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Capitol Hill business owners tell mayor they want a safe, but still lively neighborhood

Paula Wissel
Mayor Jenny Durkan (right) with Cathy Hillenbrand and Leigh Stone on Capitol Hill in Seattle on Tuesday, May 25, 2019.

How do you clean up a city without also stripping away its character? That’s something Capitol Hill business owners say Seattle should think about as it looks to improve public safety. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan heard from small business owners, as she took a walking tour of the neighborhood on Tuesday.

Amid a gaggle of reporters and shop and restaurant owners, Durkan walked down Broadway, past the business district and the construction around the light rail station. She talked with reporters about public safety initiatives the city has undertaken and responded to questions about the Memorial Day shooting at Pritchard Island Beach Park in South Seattle that left a woman and two children, including a 10-month old, wounded.

On the walking tour, Capitol Hill residents and business owners talked with the mayor about the need for crosswalk improvements and removal of graffiti and and needles, as well as concern over assaults in area area parking garages late at night. 

But, there also was a concern that the city be aware of the importance of keeping "Capitol Hill Capitol Hill," as restaurant owner Monica Dimas put it. Dimas told the Mayor she worried that, in the effort to clear the sidewalks, buskers who perform on the street would be swept away too.

"As much as I want to get rid of the needles, I don’t want to get rid of the people busking and I think there could be a better way to implement that program," Dimas told Durkan.  The mayor responded, "I think that's a really good point."

Others business owners expressed similar concerns. Leigh Stone, the owner of Crybaby Studios, who talked with Durkan about hearing from people who'd been assaulted in a parking garage near Seattle Central College, also says it's paramount that Capitol Hill maintains its vibrant nightlife. 

Stone said there are conflicting views on Capitol Hill right now. She said developers found it an attractive area to build in because of the lively nature of the neighborhood. But, she said, that same character is seen as a negative for some of the people moving in.

"I don't want families complaining about the noise coming from music studios," she said. 

On the other hand, Stone sees the conflict as part of the "growing pains" the city has to go through as it becomes more dense.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.