That Brown Girl Cooks! at LBB

Kristi Brown and Damon Bomar of That Brown Girl Cooks! Photo courtesy of Kristi Brown

Kristi Brown, Chef Goddess of That Brown Girl Cooks!, alongside her son and business partner Damon Bomar, will open their first restaurant at the newly minted Liberty Bank Building (LBB) in just a few short months. How are they feeling about that? Elated.

“This is not going to be your typical restaurant. With so many expectations from such a huge spectrum of Seattle communities, we’re finding our middle ground,” she explains. Chef Kristi spends a lot of time thinking about what she wants people to experience from her expansive history in cooking. In a community that used to be 75% African American and is now 80% White, she plans to honor an ancestry of women who cooked in the Central District while also carving out a space for herself.

“The Liberty Bank Building is a pilgrimage back home,” she reflects. She’s not just speaking about herself coming back to the Central District but of LBB residents, as well. Having been a long time CD resident, Chef understands. She currently lives in affordable housing at Plaza Roberto Maestas on the El Centro de La Raza campus and recognizes the impact of living in intentionally equitable communities here in Seattle.

Chef Kristi wants to use the significance of the Liberty Bank Building, her skill as a chef, and her ties to the African American community to “bring everyone to a table!” particularly in a time of political upheaval.

To perform these miracles, she knows that she and her team have to be ready for this great responsibility. In order to put her talk about community into action, Chef Kristi is collaborating with Trisha Arcaro and has enrolled her entire company in boxing classes at Arcaro Boxing, a long standing tenant in the Jefferson apartments, a Capitol Hill Housing building. Trisha suggested the exercise as self-care, strengthening, and meditation for the upcoming task. Chef Kristi knows she’ll need it – her entire focus is on manifesting this long-awaited dream and building the next level of the That Brown Girl Cooks! empire.

Q&A with Senior Design Manager Jess Blanch

CHH Staffer Jess Blanch. Photo courtesy of Harry Connolly.

1. Congratulations on your recent promotion to Senior Design Manager. As a Rose Fellow at CHH, you’ve been instrumental in guiding our internal environmental work – greening our building portfolio. What does that work entail and how do you foresee it continuing under this new role?

Thank you! I am thrilled to continue my work with the team here at Capitol Hill Housing. Greening CHH’s portfolio includes not only ensuring our new buildings are designed to be as sustainable as they can be, but also finding opportunities to improve the energy and water efficiency in our existing properties which span building types, time periods, and sizes. The first step is called benchmarking–understanding how well our buildings perform, and then analyzing that performance to identify places where we could upgrade systems to reduce energy and water use. We have been working with a number of partners to do this work, and many of their recommendations are being wrapped into building renovations that will be happening over the next few years. These retrofits–things like toilets that use less water, low-energy LED light fixtures, or more efficient heating systems–will ultimately make our residents’ homes more comfortable and less expensive to operate with lower utility bills for both residents and CHH.

Beyond efficient buildings, we are also focusing on healthy materials. We are proud to partner with the Healthy Building Network’s HomeFree Initiative, which helps affordable housing organizations improve resident health outcomes by using less toxic products in our buildings. The Liberty Bank Building is the Pacific Northwest Demonstration Project for HomeFree, and we’re taking what we’ve learned from that project to develop design and operations standards that will reduce staff and resident exposure to toxic products. This work is being supported by the Washington State Department of Ecology and includes resident education and outreach. 

2. Your background is in architecture – what drives your passion for working in affordable housing?

For me, pursuing a career in architecture has always gone hand in hand with a commitment to helping others. The built environment plays a huge role in social, economic, and environmental justice, diversity, and equity. I strongly believe not only that housing is a human right, but that everyone deserves an affordable, well-designed, sustainable, and healthy home. Working in affordable housing development means I can affect decisions earlier in the process and ensure these priorities are baked into our work from the start.

3. In addition to driving environmental goals at CHH, you will be extensively involved in moving our pipeline of building projects forward. What there are you most excited about? 

