The Capitol Hill Eco-District

Tuesday night at the Broadway Performance Hall at Seattle Central Community College, and before a crowd of almost 300, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) rolled-out its Eco-District Vision for Capitol Hill. Prepared by GGLO architects and funded by the Bullitt Foundation, the Eco-District Report ( outlines a broad agenda for achieving a more sustainable lifestyle on the Hill, and by extension, Seattle and the nation. Setting ambitious -- but achievable -- goals for carbon neutrality by 2050, the Report tracks current consumption of energy and water as well as many other metrics, and sets forth steps needed to hit the 2050 target. Much of what is called for, however, goes beyond tonnage of CO2 and gallons consumption of water. What the Report calls for is really a change in our social constructs and habits. This theme was echoed by the panel discussion that followed the Report's summary presentation. Panelists included (left to right in the below image):

  • Llewellyn Wells, President of Living City Block
  • Mike McGinn, Seattle's Mayor
  • Dennis Hayes, President of the Bullitt Foundation and founder fo Earth Day
  • Naomi Cole, Eco-District Program Director, Portland Sustainability Institute
  • Rebecca Saldana, Equitable TOD Program Director, Puget Sound Sage
  • Ron Simms, former King County Executive and HUD Deputy Secretary (Moderator)

Supportive of the goals of the Eco-District, and presumably of the high-level summary given, the panelists engage in a lively discussion that amounted to a call for a grass-roots effort by Capitol Hill residents to implement the Reports directives. Even the former politicians on the panel noted that the actions needed to achieve a balanced, equitable, and just stewardship of the environment needs to come from the bottom up, and that in fact, politicians need our leadership and guidance to craft policy that will allow implementation of proposals such as those in the Report.

The Report and CHH's roll-out are well timed,  as they came out (supposedly) less than six month's from the date that Sound Transit says they will release the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Capitol Hill station's TOD development sites. The sites, which figure prominently and are in fact the literal center of the Report's maps, present the best early opportunity for furthering the Report's goals as they will be the largest single assembly of adjacent private development parcels likely to hit the market for the foreseeable future, and are in fact large enough to realize many of the economies of scale required for implementing the Report's strategies. How the Eco-District Report figures into the development TOD parcels are yet to be seen, but there is no doubt that the vision of the Report and the best interests of the community will be served by developers who are responding to the RFP that have both a proposal and track record that testifies to an ability to make the TOD Capitol Hill's first significant contribution to our Eco-district goals.