What are some things you’d like to improve on Beacon Hill?

Our position under the Blue Angels flight path during Seafair is one of those things that some people love about Beacon Hill, and others would probably prefer to change. Photo by Wendi from the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
Our position directly under the Blue Angels' flight path during Seafair is one of those things that some people love about Beacon Hill, and others would probably prefer to change. Photo by Wendi from the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
A while ago we asked you “what are five things you love about Beacon Hill?” There were a lot of great answers describing the wonderful things to be found on the Hill. But now it’s time to go the other direction. What are some things you wish could be improved on Beacon Hill?

Here are a couple of mine, in no particular order, to get you started. They don’t have to be issues of huge importance, though those are fine, too. Some of mine are a bit frivolous, but that’s OK:

  • We could use a few more restaurants, particularly pizza, and a good brewpub. (And can you get breakfasts on the Hill?)
  • Speaking of pizza, Pagliacci is one company that will not deliver to us or open a store in Southeast Seattle; our delivery options are fairly limited, compared to other neighborhoods.
  • I love our local coffee shops, but wish they’d stay open a bit later; there’s no real gathering place for people in the evenings other than the few bars.
  • I would like to see the Hill be a bit more self-contained, so we can avoid driving our cars more, though the light rail will help quite a bit. There used to be a drugstore up here, and a movie theater. Wouldn’t it be great to have those again? How about a book shop or newsstand?
  • I really, really want to see a regularly-scheduled street market up here on the hill. Not even necessarily a Farmer’s Market, though that would be wonderful, of course — but one that has things besides food. Art and crafts, maybe? Or collectibles? Why not give people from outside the area a reason to come up to Beacon Hill once the train is running? Maybe then they will spend money elsewhere on the Hill, too.

33 thoughts on “What are some things you’d like to improve on Beacon Hill?”

  1. Nice post! As for breakfast, they have a good breakfast menu at Baja Bistro / Java Love, though we could use a nice bacon & egg type place. That place is pretty good–I wish they’d clean up the outside of the building though (and many buildings on Beacon Ave).

  2. I love living in North Beacon, but I also have some occasional “bad Beacon days”. Here’s a few things I’d like to see change:

    1. We could use some better landlords on Beacon ave. The owners of some key spaces seem reluctant to perform the capital improvements that would draw new shops and restaurants. A pizza place wanted to move into the space now occupied by Hello Bicycle, but the owner refused to make the necessary improvements. Bummer!

    2. More conscientious homeowners. My block is fairly checkered, with some neat houses and some houses where neighbors don’t fix broken windows, don’t mow lawns, leave abandoned cars in their yard etc. This drags down the neighborhood, and also creates a culture where it’s OK to be a slob.

    3. Stop parking on the sidewalk!

    4. More trees planted in parking strips.

    5. A brew pub (see item #1).

  3. Um, I’ve pretty much adapted to the status quo here so I’m at a loss as to what to change. For example, in one sense, a drugstore atop the hill would be nice and convenient now. In another sense, being forced to walk down to Rainier Avenue for my drugstore shopping is a good excuse to get some much needed exercise.

  4. Alex, yes, I meant a “bacon & egg” and pancakes sort of place. 🙂

    Jay: Your #1 is something that frustrates me too! And I also hate seeing prime Beacon Ave retail space taken up by warehouses and other businesses that aren’t conducive to a healthy retail strip. This is getting slightly better, though.

  5. 1) Limit the number of little stores that sell single cans of that turbo-beer. How many cans of Joose and Steel Reserve do you see thrown in the bushes?

    2) There are some buildings along Beacon Avenue that appear to have been modernized in the ’70s and it would be nice to see their brick exteriors exposed again. This strip could be prettier than Wallingford or Ballard if anyone cared about signage, too.

    3) There’s some rent-a-shed company who parks their “billboard on wheels” truck in the parking strips on Beacon and Columbian every other week. I don’t get why that’s allowed. The 1-800-GOT JUNK people have to go, too. It’s visual vomit at that intersection.

  6. I moved from the south edge of Mid-Beacon Hill about 6 months ago, back to Ballard. Here are five things that would have prompted me to stick it out (even with me living on Beacon Ave proper as I did).