I am really excited about some new developments I led during my Rose Fellowship and will continue to contribute to in the future: the White Center Community Hub and Jazz House. Both projects are collaborations with community organizations to build affordable housing co-located with social services and education opportunities in neighborhoods with high risk of displacement as our region continues to grow.  For the Hub we are partnering with Southwest Youth & Family Services, the White Center Community Development Association and King County to build affordable homes as well as social and community services in White Center. Jazz House is a partnership with local nonprofit Seattle JazzED, which will create an iconic new home for JazzED’s music education program for kids along with affordable homes in Rainier Valley. 

An Interview with Site Manager Joah Snowden

Photo courtesy of Joah Snowden

Joah Snowden is looking forward to becoming the site manager for the Liberty Bank Building (LBB). Currently, he is the site manager for Squire Park Plaza at 1710 South Jackson Street, owned and operated by Capitol Hill Housing. When LBB with its 115 apartments and three storefronts opens its doors in 2019, Joah expects to be busy.
The Liberty Bank Building stands as a legacy to the community that surrounds it, and Joah takes that responsibility seriously.

“There will be an eye on LBB because of the significance of the space,” he says. “I hope to be a part of the community outside of the building, not just within it.”

Though, within it, he plans to set a welcoming tone so that residents know him to be available, understanding, and willing to help. He would like to create an atmosphere where residents feel that they are part of a community within the building and looks forward to hosting events on the rooftop deck and in the community room so that residents can meet one another. We’re glad to have Joah on our team!

CHH Leads Effort to Revitalize Local Alley as Pedestrian Zone

Capitol Cider held a benefit on July 20-21 for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Credit: Capitol Cider

Public space isn’t limited to parks. It includes streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor places where we as a community can connect. Alleys such as Seattle’s Post Alley are important thoroughfares, casting a spotlight on businesses and creating pedestrian zones that avoid traffic. Several communities have taken on other projects of this nature, such as Nord Alley, created by the Alliance for Pioneer Square, and Canton Alley, spearheaded by the Seattle Chinatown International District Planning and Development Authority (SCIDpda).

With funding support from the Office of Economic Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation, Capitol Hill Housing is excited to help lead an effort to revitalize such a space nearby – one where neighbors can meet. The alley runs behind CHH’s own Broadway Crossing and also touches Capitol Cider, Neighbours Nightclub, the Erickson and Egyptian theaters, part of Seattle Central College, several local businesses, and a forthcoming affordable housing project.

In addition to answering a desire for more active, open spaces in our community, a restored alley (boarded up doors and windows are visible from outside) could help address existing challenges such as safety and cleanliness for nearby residents and customers and the dumping of trash.  The alley is also currently used by members of our community facing addiction and homelessness and we are exploring ways to integrate harm reduction services and other supports into the project.

“This is a great opportunity for the college and the Capitol Hill community. As an urban campus, we enjoy an eclectic student body and a vibrant, 24-hour neighborhood. Activating this alley will benefit the college and our neighbors,” says Lincoln Ferris, Consultant to the President at Seattle Central College.

We are committed to engaging community members in a process that respects and strives to meet the needs of everyone who currently uses and might use the alley. Public space belongs to everyone, and everyone should feel welcome. We have created a convening group that will help guide the community engagement process.

We are seeking other members for this group.  If you have a connection to the alley and are interested in getting involved please contact project manager Alex Brennan at

This group currently includes the following individuals:

Julie Tall, Owner of Capitol Cider
Lincoln Ferris, Seattle Central College
Brian Steen, Building Manager for Broadway Crossing Apartments
Andrew Niece, SIFF/Egyptian
Ana Klisara, Starbucks
Joshua Wallace, Seattle Area Support Groups
Curtis Walton, Central Seattle Greenways

Interview with Resident Services Coordinator Brittany Williams

Brittany Williams, Resident Services Coordinator

Brittany Williams loves creating spaces of possibility. In her time so far at Resident Services, she’s worked to build community within CHH that includes residents by connecting one-on-one and by being an integral part of that community herself.

