The Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh

We look back at the people, places and events that defined 2015
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Seattle’s boom continued, but so did the associated growing pains.

We had a summer of glorious sunshine, but the hot, dry weather cost the environment dearly. Teachers finally received a fair(er) wage, but lawmakers failed to make a plan to fund our school system. Rent increases slowed, but they’re still increasing. And of course, the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl, then blew it with the Worst. Call. Ever. So, was 2015 a year to remember—or one we’d rather forget?

Battles of Seattle
From fed-up teachers to exasperated environmentalists, this year saw its fair share of Seattleites who were ready to rumble

Class Action
Seattle teachers and support staff went on strike for the first time in 30 years on September 9, delaying the start of the school year for more than 53,000 students. The Seattle Education Association (SEA) authorized the strike after contract negotiations with Seattle Public Schools failed. The union’s grievances included salary issues (teachers working in the increasingly expensive city hadn’t received cost-of-living pay increases in more than six years); the district’s plans to extend school hours by 20 minutes per day without additional compensation in teacher salaries; excessive standardized testing; inadequate recess time; and concerns about racial and social inequality in the school system. Picketers received overwhelming support—as well as meals delivered to the strike lines—from parents through Soup for Teachers, a group organized on Facebook, which had more than 2,800 members by the end of the dispute. The district abandoned its original plans to bring legal action against the striking teachers and, after five days of negotiations and school term delays, offered them acceptable terms.

F for Funding
The Washington State Legislature got schooled by the state Supreme Court for failing to act on the court’s 2012 order to come up with a plan to fully fund public education for grades K–12. Although the ruling granted the state until 2018 to put the plan in place, the court announced in August that it wasn’t satisfied that progress was being made, and that it would
fine the state $100,000 per day until it was clear the state was making strides. With the next regular legislative session not scheduled until January 2016, the sanctions could total around $15 million if Governor Jay Inslee does not call a special session. As of press time, the fines were continuing to add up.
 
Boat Showdown
When oil giant Royal Dutch Shell announced it would resume drilling in the Arctic (it suspended previous operations in 2013 after a series of embarrassing mishaps) and that the Port of Seattle would be its off-season base, protests were a given. The move met plenty of opposition on shore with challenges from local politicians, including Mayor Ed Murray, who argued that Shell didn’t have the permits needed to dock here. And when the Polar Pioneer, the first of its two rigs destined for the Arctic entered Elliott Bay on May 14, it was met by a mini flotilla of “kayaktivists” brandishing banners reading “Shell No,” the name of the coalition that organized the protest. The group garnered national and international attention later that week, when more than 100 colorful kayaks and other small boats crowded around the rig, which, rising more than 300 feet above the water, is about half the height of the Space Needle. Regular protests continued for the next month, until June 15, when 24 kayaktivists (including Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien) were detained and fined by the U.S. Coast Guard for attempting to block the rig as it departed that morning for Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. Although the kayaktivists were unsuccessful in their bid to stop Shell, they still got what they wanted: In September, the company announced it was suspending its Arctic mission indefinitely after disappointing results from one of its exploratory wells, and in October, the U.S. Interior Department announced it would not extend current permits or issue new ones for drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast.

Bernie Feels the Burn
When White House hopeful and current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came to Seattle on August 8, his planned speech at Westlake Park was meant to celebrate the success—and anniversaries—of two social programs, Social Security (80th anniversary) and Medicare (50th). But it was another anniversary—one year since the Ferguson, Missouri, killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old—that prompted several members of grassroots group Black Lives Matter to rush the stage. The activitsts interrupted Sanders just moments after he’d been introduced to the audience of 15,000. One protester took the microphone, criticized Sanders for not doing enough to address the country’s racial issues, then gave a speech about gentrification and racial inequality in Seattle. Finally, the group called for a moment of remembrance for Brown—which was interrupted by boos and heckling from the crowd. When Sanders returned to the podium, there was a brief tussle for the microphone before the exasperated Sanders gave up and left.

Legion of Gloom
On February 1, Seahawks fans stood ready to celebrate the team’s second consecutive Super Bowl win. With the Hawks ending the third quarter with a 24-14 lead over the New England Patriots, we had every reason to be confident—especially since no team in Super Bowl history had ever recovered from a deficit of more than 7 points in the fourth quarter. But the Pats did recover—and then some: Tom Brady led his team to score 14 unanswered points. Even then, with New England up 4 points, the Hawks were in position to be champs. Then it happened: On second down and goal at the 1-yard line with just 26 seconds on the clock, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, apparently forgetting the very existence of Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, called a pass play. Quarterback Russell Wilson’s throw to Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by New England rookie Malcolm Butler, preserving his team’s 28–24 lead and, ultimately, costing Seattle the game. There was no reprise of the rowdy fan antics that happened after the Hawks won the Super Bowl the previous year. The loudest fans in the NFL were stunned into silence by the call that many pundits deemed the worst in Super Bowl history. —Lara Hale

