Top of the Hill Survey Results Part 3: Wishes and reasons

The next group of results in the Beacon Hill Blog Top of the Hill are about the things we want, the reasons we live here, and the reasons why some might consider leaving Beacon Hill. Previous results are here, and there will be more results soon — stay tuned.

(Editor’s note: As with the earlier results, some of these results don’t add up to 100% because people gave multiple answers.)


What do you think is Beacon Hill’s most-needed amenity? We asked for one answer here, but some people listed as many as 17 different amenities!

It seems that, for the most part, Beaconites have food on their minds. The most popular answer was “More restaurants/cafés/coffee shops“, given by 29% of those surveyed. It was followed by requests for two specific kinds of establishments that people would like to see more of: a pub/brewpub/gastropub (a few people specifically mentioned Columbia City Ale House or West Seattle’s Beveridge Place Pub as the type of establishment they’d like to see here), mentioned by 18%, and a pizza restaurant, mentioned by 17%.

More retail in general was mentioned by 14%. 9% of you want more or better grocery stores (and a fair amount of you mentioned Trader Joe’s); one neighbor mentioned the need for a full-service grocery store south of Beacon and Columbian. Some of you are craving hamburgers; 8% of you want a restaurant with hamburgers, sandwiches, and general old-fashioned American “comfort food”. (Many people who gave this answer added that it needs to be kid-friendly, too.)

Beacon Hill once had a drugstore or two, and 8% of you think that a drugstore is our current most-needed amenity.

One neighbor’s answer to this question was a veritable wish list of places:

“pizza joint. drug store. vietnamese/thai/korean restaurants. flower stand. antique/junk/vintage store. ice cream stand. street vendors. vintage clothing store. hamburger joint. wine store. tea house. dessert/wine bar. book store. more of any kind of restaurant. A bread bakery. farmers market.”

Another neighbor’s answer was pragmatic: “Cops and social services that will deal with the dopers in and around Beacon Hill Elementary playfield and that bus stop on 14th across from the school.”


What do you think is the best reason to live on Beacon Hill? That’s an easy one: “location, location, location.” 57% of you said that the Hill’s central location and proximity to other places you might want to go are the best reasons to live here. (10% gave a related, but distinct, answer — our easy accessibility to I-5 and I-90.)

33% of you cited the “the United Nations diversity” of the Hill as a best reason to live here: “There’s no majority. You look at the faces on the 36 and it looks like the world.” Apparently our neighborhood is not just diverse, but friendly as well: 21% of you mentioned your nice, friendly neighbors. One neighbor wrote, “I feel like it’s an incredibly friendly place to live, and that our neighbors genuinely care about one another. And that’s not even our neighbors who profess to live in ‘community’ households the way that we do!” Another said, simply, “My neighbors rock.”

16% mentioned the affordability of living on Beacon Hill, and 8% specifically mentioned the new light rail.


On the other hand… what is the best reason to move away from Beacon Hill? Lack of retail and other amenities in our business district was the reason selected by 29%. One-third of people who gave this answer (10% of the overall total) explicitly stated that they wanted those amenities to be walkable. 12% of you specifically referred to a lack of restaurants, pubs, or coffee shops. Crime is a concern mentioned by 18% of you. 6% mentioned decreasing affordability, and another 6% mentioned noise (almost entirely airplane noise, but one person mentioned light rail noise as well).

7% of you said that there is no reason to ever move away from Beacon Hill. However, two optimistic people said that the best reason to move away would be “winning the lottery.” And one neighbor faced the sad reality of life on Beacon, answering “hard to pursue career as singing cowboy on the hill.

22 thoughts on “Top of the Hill Survey Results Part 3: Wishes and reasons”

  1. I certainly count myself as one of the people frustrated by the lack of restaurants / bars on the hill (particularly the north end where I live). I’m wondering what people think are the reasons behind the slow pace of development. Obviously, the economy isn’t doing us any favors, but this isn’t the only factor at work.

    One lesson I learned when the space housing Hello Bicycle was for lease is that landlords / property owners have a lot to do with how quickly the local retail spaces improve. That is a really nice location but it was vacant for a long time because, as a I understand it, the owner was unwilling to make any capital improvements.

    I think another factor is that the existing businesses are successful enough to be sustaining. Other neighborhoods see more turnover, which allows the tenants to improve along with the neighborhood.

    Does anybody have other thoughts / experiences? More important, any ideas about what we can do to accelerate change?