Brittany’s position is unique. While other Resident Services Coordinators are assigned to specific buildings, she is charged with developing a holistic program that will serve the residents of many buildings at once. To do this, she is working hard to assess needs, to build relationships with local service providers, and to create systems to prevent and handle crises.

Of all her accomplishments, she is most proud of partnering with the YMCA to host Money Mechanics, a four-week financial literacy program that received overwhelming positive feedback from its 44 participating residents. Upon completion, participants received six months of financial coaching and a savings benefit of up to $1,000. She looks forward to hosting other workshops like these for adults and children.

For Brittany, success means that residents experience a strong sense of belonging within the CHH community. She believes that this is best accomplished by empowering people to advocate for themselves by creating as many choices as possible. Now that her department has grown from three to six staff members, she looks forward to many more programs that make a difference in the lives of CHH residents.

Public Notice

Closing of the 18th Ave Apartment (2bdrm), 412 Apartments, El Nor, Elizabeth James House, Haines Apartments (Studios), Hazel Plaza (2&3 Bdrm), Holden Vista (2&3 Bdrm), Mary Ruth Manor (2&3 Bdrm), and Union James Section 8 Waiting Lists. Effective August 3, 2018: Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) will close the Section 8 waiting lists at these buildings.

CHH will NOT accept any NEW applications for any waiting lists on or after this date until further notice.

When a waiting list becomes longer than the amount of people we can service within
two – three years, we stop taking applications. Because we have very few vacancies, we expect it will take a long time before we can assist applicants already on the waiting lists. Therefore, we have no plans to re-open these waiting lists in the near future.

The closures are effective August 3, 2018 and shall remain in effect until further notice. No applications will be accepted for these buildings while the waiting lists are closed. When CHH is prepared to re-open these waiting lists, an announcement will be posted on our website and in the local newspaper.

While CHH will not be taking new applications during the time the waiting lists are closed, staff will continue to process those currently on the lists and make unit offers as vacancies occur. You are still required to update your personal information by submitting changes in writing.

For more on the CHH properties subsidized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), go here.

CHH Welcomes New Board Chair

We talked with Robert Schwartz, the new Chair of the Board of Directors for Capitol Hill Housing. Robert was an inaugural member of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee and is deeply invested in addressing the need for affordable housing across the region. As Associate Vice President for Facilities at Seattle University, he is responsible for a broad portfolio that includes long-range planning and real estate projects for the campus. He has a passion for sustainability that extends beyond buildings and includes the communities that form around them. [Ed. Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]

You have spent your career engaged in improving the built world. What first drew your attention to affordable housing?

I started working at Seattle University and felt nudges, in part because of my faith, that it was important to be helping low-income people and to be engaged with the city beyond just my work. I knew that I could go serve at a soup kitchen, and I’ve done that in the past, but I thought that’s probably not the best use of my experience and expertise. Because of my role at Seattle University, I was originally put forward to the CHH Board as a mayoral appointee. I thought this is a great opportunity to respond to those nudges and be engaged with helping my community, be engaged with making the city a better place. It was a confluence of a lot of different streams.

You were a part of the original Steering Committee for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict – what brought you there?

Here at Seattle University, we are really concerned with sustainability.  As a licensed civil engineer, I bring a very analytical and critical approach to sustainability. There’s a lot of happy talk, but I really look at performance. At Seattle University we talk about high performance:  We want a high-performance organization and we want high performance buildings – buildings that perform well are energy efficient and less expensive to operate. To me, we need to take a very practical, hard-edged look at what it means to be sustainable. From that standpoint, I was interested in being engaged not in these big nebulous concepts but in something really concrete. It’s got to result in real changes. And I think the EcoDistrict has done a really good job with that. I look at their solar power initiative and parking; I think the EcoDistrict is a good blend of idealism and real-world applications. That’s to be commended. A lot of that happened after I was involved, but I was there at the initial thinking through of some of those things.

In many ways, Seattle University is trying to model a lot of the same objectives. In Higher Ed, there’s an organization called the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). They have a rating program called Stars – Sustainability Tracking and Rating System. It’s very comprehensive; it doesn’t just look at your recycling. It also looks at your educational offerings, your administrative policies, and how all of those promote sustainable operations. We are one of the few institutions who have a gold rating nationally.

