking meter revenue toward neighborhood needs. These districts reward neighborhoods for participating in parking metering that provides citywide benefits such as reducing congestion from circling, increasing user turnover, allowing 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, yet they are 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. The concept was originally advanced by parking policy trailblazer Donald Shoup.

Parking Benefit District Program Goals

  • Reduce congestion
  • Improve business district access for retail customers
  • Reduce driving subsidies
  • Generate revenue for neighborhood transportation needs


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.

Learn more about the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District. Check out the neighborhood design guidelines here. In 2017 Pike Pine neighborhood design guidelines were updated and adopted by council.

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.


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 developed an exciting parking management strategy: district shared parking. The potential for such a strategy in Pike Pine was detailed in our 2015 report District Shared Parking: Program, Policy, and Technology – Strategies for a More Resilient Parking System in Pike Pine. After the publication of the report, we worked to change garage management practices, advocated for municipal policy changes, and tested new data technologies.

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. For more information please contact

Pike Pine District Shared Parking Program Goals

  • Reduce rent required to subsidize underused parking
  • Preserve older buildings


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 in August. We then collaborated with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to map street use patterns, survey roughly 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 continued to experiment with temporary pedestrian-only street configurations and collected more data and feedback. This project continues in conjunction with our Public Life work.

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


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 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 Community Roots Housing staff, Renter Initiative members received the training and resources required to take action on policy issues. We connected each other with community partners and hosted opportunities to engage with City Officials.

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. Learn more on our Facebook group.

Renter Initiative Program Goals

  • Form a Seattle Renters Commission
  • Increase statewide tenants' rights and state housing trust fund
  • Pass "mandatory housing affordability" zoning changes
  • Regulate AirBnB
  • Make it easier to build backyard cottages
  • Improve pedestrian and bicycle safety
  • Reduce transit costs for low-income people


Seattle Food Rescue is a nonprofit organization based in Seattle 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 Community Roots Housing, Seattle Food Rescue delivered food directly to the residences of low-income residents at two apartment complexes managed by Community Roots Housing.

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 then delivers food via bicycle to people in need