Seattle council greenlights community-sponsored levy for Capitol Hill cleanup

Sep 8, 2021, 7:30 PM | Updated: Sep 9, 2021, 5:29 am
Capitol Hill Tax Levy...
The beginnings of a Black Lives Matter mural begins to take shape on East Pine Street in the so-called "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" on June 10, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The Seattle City Council has taken a definitive step toward raising a new levy on properties along Capitol Hill’s 15th Avenue East.

The Capitol Hill levy was sponsored by the 15th Ave E Merchant Association as an organic effort to clean, maintain, and improve the community. It represents the culmination of more than three years’ worth of mobilization effort.

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The Business Improvement Area (BIA) is expected to raise $116,839 in 2022 for general aesthetic improvements to the neighborhood, such as street cleaning and graffiti removal. The funds will also be put towards an annual 15th Avenue street festival, as well as allocate dollars for staffing to advocate for the neighborhood.

There are currently 10 BIAs throughout Seattle, going back decades.

“BIAs are tasked by the community to address a wide range of issues,” an Office of Economic Development spokesperson told MyNorthwest. “Common activities that BIAs execute include cleaning and beautification, marketing and promotions, and throughout 2020 and 2021, COVID response to support small businesses. Other examples range from the West Seattle Junction BIA developing a digital marketplace for their small businesses in response to the pandemic and the closure of the West Seattle bridge, to the Ballard Alliance working with OED and SDOT to create the one-way street closure on Ballard Avenue to support small restaurants and retailers.”

The Capitol Hill levy will be funded by commercial, multi-family residential, and mixed use properties within its boundaries. The assessment rate on the relevant properties is a composite $0.10 per $1,000 of the total appraised value, and $0.15 for every lot square foot. It will be overseen by a Ratepayer Advisory Board, consisting of the ratepayers along the 15th Avenue corridor.

“This ordinance is the final piece of legislation required to create a new 15th Ave Business Improvement Area, as required by chapter 35.87A RCW,” the ordinance’s summary reads. “The City Council passed a resolution to initiate the formation of the 15th Ave Business Improvement Area, as well as a resolution of intent that included the date and place of a public hearing. After the public hearing, the City Council agreed to go forward with this ordinance.”

The approval of the levy was contingent on majority approval (majority is defined proportionally according to the appraised value of the contributing properties) from the stake holding property owners. According to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, supporters include Kaiser Permanente, Ada’s Technical Books & Cafe, Rainbow Natural Remedies, Ike’s, Angel’s Shoe Repair, Board and Vellum, and Hunters Capitol. This translates into 72.84% approval of the BIA, exceeding the requisite threshold for it to be signed into law.

“The petitioning effort resulted in a show of financial support by ratepayers who would pay at least 60% of the total special assessment revenues,” reads the BIA’s resolution.

The Office of Economic Development has received 29 signed petitions of the 37 properties affected by the BIA. The sponsoring group, 15th Ave E Merchant’s Association, is a collective of small business owners in the area, founded in 2013. They represent 13% of the district.

Seattle City Council met Wednesday for a public hearing on the resolution. Dissent was heard from Smith Restaurant owner Christopher Forczyk.

“I am opposed to the BIA at this time for [the reason of] cost,” Forczyk said. “Revenue is down in general due to COVID-19. Many businesses are operating at a loss. Customer confidence is down because of COVID. My business is down 31% from 2019. The cost of the BIA is being passed down to property owners. Since it is a tax, they can pass it on to the business owner. The cost of the BIA to my business would be $1,500. I have 30 other signatures of business on 15th Ave who do not feel that this is the appropriate time to tax their businesses and do not have the financial resources such as those of our neighbors at Kaiser, Safeway, Key Bank, Ike’s, etc.”

The Capitol Hill levy at 15th Avenue is set to last for seven years, beginning in 2022. The legislation will undergo possible revision and a final vote in the council’s Sept. 21 meeting.

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Seattle council greenlights community-sponsored levy for Capitol Hill cleanup