SOME LIKE IT HOT…

Seattleites finally got the hot summer we’ve dreamed of…
Be careful what you wish for. Yes, we got the long, sweltering summer we’ve always wanted, leaving many of us hot and bothered in a city famously short of central air. Remember July, the most blistering month Seattle’s seen since, well, ever? Seattleites took full advantage of the multiple 90-degree days, lolling on the decks at Ray’s Boathouse or Daniel’s Lake Union, or on big boats or inflatable toys. By August, spaghetti-strap sundresses, shorts and sleeveless anything moved to front and center in our closets.

We’d picnicked and barbecued and beached and biked—incessantly—leaving a few of us secretly yearning for a few good clouds. After some initial blissed-out basking, the heat started to play havoc with our minds as well as our bodies. We got irritable, especially upon discovering that the umpteenth store we’d driven to was also out of electric fans.

And was it delusion brought on by the extreme heat that led William Shatner to propose a $30 billion crowdfunding campaign to build a pipeline to deliver water from Seattle to California? Perhaps. What we can say for certain is the one that’s suffered the most from the hot, dry weather is Mother Nature herself.

…OTHERS, NOT SO MUCH
…but the climate took a nightmarish toll on the environment


We may well gripe about our hot-as-an-oven homes and how difficult it is these days to get a table on Marination Ma Kai’s patio, but these are the very least of our true woes. Glaciers across the North Cascades are melting, and one scientist estimates they’re smaller than they have been in at least 4,000 years. Add the fact that Northwest glaciers have been shrinking by 25 to 40 pecent since the ’80s, and things aren’t looking good. Seattle Freeze may be fiction, but Washington Melt is an unfortunate fact. Even the state’s snow-starved ski slopes showed signs of going downhill this year, with resorts closing early or running half their lifts. Thriving on the warmer water temperatures, a massive bloom of toxic algae—said to be the largest in West Coast recorded
history—stretched from Alaska to California. The ramifications extended to the fishing industry, and eventually to the kitchens of our favorite restaurants when Dungeness crabbing off Washington’s coast was put on hold. Back on land, monumental fires raged in eastern Washington, and the Okanogan Complex fire goes into the record books as the largest wildfire in state history.

Will 2016’s weather be weird too?
It depends upon “The Blob,” according to the University of Washington climate scientist who coined the nickname for the wide pool of warm water stretching from Alaska to Mexico. Nick Bond believes “The Blob” is influencing our weather—and it’s still lurking off the West Coast. —Jenny Cunningham and Seattle editors

Growing Pains
Homeowners and renters alike felt the pinch from Seattle’s skyrocketing population

Amazon’s footprint expands
A headline this year declared that the local retail giant was “devouring” Seattle, transforming swaths of the city into a company campus. Whether or not the dot-com’s breakneck growth continues, it did reach a milestone earlier this year. Amazon currently occupies more than a quarter of the city’s premium office space. Seattle is on its way to having the largest concentration of space filled by a single business in the United States.

What goes up...keeps going up
Rents continued to rise this year, though the hikes slowed a bit, going from skyrocketing to merely troubling. While the city’s sleek new units still go for a premium, the rent on everything else only increased by about 7 percent in 2015, a drop of more than two percentage points from the year before. That’s little solace for many people, considering rents have risen by a third since 2009.

Well, that escalated quickly
Before mayor Ed Murray could even release his Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) report—a plan many months in the works, featuring input from neighborhood advocates, developers and others—a portion of it was leaked to The Seattle Times. That portion dealt with plans to allow more duplexes, townhouses, condos and density in areas currently exclusively designated for single family homes. All hell broke loose: Neighborhood interest groups and NIMBYs went berserk, councilmembers were accosted at fundraising events, and the proposal threatened to dominate the conversation about HALA before the mayor could announce it. To cool the debate, Murray hastily distanced himself from the proposal—and was promptly criticized for that move as well.

Commitment issues?
With all the well-paid techies entering Seattle’s housing market, one might assume they’d be snatching up houses and condos, rather than paying rent. After all, while the average price of a home in Seattle is five times the average salary, a mortgage is well within reach of most tech salaries. But this past year, the majority of those earning more than $100,000 a year, both young and old, have been putting their money into the rental market instead.