    1. More things within a reasonable walking distance from our house. In our 7 years there, we wound up doing most of our shopping in West Seattle (time-wise, it was just as quick for us to go there as it was for us to haul ourselves up to Red Apple, and West Seattle had drugstores and 24 hour grocery stores). One of our big reasons for moving was so that we could remain a one-car family. For us, Mid-Beacon Hill had all the disadvantages of both city living and suburban living.

    2. East-west bus service. Heck, better bus service in general, but especially east-west. When I temped down at Boeing, I was maybe 3/4 of a mile from the plant, but taking the bus would have taken me more than an hour, because there’s no service from Beacon Ave to either Georgetown or to Columbia City.

    3. More of a neighborhood feel. I hear that other parts of Mid-Beacon Hill have it, but our little pocket of homes just north of Graham did not.

    4. Shallowly, more pizza delivery choices.

    5. An indication that the city actually cared what happened in the South End. In the time we were there, it felt like things kept getting rougher, and the city just turned a blind eye. Coming home to find stolen cars parked in your backyard, as I did this last winter, is jarring. For me, it was the last straw. (The grow operation bust that appears to have been within a block of my old house happened after we left.)

  7. I agree on all the above, and here’s one that’s close to home for me, but may not affect the majority of the hill: I’d like to get the helicopter traffic away from my house. We live close to I-5 at 11th & Snoqualmie and choppers are always flying directly over, or even worse, hovering directly above. I actually once contacted someone at the FAA and they said technically air traffic is supposed to stay over I-5, but they hardly ever follow that rule. And of course there’s nobody enforcing the rule. KIRO (ch 7 TV and/or 710 am, sometimes both!) is the worst–their pilots hang those things down LOW and film for sometimes as much as 10 or 15 minutes, as if that has some sort of benefit to their viewers or listeners.

    One other thing that I was reminded of with this morning’s rain: could we please get SPU to clean out the storm drains at the intersection of Columbian and Beacon? Geesh, it’s a mess there every time it rains.

  8. P.M. — I grew up in Lake City, very close to Nathan Hale HS, and I must say that mid and south Beacon Hill remind me a lot of that area. Right on down to the lack of sidewalks in many areas. So when you say “the disadvantages of both city living and suburban living” I know what you mean. (Lake City has more services than we do, though.)

    The only thing that will really change that is more density, I think, to support more services along Beacon. There are several areas along Beacon that are “business districts” of sorts, but once you get down to mid and south Beacon you have a low-density neighborhood that cannot support much there. But adding more density to Beacon Hill will not necessarily go over well with everyone who lives here.

    It sounds to me as if North Beacon would have suited you better than where you were, though. 😉

    I agree that it doesn’t feel that the city cares much about what goes on here. And having grown up in the north end and then bought a house here, I know that almost everyone who doesn’t live here has a very distorted picture of what Beacon Hill is. You should have heard the shock when we told people we were moving here. People who aren’t from SE Seattle think it’s a slum (without ever having seen it, in most cases).

  9. Jay hit on a point that has me a bit disappointed in the neighborhood. There seems to be a disproportionate number of commercial property owners in North Beacon Hill who really don’t care about the state of the neighborhood. My favorite story happened during a neighborhood walk several years ago. The graffiti had gotten pretty bad on the building on the NW corner of the Beacon/15th intersection. While standing on the corner, one of us called the posted number (one of the units was vacant) to let the owner know that the graffiti had gotten bad. After initially pretending not to speak English, the owner basically told us to take a hike and call the police about the graffiti if we wanted. And, DPD doesn’t have the stones to enforce the zoning rules for the other commercial (warehouse that is supposed to be retail) property on that block.

    We also have pretty marginal businesses as well as non-businesses (art studio next to Beacon Pub) occupying what should be prime space for actual storefront businesses. I just have this hope that investors are waiting until the ST station is actually in place before digging in and a year from now there will be big changes. I’m not holding my breath. I don’t have any plans to move, but it would be nice to not have to go to West Seattle, Capitol Hill, or Georgetown to get a burger or slice and a beer and maybe catch a game on the TV. Of course, if you have a craving for some pretty good Mexican food or need a haircut, you’re in luck.

  10. You just hit on two of my major peeves, specifically — the warehouse at the junction (it has a paper sign on the door right now that basically claims that it is a retail store. It is clearly not. I believe this may be to get around the DPD issues. Remember that they had a sign up for a while saying a retail store would open there? And it never did. What he has there is not retail and should not be in that space. Is there anything that can be done about that?