What is your vision for how CHH should look to the future in building partnerships and connecting to communities where there isn’t already an affordable housing nonprofit? How do you think we can best accomplish that?

I think that’s been a big question for us at the Board level. There isn’t a one-size approach that fits all. We are working to figure out parameters for what approach we should use in various locations and what’s appropriate, all with an eye towards meeting the real need of affordable housing and building vibrant and engaged communities. I appreciate the commitment that CHH has to diversity. Chris Persons has done a great job of bringing together a diverse board that reflects the views and needs of the communities we are working in. We still have more work to do. Capitol Hill Housing is an organization that’s willing to take risks. Look at our work in the Central District. We are currently developing a project that, in fifteen years, we may essentially sell all our interests in. That’s a pretty groundbreaking model in a lot of ways, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that’s willing to take risks. If a group like Capitol Hill Housing doesn’t take that risk, nobody will.

CHH’s Newest Addition: Jessica Westgren at Bayview Tower


Jessica Westgren joined Capitol Hill Housing as a Site Manager for Bayview Tower in June.

Jessica is pleased to join CHH as our newest site manager at Bayview Tower, and we are so glad she is here. Newly taken under management by CHH, Bayview Tower is a 100-unit building serving seniors and people with disabilities. After spending five years of managing large-scale market rate and luxury apartment buildings and witnessing Seattle’s housing crisis firsthand, Jessica is eager to focus on helping affordable housing residents to feel secure in their homes and connected to our community.

For years, Jessica felt a strong cognitive dissonance between the pressures associated with managing buildings where rents have soared and the need she observed in her residents and the neighborhoods where she lives and works. She turned those concerns into action when, nearly three years ago, she co-founded Welcoming Wallingford, a neighborhood-led effort to enact a vision for Wallingford that is inclusive, sustainable, and progressive. Welcoming Wallingford promotes constructive dialogue and civic engagement around housing affordability in the neighborhood. Its success has spurred the creation of Welcoming Eastlake, a similar venture.

Jessica’s tireless efforts don’t stop there. She was just reappointed to the Seattle Renters’ Commission where she serves in two working groups. She says that she will continue her advocacy “until representation mirrors community make-up”.

At CHH, she is excited to learn more about regulations and to use her extensive experience in talking through those complexities with residents. We are thrilled to have this renters’ champion in our corner and look forward to working with and learning from her.




Thank you, Cathy, for your service!


Cathy serves Capitol Hill in many different capacities.

Cathy Hillenbrand recently completed two years of service as Chair of the Board of Directors of Capitol Hill Housing. A 49-year resident of Capitol Hill, Cathy also chaired the Steering Committee of the Capitol Hill Champion, a volunteer-led effort to advocate for the incorporation of community goals into the redevelopment on top of the Capitol Hill light rail station. We sat down to talk with her about the June 19 groundbreaking for Station House, CHH’s affordable housing venture that will provide thoughtfully-designed residences for working families on Capitol Hill. [Ed. Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]

You have been involved with many efforts to shape Capitol Hill, including the aboveground development that will soon accompany the light rail station. How did you first become involved?

I kind of get rooted and attached to a place. I’ve always felt about Capitol Hill that you could roll off it in any direction and get anywhere you wanted to go in Seattle or in the region. What’s interesting to me is the persistence of the arts and cultural life up here. What’s challenging is how it’s changed in such a short time. Still, depending on the time of day that you’re out and about on Capitol Hill, you see different slices of life and layers. The fact that we have a playground in Cal Anderson Park that is heavily used is a huge thing to me.