Score one for the little guy
At some point, nearly all of us have griped about a bad landlord. But after renter Sherrard Ewing took to online review service Yelp to share his negative experiences in dealing with Columbia City Condos, the owner of the complex, Carl Haglund, sued him for defamation. The judge threw the suit right out, calling Haglund a bully and ordering him to pay Ewing’s legal fees. —Drew Atkins

Lanes, Trains and Automobiles
As Seattle grows, so do its transportation problems. 2015 was a year of traffic trials and travails—and some drastic attempts to improve the situation

Green Streets
This was a big year for Seattle’s cyclists, who can navigate the streets more easily than ever, thanks to new bike lane expansions. Wide green strips of bike-safe pathway were added to Mercer Street and Second Avenue, among other streets. And the Broadway Bikeway, infamous for the blue, noodle-shaped sculptures separating it from car traffic, finally had its north and south sections united, after two years of being bisected by the Capitol Hill Link light rail construction.

Tunnel Vision
Although the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) humongous tunnel-boring machine Bertha made national headlines after her subterranean breakdown in 2013, her smaller sisters, Pamela and Brenda, have received relatively little attention for their diligent work. Having set out from Northgate in 2014, the two tunnel borers reached Roosevelt this summer. They’re expected to finish two parallel tunnels to the University of Washington by the spring of 2016. It’s Brenda, the eldest sibling, that Capitol Hill commuters can thank for the Link light rail station opening (likely ahead of schedule) in their neighborhood next year.

Not the Brightest Bulbs

No doubt more than a few Seattle drivers have cursed the city’s “stupid” traffic signals. And there’s some truth to that description—a significant portion of the city’s congestion can be attributed to the fact that our signals just aren’t smart. They don’t react to changes in traffic flow (collisions, for example), and they don’t communicate with each other. So this year, spurred partly by similar, successful efforts in Bellevue and Los Angeles, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) began implementing an adaptive traffic signal system in Seattle, which would gather real-time data in order to automatically adjust flow. In March, requisite sensors and communication systems were installed on Mercer Street; SDOT plans to activate them in 2016, making Mercer the city’s first traffic-adaptive corridor.

A Fishy Situation
At about 2:30 p.m. one day in late March, a semi-truck flipped on State Route 99, spilling its haul of frozen salmon across both southbound lanes and bringing traffic to an immediate halt. Not until 9:35 p.m. did the city, working with a private towing company, remove the truck and its defrosting fishy cargo. Meanwhile, traffic—exacerbated by a well-attended Sounders FC soccer game—stood still throughout Seattle and Interstate 5 became congested all the way up to the University District, five miles away. Some SR 99 commuters were stranded on the highway for the entire nine-hour affair (and likely never wanted to eat salmon again).

Parking Pain
Let’s face it, our parking days are over. At least the kind of parking we once enjoyed and, frankly, took for granted. Remember when you could nonchalantly drive downtown for dinner and score a suitable spot on the street? We now know that the city has its own ideas. Planners want you to use buses, bikes, light rail and even your own legs to get around, which is one reason we’re Uber-ing and Lyft-ing from point A to point B. Here’s what the city doesn’t want us to do: drive our cars, or at the very least, park them. It’s right there on the Seattle Department of Transportation’s website: “The city’s priorities…do not support the use of on-street parking for long-term commuter parking.” That’s why the city has been changing legislation to allow builders to provide less parking in places that have better transit service. For Seattle drivers, the future looks like this: We will be circling city blocks for a very long time to find a place to plant our vehicles. Hoverboard, anyone?

Taking Its Toll
In late september, the Washington State Department of Transportation opened three Interstate 405 express toll lanes between Lynnwood and Bellevue. The tolls automatically adjust according to how many cars are using the lanes and how quickly traffic is moving. (The average toll is $1.50, but spikes as high as $10 during peak usage.) Another change: It takes three vehicle occupants to qualify for the carpool lane during peak hours, not two as in the past. Commuters, confused by the new layout, have caused more than twice as many collisions per day than the previous average, and a glitch in the toll system a few weeks in led to more than 3,300 drivers being double charged. —Ryan Kindel

Perked-up Play spaces
This year, the City of Seattle transferred management of two of its largest public parks—Westlake Park in the downtown retail core, and Occidental Square Park in Pioneer Square—to private ownership on a trial basis. The new manager, the nonprofit Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), quickly moved to make some changes

Going green. With new ownership of the parks came new cleanup gear, designed to wash the streets of grime, litter and—let’s face it—human waste. New street-scrubbing Green Machines, along with their pressure-washing tricycles, made the concrete and brick shine in the parks, as much as such a thing is possible.

Wake-up calls. The city has long worked to “clean up” the two parks, which is often code for having fewer homeless people in them. The number of “wake-ups and trespass visits” the DSA’s partner organization Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) handled in the retail core more than tripled this year, and rose in Pioneer Square as well.