    And then there’s the art studio… I love art studios, but once again… that’s prime retail space, and every time I walk by I groan because we want retail services there. Artists and designers don’t need prime retail space.

  11. I agree with everyone else’s complaints, plus:

    1. The shittiness of the 36. Too many people. Too many skipped stops. Too many drunks. Too much crack smoking and sexual harassment. I really hate this route.

    2. All the chain-link fence. To me, nothing says “industrial wasteland” like chain-link fence. Yet many people choose it for the border of their homes here on Beacon Hill. When my next-door neighbor extended his six-foot chain-link fence all the way to the sidewalk, all the way across the front of his yard (including the driveway) a couple years ago, it made me want to puke my pants.

    Unfortunately, CLF is totally indicative of the attitude many Beacon Hill residents have about the neighborhood. They just want to barracade themselves away from their neighbors and they don’t give a shit how their decisions affect the look and feel of their block, or even their own homes. I’m sometimes embarrassed to invite friends from other parts of the city to our house for the first time. I want to tell them, “It’s really not as bad as it looks!”

  12. Is gentrification really “improvement?”

    Are you aware of Seattle’s ugly history of racial covenants and residential redlining? The Central District and Beacon Hill are mostly minority-populated because of the city’s history of racism, prejudice and discrimination.

    I know that Beacon Hill’s gentrification is now inevitable, but I can’t help but feel slightly sick and a little angry when I read these comments.

    Your petty complaints about how long-time residents who don’t pay attention to the aesthetic details of their homes or the “crack smoking and sexual harassment”, and the “industrial wasteland” of chain-link fences are laughable when you think about the history of oppression that people of color in the United States and Seattle have had to endure.

    My Japanese American grandparents, aunts, uncles and mother grew up on Beacon Hill because they weren’t allowed to live anywhere else. White real estate agents wouldn’t sell them homes anywhere else.

    People today believe that racism is over because Barack Obama may become the president and that the Civil Rights movements was 40 years ago. In actuality, it is still simmering underneath the facade of our society’s political correctness. Nobody wants to talk about racism or classism because it makes them feel uncomfortable. The ramifications of our country’s history of racism and the systems of oppression that still keep people of color from succeeding is still alive and well today.

    Show some respect and understanding for the neighborhood’s history before you start complaining about the “ugly” appearances. I just know that in about 10-15 years, Beacon Hill will just become another white yuppie Ballard and all the poor minorities will be long gone.

  13. “Your petty complaints about how long-time residents who don’t pay attention to the aesthetic details of their homes or the “crack smoking and sexual harassment”, and the “industrial wasteland” of chain-link fences are laughable when you think about the history of oppression that people of color in the United States and Seattle have had to endure.”

    You really think complaints about “crack smoking and sexual harassment” are petty? That those things should be tolerated because of the (very real) “history of oppression that people of color in the United States and Seattle have had to endure”? That makes no sense. We are talking about anti-social behavior, and I’m sorry, it’s anti-social whether one is white, black, brown, or green.

    People of color want to live in a nice neighborhood too. Isn’t it racist to assume that a neighborhood should be ugly and run-down because people of color live there?

    And chain link fence is ugly whether it’s in a white neighborhood or a minority neighborhood. Painting people’s legitimate complaints about the Hill into some sort of racist and classist statement is not rational, IMHO.

  14. You obviously do not understand. You cannot see. Beacon Hill’s been around for a long time and the folks who live there have been satisfied with their chain link fences before you came here. What is a “nice” neighborhood? Should it all be Wallingford and Queen Anne and private schools and Whole Foods Markets and coffeeshops?

    I’m not saying that “sexual harrassment and crack smoking” are good. I’m saying don’t you understand that people who live in this neighborhood have a history of being socio-economically disadvantaged? Maybe they can’t afford to hire a crew to put a lovely painted picket white fence up. Maybe these people don’t have a master’s degree and a white-collar job and can’t afford a lot of things. Maybe some families have had histories of alcohol and drug problems and are struggling to cope. Maybe some kids are in gangs because their families are broken and haven’t had a wonderful middle-class experience. Maybe historical racism has something to do with it. Maybe the local schools are bad because most of the money has gone to schools in predominately white neighborhoods. Maybe.