  2. I know this won’t be a popular idea, but what if we don’t accelerate change?

    One of the best things about living on Beacon Hill is that you can get anywhere quickly. We are minutes away from great restaurants and bars in Columbia City, Georgetown, the ID etc. There are lots of choices and now with light-rail I feel like I have even more choices. So do we really need that much more right here?

    What if instead we focused on developing and improving the things we already have? Like great parks, nice neighborhoods, good relationships with our neighbors etc?

    I’ve lived in many other neighborhoods in Seattle and I travel extensively for work so I certainly can understand the attraction of having more amenities within walking distance. But one of the things I love about BH is that it is quiet and kind of funky. What other neighborhood has a Mexican/Asian grocery store? I will take that over Trader Joes any day.

    I don’t mean to be a stick in the mud. I’m sure I would love a few more restaurant choices etc. But let’s not forget about what makes this neighborhood so cool as we move forward into our future.

  3. I’m with Joel, though know change will come. That said, the one thing we have to support is local, independent, interesting businesses. And we have lots of them, both up here and nearby on either side of the hill, especially the North end. You want Trader Joe’s? Move to Ballard or someplace else that’s already been homogenized to death. They have every right to exist, but every dollar we spend there is a dollar we don’t spend supporting our neighbors and the rich, and unique experience we have here.

  4. I, too, agree with Joel, but I do wish we had a more interesting commercial district. Granted, it has gotten better in the last few years, but when I think of Beacon Avenue, I think of gas stations, hair salons and professional offices (dentists and CPAs)

    Yes, there are restaurants, and they are staying open later than they used to, but it’s just not a very interesting place to take a stroll.

    Even just one less gas station and salon would make a huge difference.

  5. Yes, I’d like more commercial businesses within walking distance of mid-Beacon. Sure “move to Ballard” works if you have the money to buy a house there.

  6. Personally, I’m with Jay on this and hope that the growth of the business district finally starts to match that of the residential growth of the last 10 years. Hopefully, the light rail station jump starts the development of some business on Beacon.

  7. I don’t think that having more restaurants and better retail will mean that we can’t have local, interesting businesses. Ideally the more and better restaurants and retail will be local and interesting, not Quizno’s and McD’s.

  8. Wendi took the words right out of my mouth. My two favorite places on/near the Hill are Quetzal and MeKong, and I don’t live in Ballard because they don’t have places like this. I don’t personally need a Trader Joe’s or a Starbucks (no offense to those who do). But I would like to see more of interesting local businesses ala Quetzal and fewer run-down nail shops etc. These are just my values–somebody likes those nail shops–but they seem to be echoed by the survey.

  9. It is funny how Starbucks ends up on both sides of this discussion. I know that alot of people actually leave the hill specifically to go to one of the Starbucks that flank the Hill. I wonder what the effect would be on investors with ideas for small businesses on Beacon Hill if Starbucks finally decides to invest in a shop on the Hill? I have heard that they do have plans for Beacon Hill and I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t already talking to a property owner on the light rail station block. I just wonder if that would trigger a chain reaction of investment around the station or if the ecomony is still bad enough to keep investors away. My guess is that since the old Culinary Communion spot is still vacant, the investment climate is still pretty cold.

    I just hope some development starts happening relatively soon, particularly around the station so we don’t have to look at empty lots of crushed rock and chain-link fence for the next 5 years. It is nice that Beacon Hill has easy accessibility to other neighborhoods with good restaraunts, bars, etc., but given the chance I would gladly move those places to OUR neighborhood rather than having to leave.

  10. The funny thing about Starbucks is that it is a mega-chain and also a local business. 🙂 I mean, we can practically throw a rock at their headquarters from here — it’s one train stop away. I don’t particularly care if we get a Starbucks up here — smaller, more interesting businesses would be better — but if we did, it wouldn’t be the same as getting, say, Mc Donalds or Taco Bell. It would, at least, be keeping money in the local economy to some extent.

  11. I love the hill in its current state. I live on the north end of the hill and, sure, I have to walk south a bit to get to local businesses. I like my coffee place (Victrola), my dive pub, and the small restaurants. Heck, I’m not even above going to the Shell to pick over the fine, fine selection of gas station fried food – it kind of takes me back to my Eastern WA roots. If I want more, then I just hop the rail or bus to downtown.

    If someone can sustain a business like a gastropub or wood oven pizza place that seems to pop up in every area, I’m all for it. In the meantime I agree about focusing on maintenance and improvement of our existing amenities.

