Community Post

Stop the CD Land Grab

Friends and neighbors of the CD:

For years we have lived in relative peace with our well-heeled neighbors to the north. Although it’s never been a particularly warm relationship, it has been generally civil. But now I’m afraid that our Pax E. Seattle may be coming to an end.

For years all rational observers have considered E. Madison street as the firm dividing line between the Central District and Capitol Hill. Fancy, idle upper-classers lived to the north, and hard-working, salt-of-the-earth folks lived to the south. But a bold land grab is now under way, with the hillster’s making a claim that would extend their territory all the way to Union & Spring streets. They’re even trying to grab the beloved Cafe Presse right out from under us.

I know – it’s utterly ridiculous. Their plans would place Mt. Zion Baptist Church, arguably the spiritual soul of the CD, on Capitol Hill. They would make TT Minor Elementary into a Capitol Hill School, but with a total of zero kids who actually live on Capitol Hill. And most offensively, they would take the “Welcome to the Central District Area” sign that sits between 14th & 15th on Madison and have it exist in a totally separate neighborhood.

I think I’m speaking for all in the CD when I say that we will not stand for this. I understand that they’ve got a new government that may be inexperienced in the art of diplomacy and neighborly relations. So I’m willing to let bygones be bygones if they withdraw their aggressive claims. But we won’t shy away from escalating the fight if necessary to preserve our territorial integrity.

And finally, a word to the triangular Alsace-Lorraine of Seattle that we’re fighting over. I know you’re upset that we haven’t paid enough attention to you. We left you out of all of our coolest neighborhood governments, and sped through your streets on the way to and from Trader Joe’s. And I’m sure there’s some confusion from the fact that your real-estate agent told you your new townhouse was in “South Capitol Hill” (they do tend to embellish). But you’ll always be second class citizens on Capitol Hill – never invited to their wine & cheese parties and exotic HRC fundraisers. So come back, and we’ll get you a box of tasty chicken and some deliciously exotic ethiopian cuisine. We need you, and I think you need us too.

0 thoughts on “Stop the CD Land Grab

  1. Way back when, the Central Neighborhood Association was active, and worked with the Miller Park community on assorted issues, notably the vanquishing of a proposed 1000′ TV tower on Madison. They met at the Lutheran Church on Union and our interests met at Madison. As they became less active, and as neighborhood redevelopment became more active, we kept finding people from their area at our (Miller Park) meetings and on our mailing lists. So we had an amicable agreement, and held the area in the middle in joint custody:

    Along came neighborhood planning, and the Miller Park area, north of Madison, found itself lumped in with the “shared” area south of Madison as an awkwardly named Urban Village, which we soon renamed the “Madison-Miller” Urban Village. Said Urban Village was part of the Central Area plan, so the interested MPNA neighbors got to meet lots more people from south of Madison, an alliance which continues. Neighborhood-wise, Miller Park realizes it has allegiances and interests in both directions, and has got used to looking both ways.

    When I first saw the Madison-Miller Urban Village boundary, it seemed odd. Madison seemed an obvious boundary (and has traditionally been the northern limit of the CD). However, on reflection, it was clear that the redevelopment of the then very-underutilized commercial strip along Madison was going to be the defining change in our area. So if we chose Madison as the boundary between the Central Area and Capitol Hill neighborhood plans, we would finish up with either no plans for Madison, or with a different plan for each side of Madison. So the redevelopment of Madison was a star feature of our 1998 Neighborhood Plan – look, it’s finally happening!

    That’s a very long-winded way to note that (as professional Urban Planners have probably know for ever), it’s very unwise to use commercially zoned arterials as dividing lines for neighborhoods. I suggested, unsuccessfully, that the map be drawn with “fuzzy” boundaries, rather than sharp dividing lines.

    In summary, areas around the proposed dividing lines will inevitably have allegiances and interests in both directions. The Miller Park neighborhood is comfortable looking both ways. Maybe the little triangle (call it what you will) can learn to do likewise.