    All the people who are writing these blogs I’m assuming are European Americans who get all offended and have to “deal” with people of color’s problems. Maybe it’s a European American problem. I’m not trying to fight you, but I just want you to try and understand and put yourself in other people’s shoes for a change.

  15. I didn’t mean for my comment to be racist or classist. In fact, the very nicest yards around my neighborhood are Japanese in style and tended by Asian families. And my neighbor who extended chain-link fence to the sidewalk and across his driveway owns the 1st or 2nd most valuable house on our extra-long block and also drives the very most expensive cars.

    And I don’t care what race or class that asshole who put his hands on me before exiting the bus was. The civil rights movement has absolutely nothing to do with it — there’s just no excuse for that shit.

  16. I’m not saying that sexual harassment should be allowed, and I’m sorry you were attacked, but don’t you think that historical racial segregation is anti-social behavior? Your forefathers didn’t want people of color around so they segregated them to these neighborhoods that you are now invading. You should know the history about these neighborhoods before you move in and start complaining about everything. Gentrification is just a form of modern-day colonialism and you’re just transforming the neighborhood into “Stuff White People Like.”

  17. I don’t expect to change your minds. But I just want you to be aware of what you are doing and how you’re affecting the people who have lived in these places before you came.

  18. Stephen, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t post five times in a row. We get that you care about this. But flooding the site isn’t cool.

  19. I’ve heard that the homeowner before us also had six-foot fence all the way to the sidewalk, and I do agree that “what I am doing” — like planting a garden instead of a building a wall — does affect the neighborhood. In a positive way.

    From what you said, it sounds like you are half Asian. I’m only one-quarter Asian. I feel like my opinions are being discounted a bit because I am not a greater proportion Asian and my parents are immigrants to this country instead of having roots in this community.

    So I’m not sure how to defend to you my feelings that chain-link fence and the 36 just suck (except that they just do). You are right that racism, segregation, and classism also suck, and I could add those to the top of my list, except I think that would belittle their importance.

  20. I reread your post and see that you could be 100% Asian, but only with Beacon roots on your mother’s side. Sorry if I originally misinterpreted. Anyway.

    I understand that the neighborhood has a segregationist past and that different people have different feelings about gentrification, and what exactly that means. I’m sorry if I sounded insensitive. I don’t self-censor that much.

    When 20 shots are fired outside a drug house three blocks from my house, or my neighbor is shot to death in front of his house, or thugs say threatening things in front of my petite Asian relative while they smoke crack during rush hour on the 36, I automatically think “that’s scary!” When richest neighbors put up tall chain-link fence along the sidewalk or dump toxic waste on their curb, I automatically think, “that sucks!” I know there are historical reasons why these things happen more frequently in this neighborhood than northern ones, but I can’t help but think that they’re still bad. It might be better if white or mostly white people never mentioned these things, or if they just stayed out of certain neighborhoods altogether, but that’s not the approach I’ve chosen to take. I’m not sure what the 100% right approach is.

  21. I’m not endorsing crime, murders, drug use or violence in any way, shape or form.

    I admit that as a Japanese American, I may sometimes “act” “white” and enjoy “white American” things, but my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have experienced horrific racist prejudice and discrimination in their lives. My family was wrongfully imprisoned during WWII due to racism and they were forced to live in segregated neighborhoods most of their lives.

    Most white people in Seattle consider themselves to be liberal and open-minded, but I have a HUGE problem when middle-to-upper-middle class, well-educated, white people move into poorer historically segregated neighborhoods and start complaining about how they need to “improve” it.

    Ok. Brewpubs. Prime Retail Space. Artisan Pizzerias. New condos. Victrola Coffee.

    I enjoy these places too, but to what demographic do these institutions cater to? People who have money and who are educated and are “white” acting. You’re changing the neighborhood to cater to YOUR wants and needs to feel comfortable and to also attract other white people to the neighborhood so they won’t feel scared in a “slum.” It is mentioned in the comments that one of the residents enjoys the fact that he/she hears 3 languages being spoken at the bank. Well, enjoy it now because in about 10-15 years you won’t hear it anymore.

