Seattle announces 30 ideas to protect arts, culture spaces from high-rent displacement

Working with developers and Seattle’s culture constituency, the city has released a report with 30 ideas — some already in play — to shelter artists and communities of color from rapid development and skyrocketing rents.

Artists across Seattle know how this story goes: They live in (or move into) cheap neighborhoods, and help incubate dynamic communities that are attractive to developers. Then developers show up and plop down residence/retail “multiuse” projects.  Eventually, rents rise so much that the artists and others who made the neighborhood interesting in the first place have to flee. Rinse and repeat.

The city’s Office of Arts & Culture has spent four years wrestling with proposals to fix that cycle and has just released its 92-page “CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation and Preservation of Cultural Space.” (You can read the whole thing at For context, the 2017 “Out of Reach” report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition shows that in Washington, minimum-wage laborers need to work 86 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental home — and that’s the whole state, not just Seattle’s extra-sharp rent spikes.)

The CAP team, made up of developers, city employees and arts workers, proposes some changes that are already underway (zoning tweaks giving developers financial incentives to make room for affordable arts spaces) and some that would require new legislative work (requiring developers who displace one cultural organization to replace it with another).

“Some of these ideas would require collaborative lifts” across governmental departments, said Matthew Richter, the city’s cultural space liaison.

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Richter compared the CAP proposals to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED, he said, began an incentive…

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