I had been on the Seattle Arts Commission, and I was part of the Light Rail Review Panel for University Link, which was the Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium stations. I got involved in that because my husband and I bought this place that was two blocks from the light rail station in Capitol Hill. So, when I moved over here, I started trying to meet people. And then when I got off the Arts Commission, I got involved with the Transit-oriented Development (TOD) Stakeholders Committee of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. There was funding from the City for the neighborhood to engage with Sound Transit. The Chamber hired Schemata Workshop to do a study for us, and that resulted in the TOD Recommendations Report, and that resulted in the creation of the Capitol Hill Champion. First, I was the co-chair, and then I was the chair until Capitol Hill Housing applied to develop the site for affordable housing. During that time, I was asked to be on the Board of Directors for CHH, and I said I would do it so long as it didn’t compromise my position as chair of the Champion.

On June 19th, we will celebrate the groundbreaking for Station House. Is there an impact that you are hoping the development around the light rail station will have for the community?

I think it remains to be seen. The big thing is the viability of the plaza and how it’s managed. I see that plaza as a hardscape to Cal Anderson Park. The layout of the properties was done from the point of view of where the train would be – Sound Transit didn’t want to build directly over the station box. One might have planned it differently if one had placemaking at the top of the list, but we have what we have. And we wanted a community center. But we are getting a community room, a daycare, and a farmer’s market. We will see how it all plays out. Hopefully, we will be able to move forward with building LGBTQ-affirming senior housing on the Hill. LGBTQ-centered development was a priority in the conversation about building above the light rail.

The fact is, once they decided they were putting a train through here, it changed the neighborhood, even though it’s not obvious. And I don’t know if a community can ever get ahead of development. And everything moves so fast now, and land is so valuable that it puts communities at a disadvantage. Through the EcoDistrict, CHH has devoted staff and played a critical role in watching out for Capitol Hill. We are stewarding our community. As we get bigger, I don’t want us to lose that role. I personally see the EcoDistrict as the place were that’s going to happen.

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, where you’re also on the steering committee, formed out of the conversation around development at the light rail station. What are your hopes for the EcoDistrict’s future?

I didn’t join the EcoDistrict Steering Committee until I got off the Champion, but from the beginning, before the EcoDistrict was conceived of, the Champion was pushing for deeper environmental considerations to be included in the design guidelines for the light rail station itself. We’ve been trying to get to a place where you could go to a developer and say, we have an EcoDistrict up here; please engage with it around your building, and here are some ways to do that. The EcoDistrict is shaping a lot of things, but it’s a challenge to influence every development.

The EcoDistrict is the place where so many hopes and dreams – ideals one has – can be manifested in so many interlocking ways. It’s equity, it’s environment, it’s local – it’s hyper-local. In our bodies, our bones are a matrix. Activity draws calcium to our bones, and they become stronger. I see the EcoDistrict as a big matrix of all these small hubs where there is self-determination and as a hub in an even larger matrix. You’re bringing all these pieces together to look at the health of a bigger thing, like the health of the Salish Sea. Currently, jurisdictions are fighting for the survival of their bureaucracies and their government functions, and we need to figure out how to unify those in a way that is driven from the ground up by communities.

Learning A New Way to Engage Community

CHH Staff & Partners Learn the Pomegranate Method
On May 1st and 2nd, Capitol Hill Housing hosted a training on community engagement conducted by the Pomegranate Center for 34 staff members from CHH and five of our partners: Africatown Community Land TrustByrd Barr PlaceSouthwest Youth & Family Services, and the White Center Community Development Association (CDA).
Together, we studied the Pomegranate Method, which prioritizes the needs and ideas of community members in making collaborative decisions for their neighborhoods. This process emphasizes “placemaking” – connecting people and empowering them to define shared spaces.
For CHH, an inclusive and equitable community-driven process is a top priority. We are committed to deepening our understanding of effective strategies and working with our partners toward this mutual goal.
“I enjoyed spending time with my co-workers and community partners, learning strategies and approaches that are focused on elevating community voice. My hope is that we use the Pomegranate training to coalesce our vision…in order to have a healthy, happy, and affordable White Center community,” said Aaron Garcia, a Community Engagement Manager with the White Center CDA and a participant of the training.
We are immensely grateful to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for providing funding for this opportunity and to Katya and Milenko Matanovic from the Pomegranate Center for imparting their wisdom.