    The poor immigrants and working-class folks are not being addressed in your blog. You really don’t realize how your changing of the neighborhood affects their lives. Why do you think that the Central District now is becoming completely changed? Why are all the poorer immigrants and working-class people being pushed down to Renton or Pierce County?

    White people can choose wherever they want to live. You have white privilege. Gentrification is a nice word for colonialism. Do you realize that you are committing a cultural genocide? You are erasing the neighborhood’s history. And voting for Barack Obama does not make you multi-cultural.

    I know that this colonialism cannot be stopped, but dear people, please see what you are doing to the culture of these neighborhoods.

  22. “White people can choose wherever they want to live. You have white privilege. “

    For what it’s worth, no they cannot. They have white privilege, yes, and that does have a benefit — I’m not denying that — but white privilege does not translate directly to money in the bank. And money in the bank is what is really needed to live wherever you want. I don’t intend to belittle the effects of white privilege — obviously it exists, but it does none of us any good to start demonizing our neighbors for their ethnicity, or assuming that white people automatically “have it all” just because of white privilege. Life is hard for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.

    Why did we buy on Beacon Hill? Because we could afford it. And we couldn’t afford much else and still live in Seattle. It had nothing to do with colonizing a neighborhood and kicking the locals out. This is what we could afford. (And it was before the housing prices in Seattle started to go insane.) It’s the same reason that people buy anywhere.

    I don’t think any of us want to eliminate the culture that exists here. I think most people who have posted here love the neighborhood as it is, mostly, and just get frustrated sometimes. I just don’t think that a lack of retail, a lack of pizza delivery, etc. are reflections of the culture of the neighborhood — what a LOT of these things are, are reflections of the very discrimination you rail against! Why don’t we have much decent pizza down here? Well, a Pagliacci employee once told me (unofficially, so I don’t know if it’s true) “You will never get Pagliacci down there because SE Seattle is too dangerous for the drivers.” I imagine people of color might actually like a Pag’s slice once in a while, and wishing it was possible is not exactly cultural genocide. And neither is wanting to get rid of crack houses and gangs, both of which are certainly side-effects of the racism and prejudice in this country — they are symptoms of a disease, and cultivating them just because “gentrification is bad” is no solution.

    I actually had a much longer comment but I think I’ll leave it at this.

    (One other note, though… I think it is possible to want change and not want change at the same time, if you know what I mean. I think some of the changes coming to Beacon Hill — and just about any other neighborhood in Seattle — are good changes that are needed, and yet at the same time, change by its very definition is going to alter some of the characteristics about the neighborhood. And this will break my heart, personally. Yet at the same time it’s probably unavoidable, and some of the change is going to be positive. Some of the old wonderful buildings will go away. Some of the people will go away or die of old age. New buildings will come in and new people will come in, by birth or migration. And while change sucks, this is the normal life cycle of any community. It will get better or it will get worse, but it will not stay the same, and the communities and cultures here will change as well. The Native Americans who once lived here might have an interesting perspective on this… as might my grandfather who lived on Beacon Hill and in Georgetown after that, if he were still alive.)

  23. Interesting conversations above. *sigh* 🙂

    I’ve lived on B-Hill for 3.5 years with my folks and plan to purchase a house within the next two years – Can’t wait! If there’s one thing I’d like to see on B-Hill, it’d be the need to promote more frequent neighborhood socials or community-improvement events.

  24. Forget the brewpubs. At this point, I’d be happy to go a year without a shooting within five blocks of my house.

  25. Dear Wendi, JvA, et al.

    I would like to humbly apologize for my hateful language and for my hurtful accusations. My anger and rage are absolutely not productive or positive and it is very offensive and I’m sorry.

    I just got so emotional and enraged about what I was seeing and reading. I needed to take a step back and breathe before I realized how irrational and hateful my accusations are.

    This isn’t your fault. It is not one person’s fault. This just a movement that is taking place and now I am just curious at seeing how these events and changes are occurring. Life is unfair but I would love to see some sort of preservation of the neighborhood and the acknowledgement of the district being historically segregated.

    Can you please forgive me for losing my temper and for saying really horrible, terrible, hurtful things? Thank you for your time.


  26. Stephen — It’s a difficult discussion to have, and I appreciate that you brought it up. No apologies necessary, and I’m interested in hearing more of your opinions here.


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