  12. Interesting discussion so far! I’m definitely in the group that would like to see more development on Beacon Hill in the way of restaurants and shops. But, I also agree that I’d like to see it happen organically, with smaller, independant shops rather than chains. Personally, I’m happy with Red Apple for most grocery shopping needs, so I don’t need, say, a Trade Joes here. But, at the same time, it would be nice to have some more places to walk to for a bite, drink or even some window shopping.

    As someone who lives near the intersection of 15th and Columbia, I’m still waiting for someone to tear down the Christian Graffiti Center, and put something in there that would help my little corner of the Hill.

  13. Regarding the Christian Graffiti Center, look no further than the BH Blog :

    No recent news on follow-through from the developer, but there has been a significant investment in design already.

    As for organic, small scale growth, I think that’s the more likely way things will go for us, in my amateur opinion. There are very few large lots available to develop, and we have lots of choices for large scale businesses close by already.

    If I were looking at opening a restaurant, I’d be frustrated by a lack of suitable space – not big enough or in need of too much renovation. On top of that, the two large employers, Amazon and the VA are sooo far from the Town Center, that getting any kind of lunch crowd is impossible. And the last time I checked, most of us on BH work; we don’t have a population with leisure time during the day to shop at boutiques or eat lunch out.

    A positive sign of organic growth is the informal fruit/farm market that occurs in the parking strip on Beacon Ave near the VA, that’s something to build on.

    Finally, if you aren’t an entrepreneur, what to do to improve the neighborhood? I’m with the previous posters, build on what we have, meet your neighbors and pick a project, from picking up trash, to adopting a stairway or traffic circle. Go to the parks we have and use them. Call the cops when you need to, every time! Turn on your porch light. Spend time outside. Use the Off-Leash Area at Jose Rizal. Take a walk through Cheasty. Plant trees at Lewis Park. Join a neighborhood group or the North Beacon Hill Council. Start a BlockWatch. Tell all your friends about how great Jefferson Park is going to be when it re-opens next Fall.

    Anyone have any other ideas?

  14. In terms of improvement, I’m often wondering about how to get like-minded neighbors together to swap ideas about these things, and maybe develop a strategy to attract more businesses. I’ve been to the NBHC meetings and those are clearly not the forum. If we could form the right group and gather info from people who helped spark the changes in Columbia City and Georgetown, we might be able to get some things done. Or at least get to know each other better.

    I follow another blog that has occasional “meet ups” where readers get together for drinks and share ideas. Maybe we could do something similar for the BH blog.

  15. Yeah, that is something we have thought about doing. I wish we had more places open in the evening up here. It would make it easier to plan meet-ups. 🙂

  16. Hey David, thanks for the link, though I think you may be amused if you look and see who the one person who commented on that entry back in the day was. 🙂 That building has been a pet peeve of mine for a while now, probably because of the frequency I drive or walk passed it. Heck, I’d been happy with thrifters antique mall idea!

    Because one or two people in this thread mentioned the Jefferson Park renovations, I thought I’d mention that I was at the Community Center earlier today, and stopped to take a look at the work being done there… Man! I’m excited about that!

  17. Does anyone know who owns the property right next to the light rail station? Whomever owns that property has a disproportionate amount of influence over the future character of ‘downtown’ Beacon Hill and I would love to know what their plans are for that space.

  18. The folks who own it have not made any plans public yet (at least, as of the last time I asked about it, a few weeks ago). Honestly, there is a strong likelihood of some upzoning on those sites soon, so if I were them, I would probably be waiting for the rezoning before developing. So I’m not surprised they haven’t jumped right into developing the sites yet.

  19. To add to what Wendi said, I also wonder if the property owners aren’t tying to work out a deal to sell, trade, consolidate, etc. the properties. With one exception, the lots used to be simple single family home lots so the owners might not have significant development experience or the resources to develop anything substantial. If you look at the King County GIS you can see who owns what, but it is quite confusing and some of the lots that are supposed to be privately held are recorded with ST as owner. One thing I noticed is that the assessed property values on that block went through the roof. For instance, two of the lots on 17th each went from $79k at the beginning of construction in 2005 to $396k for 2010. I would think that the taxes on those properties will be incentive to do something sooner than later.

  20. Is there anything to prevent another Expo Hair building going in on any of those lots? That is one ugly building.

  21. There are zoning restrictions that dictate height, scale, etc. In addition, North Beacon Hill has design guidelines that can be used during the design review process if the construction is large enough to trigger the review. However, it is necessary to actually go to the review presentations and state the discrepancies between the proposed design and the guidelines. You can download a pdf of the guidelines here:

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