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Remember what was here before we got to see performances at the theater and slurp udon noodles? A police parking lot. Remember what was here before we got to see performances at the theater and slurp udon noodles? A police parking lot. (📸: Capitol Hill Housing)

“Why can’t the City of Seattle just take land that is available or land they already own and just build affordable housing?”

It’s a question and frustration J.J. says he’s heard a lot in local conversations about housing and how we can help our neighbors trying to stay afloat. So he asked us to look into it.

There’s been a push for the city to build affordable housing on underused land for a while. Local housing advocates have said this wouldn’t solve all our region’s housing issues on its own, but it’d be a step in the right direction.

But what would building up these spaces look like — and how would we do it? Let’s dive in.

Have we built on extra or underused land before?

Yep. If you head to Capitol Hill, you can see one prime example: the 12th Avenue Arts building, which opened in 2014. It used to be a parking lot for the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. Capitol Hill Housing raised $4.6 million to transform the space into a complex with 88 affordable apartments, sitting on top of two theaters, three restaurants, and office space. SPD officers still get to park in the underground garage, too.

Why does Seattle have this “extra” land? And how much is there?

Some of our surplus land, a.k.a. space that’s either vacant or not being used to its full potential, is left for landscaped spaces or future city projects and utilities. In some cases, the city can work with local and state agencies like the Washington or Seattle departments of transportation to develop housing on land left over from construction projects.

In 2015, the department found that although it had 210 “surplus, excess, or underused properties” across the city, only about 33 of them could be cost-effective sites for affordable housing.

We asked how many of those properties had been turned into housing, but the city didn’t immediately have an answer. We’ll update when we hear back. Department spokesperson Robin Koskey did say, though, that the city’s housing office is “taking a more expansive view” of the extra land they identified.

Why? Because of changes to local and state laws that said how city-owned spaces could be given away.

» Want to know why we’re able to build on so few of these extra spaces? Check out our full answer to J.J.’s question at theevergrey.com.


Garrrrrr! Mariners legend Edgar Martinez finally made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday — in the last year he could possibly do it — and you could spend hours celebrating just by looking at the Internet. There’s the compilation videos. The photo galleries of his career. The moment he got the call, all humble and such. Even his five best TV commercials. The Space Needle is in on it, too, with Edgar’s “11” flag waving up top. Want to join Edgar in Cooperstown, New York, for the big induction this July? Get yer tickets here. ⚾️ (MyNorthwest, The Seattle Times)

Picky, picky. We think our neighborhoods are pretty good. They’re just not great, you know? That’s one takeaway from the latest American Housing Survey, which showed that Seattleites gave fewer “9” and “10” top scores for their neighborhoods than every other major U.S. metro area they asked. Our most common score was 8, though, so — solid B+. Why so stingy with the A’s? FYI Guy Gene Balk dug into the data to find two things about our neighborhoods we’re not that jazzed about — “petty crime” and access to transit. Plus, some of us are just critics. “Maybe we don’t like to brag,” Gene wrote, “or maybe we just like to complain.” (The Seattle Times)

The drunk coyotes of Ballard. Speaking of petty crime in neighborhoods, a couple coyotes drank their fill of beer a Ballard neighbor left out for slug and snail traps last week. And yes, wildlife biologist Chris Anderson told MyBallard — coyotes can get drunk. Like any good Seattleite, the coyotes drank local craft beer, and another Ballard neighbor’s making it easier for you to do the same. VisitBallard.com is offering “commemorative drinkware” to anyone who gets this Ballard Brewery Passport stamped at 11 neighborhood spots. And the anonymous neighbor made a Google map to help you plan the trip. (MyBallard, Reddit)

It’s not just you. It really is feeling warm around here. In fact, we just had the warmest first half of January on record. And by “on record,” we mean going back to the 1890s. The National Weather Service reports that the average temp at Sea-Tac for the first 16 days of the month was a springy 51.8 degrees. 😮 On the bright side, there’s still plenty of snow out in the mountains. For now, anyway. (Twitter, MyNorthwest, Crosscut)

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🎥  TOMORROW – Feb. 9: Bring your family to giggle at the 14th annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle (Capitol Hill)

🕹  Friday: Build and program your own LEGO battle bot at Foundation’s game night with BEAM Experiences. (Pioneer Square)

🍸  Monday, Jan. 28: Calling all spirit and cocktail nerds! Craft Pisco libations with Jared at this Foundation workshop. (Ballard)


👋  Say your final goodbyes to the viaduct with KUOW (Pioneer Square)
💡  Learn about the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali at the Northwest African American Museum (Central District)
🎈  Bring your fam and friends to play mahjong, Monopoly, and more (Beacon Hill)
🍺  Test your knowledge over beers at Floating Bridge Brewery (University District) Thanks for the rec, Lauren Schlicker!
👋  Hear your neighbors’ stories and poems (Beacon Hill)

💪  Get outdoorsy at this fishing, camping, and hunting convention — through Sunday (Downtown)
💡  Bridge the divide between Seattle and Spokane with Crosscut — through Feb. 28 (Ballard)
🎈  Make puppets with the fam at this “The Muppet Movie” sing-along (Capitol Hill)
🍿  Watch awesome flicks for kids at this Evergrey partner event — through Feb. 9 (Capitol Hill)

🎶  Hear the UW Orchestra play with the Seattle Symphony — for free (University District)
🍸  Book a babysitter so you can romp around Pacific Science Center (Queen Anne)
💃  Hit the dance floor with fellow LGBTQ+ folks and people of color (Capitol Hill)
🍴  Make vegan tamales at El Centro de la Raza (Beacon Hill)
💃  Dance the night away at this masquerade ball (Capitol Hill)
💪  Learn programming with LEGOs at this Evergrey partner event (Pioneer Square)

💡  Rally for local libraries (Downtown)
🎈  Take the fam to celebrate Tet, a.k.a. Vietnamese New Year — through Sunday (Queen Anne)
👋  Watch a film to mark the Duwamish long house’s 10th anniversary (West Seattle)
🎈  Bring your little ones to a concert and musical instrument “petting zoo” (Downtown)

🍴  Bring a pie to support cancer research (Columbia City)
🍺  Take a roadtrip to sip funky beers at the Strange Brewfest (Port Townsend)

Going to one of these? Take us with you! Email a pic to [email protected] or tag #theevergrey on Instagram. Learn what our emojis mean hereIs an event sold out? Hit reply to let us know and we’ll update the listing in tomorrow’s newsletter.


We’re doing a round of trivia with our members this week, and the winner who answers this week’s sports-related question by noon on Thursday will win a $10 gift certificate from Third Place Books. 📚

Wanna play? Join us! For our launch price of just $8 a month, our members help us make The Evergrey you know and love possible. Members get special perks like free and discounted event tickets, a kit of member gear, and we have a little extra fun with them too. 😉


We’ll see you tomorrow. — The Evergrey

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