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Public Life in Capitol Hill

What does an inclusive, connected, safe, and healthy Capitol Hill look like to you?

Public life is defined by our experiences of public spaces - and by our experiences of each other in public spaces. How well do the streets, sidewalks, parks, squares, and alleys of our neighborhood meet our needs, enrich our lives, and help us to connect with one another?

To learn more about our public spaces, we have collected data, oral testimony, and storytelling, and we have reality-tested solutions with community members who experience the most impact from decision making.​ Read about what we have learned in our four baseline reports: observational counts, a public space study, a porous public space study, and a pilots workshop.

What's happening?

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict has concluded community engagement and pilot projects to establish a Public Life Vision and Implementation Plan for Capitol Hill. This process leveraged the strength and creativity of the arts and small business community of Capitol Hill to conceive of public spaces as cultural spaces and centers of community resilience. 

Our assessments and visioning will focus on four zones for their status as economic centers and for their proximity to upcoming developments:

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Why Capitol Hill and why now?

Capitol Hill has a reputation as a well-resourced neighborhood, but that is not the story of many of its residents, 80% of whom are renters and many of whom live in affordable housing owned and operated by Community Roots Housing. That is also not the story of the workers in its struggling businesses and cultural organizations, the students at its schools, the folks who seek community at its many LGBTQ organizations, and that is certainly not the experience of the unsheltered people who linger in parks, along sidewalks, and in alleyways.

The following areas of concern give context to ways in which public life in Capitol Hill currently operates:

  • COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
    In the age of COVID-19, we can see the immense value of public space for distanced connection, mental health, and exercise, especially for folks without a yard – or without a home. Mutual aid efforts leverage public spaces that are not currently constructed to support such acts of care, and administrators struggle to manage parks designed for uses that do not reflect current need. Now is the time to consider how our public spaces could better serve us, not just in good times, but during the next crisis.
  • GROWTH VS. DISPLACEMENT
    Small businesses, community organizations, and renters, especially those from already marginalized groups, face challenges brought by skyrocketing growth, which has spurred rising rents. These circumstances have been catastrophically intensified by COVID-19. These groups seek visibility and stability amid challenges like safety, construction, and increased expenses.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE
    One of the greatest crises of our time, climate change, threatens unprecedented flooding, poor air quality from wildfire smoke, and extreme heat events for the Seattle region. Climate change exacerbates existing inequities, contributing to increased health risks for vulnerable groups. Capitol Hill has an opportunity and an obligation to our neighbors and ourselves to do our part in mitigating these impacts.
  • GUIDING INVESTMENT
    For billions of dollars in upcoming development to contribute to thriving public life in Capitol Hill, the community must have a voice, and our most impacted members’ voices must be centered in our approach.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY
    Capitol Hill has an obligation to its most vulnerable community members as well as to adjacent areas – especially those downhill or with fewer resources. The impact of changes to public spaces here affect connectivity, public health and wellness, and environmental resilience elsewhere.
  • LEGACY
    Capitol Hill is the heart of the LGBTQ and arts communities in the Seattle area. Many LGBTQ folks experience intersectional oppression; their ability to remain and thrive is essential to neighborhood identity. The arts community, itself at risk of displacement, represents an untapped resource in creating invitations and cultivating a sense of belonging for BIPOC and low-income people who report feeling unwelcome.
  • SAFETY
    A center city neighborhood ought to welcome everyone into its public spaces. In 2020, the neighborhood became a focal point of protests against police brutality toward the Black community, and today Capitol Hill continues to experience an increase in bias crime. Consequently, our approach must center the needs of Black and indigenous people, people of color, and LGBTQ people, with the goal of co-creating sanctuary without criminalizing homelessness, poverty, or other vulnerabilities.

2019

Special thanks to our partners:

  • Arte Noir

  • Broadway Business Improvement Area

  • Cal Anderson Park Alliance

  • Capitol Hill Arts District

  • Capitol Hill Business Alliance, a program of the Greater Seattle Business Association

  • Central Area Collaborative

  • Central Seattle Greenways

  • Craft3

  • Seattle 2030 District

  • Seattle Audubon Society

  • Seattle Bird Conservation Partnership

  • Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

  • Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation

  • Seattle Department of Transportation

  • Seattle Office of Arts and Culture

  • Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development

Funders:

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