    It should certainly choose its own desired name. The map-makers chose “Radio Point” based on the large antennas on top of the hill. I objected, pedantically, on the grounds that all 3 towers carried TV stations but only one has radio antennas, and countered with a suggestion of “Tower Triangle”. I was over-ruled.

    Can’t we all learn to play together?

    PS: TV stations get it wrong all the time: I’ve seen KOMO TV reports about events at 23rd & Union referred to as Capitol Hill – and they’re not even realtors!

  2. This has been going on for a long time on other fronts. We have a farmers market at MLK and Union in the CD and they will not call themselves the Central District Farmers Market. Their explaination is that they do not want the stigma with the name and are afraid that people will not come if they name themselves the CD farmers Market (direct quote!)
    When we did the original Comp plan for the CD the neighbors from Madrona and Leschi attended, took over the citizen leadership role, demanded and got density in the CD then, later, had their areas included as part of the CD. This left their areas free of taking density. There are people continually misrepresenting themselves as representing themselves as spokespersons for projects, living here etc. in the CD.
    A bit of history. In the 1970’s Hillara Preston was the President of the Atlantic Street Community Council. The Council’s area, including most of the south CD, was awarded a considerable grant for restoration, post urban renewal tear down of CD business districts, through the Model Cities program. At the time the city wanted to build the RH Thompson Freeway down 23rd Ave. to connect US 10(now I-90) to 520. You can see remanents of this, ala ramps to nowhere in the Arboretum. The freeway was going nowhere politically (lawsuits from citizens) when, then, the Director of the Dept. of Community Development, under Mayor Ullman, Paul Schell (yes our previous Mayor, took the grant, given for distresses MINORITY neighborhoods, and gave to the “gold coast” neighborhoods of Madrona, Leshi and Mt. Baker citing the RH Thompson freeway as justification. Council President Hillara Preston called a news conference to address this injustice and announced that the Community Council would be now called the Judkins Rejected Community Council, a name that was embraced by the community until the late 1990’s.
    The story goes, from an person who worked in Mayor Ullmans office at the time, said that when the Mayor came in that morning of the press conference, he had a band aid on his chin and he slammed the door of his office. Apparently he was shaving when he heard the conference on the radio and was so upset that anyone would give these people a press conference he cut himself shaving.

    So you see this is just a continuation of of the past. We as citizens of a distinct area of the city need to not just collaborate together but also activley PROMOTE the CD. This Central District New has web site has contributed more that you’ll ever know, in doing this. I feel we have gone from 10 MPH to 70 MPH since Scott and company started this site.

    One last jab here. Did anyone of you see the Seattle Times story yesterday on walkable neighborhoods. They listed the highest walkable neighborhood in the city that surround downtwon even listing Roosevelt. The ONLY neighborhood left out was the CD. Most of our area ranks 80 or above, if you take the test.
    You see, we do not exist on maps of Seattle neighborhoods or in the media’s mainstream stories (unless it is crime or a gentrification fight story). If we do not collectivly push the issues, who will?

  3. But should it say “The CD is the place for me!” or simply “Judkins Reject”? Hmm.

  4. I guess I should apologize…. I live in the “little triangle”, and of course I know that we technically live in the CD and am totally happy that we do. However, when I looked at the proposed map on CHS, I noticed that it was inconsistent with the map of the “Miller / Madison Urban Village” that I’d seen on Andrew Taylor’s site in the past, and I pointed that out in a comment that came across as a complaint that we were being left out. This was done mostly tongue-in-cheek… I’m perfectly happy straddling the two neighborhoods, taking advantage of what both have to offer. The only annoying part is when someone asks where we live. I usually say “in the north part of the CD where it meets Capitol Hill”, but I wish there was a more elegant name for our micro-hood. And it’s definitely not Radio Point.

  5. Imagine the possibilities. It’s actually a really neat neighborhood.

    Hey — so while I have the ear of people who went through the creation of the Urban Villiage… How come every map the city produces shows that I clearly DO NOT live in any Urban Villiage, Residential Urban Village or Urban Center. But, the DPD parcel details claim I live in an Urban Village Overlay….. Something does not jibe..

  6. According to an appraiser, 25th and Pike is part of the make believe neighborhood of “Madrona Park.”

  7. That one’s new to me. I once heard a resident of the 27th & Spring area refer to that as “Madrona Valley”

  8. Yeah, we kind of laughed when we read that. I haven’t heard “Madrona Valley” before either.

  9. Ok I bit. I went to the article in the p-i.

    They send you to Walkscore to look at where you live.

    Admittedly, the ‘best’ neighborhoods were ranked up over 90, but here is the thing. In the small print it says they ZILLOW to define neighborhoods? That is worse than the P-I neighborhoods site. On I looked for SQuire Park, no dice. Then Central Area and Central District and I get downtown.

    On Walkscore, 23rd and E Cherry ranks 82 and 15th and E Spring ranks 95 – that NINETY FIVE. Did they include it in First Hill or something?

    Go to the P-I and comment. Go to Walkscore and tell ’em to do better defining neighborhoods!

  10. While a cool idea, the Walkscore folks need to do some fine tuning. For the 23rd & Cherry search ktkeller mentions, they list a house in the 800 block of 22nd as a Restaurant, when it must actually be the home office of a catering company or something.

    Similarly, they list the Tana Market convenience store at 25th & Cherry as a grocery, which really stretches the definition unless your diet consists entirely of snack food.

  11. The map of Madrona used to (like up to the late 90s) include a few blocks west of MLK. The Madrona Community Council decided to redraw their boudaries to end at MLK, which gets strange if you ask anyone who grew up in that area where they grew up. Of course, people always clarified whether you lived in the ‘valley’ side versus top of the hill down to the lake. The older map may have something to do with where the Urban Village boundaries are, as Madrona’s territory opted out back then.


    Actually, I thought it was Leschi Heights now.

  13. We live on 22nd and Union and it has been referred to as, “Madison Heights” ha ha.

    Also, lest we misrepresent Walkscore and the neighborhood rankings, the CD is listed – it just isn’t in the top 10 – it’s number 11:

  14. Are we arming up in a pale imitation of the Pig Wars of San Juan/Channel Islands fame?

    This was such a funny article, Scott! I printed it out and gave to a co-worker with friends in that area and another friend who used to own one of the cute historic bungalows….

  15. I’m not sure what difference it makes if we are willing to sell out to the highest bidding developer from Madrona or Capital Hill to do whatever they want in the CD. Why do they want us?

    On the other hand there are some joint interests with Miller that exist here. I have no problem with fuzzier borders if it helps with joint advocacy. The little triangle is definitely neglected.

    Many of the students in this area have been enrolling in Stevens for many years. A circle around TT Minor would go into Capital Hill and it needs the neighborhood families to care about it.

    In the 70s 27th and Union was not Madrona.

  16. That’s OK – KOMO evens it out by calling Beacon Hill and the Rainier Valley “the Central District.”

  17. It’s funny how protective you become of your “turf”: A Seattle Times reporter recently referred to the Central Cinema as being on Capitol Hill, and I just about blew a gasket when I read it.

  18. I agree with your call to action to speak well about our neighborhood. I think it starts with the content of our conversations here – do we talk about crime, or about community development? Do we focus on everything bad, or highlight what we know makes this community amazing?

  19. When I first moved here, I saw a real estate flyer that listed the area as “Madrona Valley.” I thought, “Okay, that’s what people call this area.” Hah! Call me gullible. I realized later that when an agent is selling, it’s Madrona Valley (or Madison Valley) and when a potential homeowner is buying, it’s the CD. I’ve even seen a flyer listing a house up the street from me as Capitol Hill. It’s like that old joke about who’s a Yankee. One gets further and further North until the person in Maine says, “I’m not a Yankee– the person living further up the mountain from me is a Yankee.”

  20. just a hello from
    another dweller of
    the capitol district’s ‘little triangle’.
    interesting discussion.
    love these blogs.
    thanks –