Fun free-for-all. Undesirable elements removed, the DSA installed shiny new objects to attract us back to the parks (see left): rotating food trucks, pingpong and foosball tables, books and magazines, and brightly colored chairs and tables as far as the eye can see. And then there’s the events programming, featuring everything from drop-in lunchtime Zumba classes and after-work art classes to movie screenings and live music. —Drew Atkins


SILVER LININGS
We saw wildfires, climbing housing costs and nightmarish traffic. In fact, there are those who might consider 2015 one downer of a year. But, in a Herculean effort to focus on the sunny side, we offer these small stories that brightened our days and gave us hope.

Tillie the setter/spaniel mix led rescuers to her trapped friend, basset hound Phoebe.; Amy Carey

Up (But Not Away)
Fox Searchlight announced plans in August for a film about the late owner of the Ballard “Up house,” Edith Macefield. The movie will spotlight Macefield’s friendship with Barry Martin, the superintendent of the commercial property that was built around her tiny home after she turned down the developer’s offer of $1 million and refused to move. Macefield left the house to Martin in her will. Now that a local nonprofit’s efforts to move the house to Orcas Island have been stymied due to lack of funds, we’re all waiting to see what happens next.

Baby Boom
Seattle’s skyrocketing population isn’t all about tech geeks—we also gained five baby orcas this year. The new members of the three Puget Sound whale pods could signify a much-needed sea change for our endangered whale population.  

Scouts’ Honor
When the Girl Scouts of Western Washington received a $100,000 check that would fund its financial assistance program, it could have been a reason to celebrate—but there was a catch: The donor specified that the money couldn’t be used to support transgender girls. The Scouts returned the gift and in June launched #ForEVERYGirl, an online crowdfunding campaign that raised more than triple the original donation.

Classy, Baby
A volunteer project led by Madrona-based glass studio Glassybaby brightened up the morning commute for many early on May 1. More than 1,200 people, each holding a white votive, lined up starting at 4:30 a.m. to illuminate the Interstate 90 bridge for the launch of Glassybaby’s White Light Fund, which benefits organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Humane Society and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Dog’s Best Friend
For almost a week in September, loyal Irish setter/spaniel mix Tillie valiantly stood guard over her basset hound BFF, Phoebe, who had fallen into a cistern. Rescuers discovered the dogs after a resident called to report seeing Tillie come onto his property several times before quickly retreating to the ravine where the cistern is located, which indicated that the setter left her friend’s side only to seek help. In October, Tillie was awarded a Washingtonian of the Day honor by Governor Jay Inslee.

Pitch Perfect
in august, baseball fans saw the fifth no-hitter, thrown by Hisashi Iwakuma, in Seattle Mariners’ history. It wasn’t enough to see the team into the playoffs, but with new general manager Jerry Dipoto in the dugout, there’s hope for the next season.

Giving Back
Citizens displayed remarkable empathy and compassion after a Ride the Ducks vehicle collided with a tour bus. In late September, Seattleites crowded blood donation centers to help victims in critical need (and were rewarded with sweets donated by Theo Chocolate), while nearby Canlis restaurant canceled its dinner service for the first time in 65 years to feed emergency responders. —Lyra Fontaine

Politics as Usual

2015 proved that when it comes to city and state government, the more things change, the more they stay the same

City Council’s Underwhelming Upheaval incumbents dominated in the polls and raised plenty of cash for re-election. Business and special-interest groups used big money to curry favor and tip the scales, often employing PACs to undermine grassroots campaigns. And in the face of it all, voters tuned out, and primary turnout was low.

Anyone expecting a radical shift in Seattle City Council elections this year—the first under a new district-based system—was in for a rude awakening. Voters approved the change in 2013 to diminish the influence of money and incumbency in local council politics. Old-fashioned community engagement and representation would be energized, new political leaders would enter the fray, and upheaval was in store for the old guard.

That happened in part. Council mainstays such as Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark decided the new system wasn’t their speed, and declined to run. Others went not so quietly—namely Jean Godden, who fell to a primary challenger who had a war chest half the size of her own.

The elections attracted many new candidates in the primaries, but almost exclusively permitted incumbents and big fundraisers into the general election, many funded by the usual interest groups. The district system has not yet become
a change to believe in.

The State of the State

There is no shortage of money coming into state coffers. This was the claim the GOP’s main budget writer, Senator Andy Hill, made in an interview with The Seattle Times going into the 2015 legislative session. And while Hill and his fellow Republicans are almost universally seen as the session’s victors, questions remain over how Washington state will properly fund K–12 schools, economic development initiatives, colleges, early childhood education, health services and much more in the long term.

Throughout this year’s session, Republicans stuck to their “no new revenue” guns, watching proposal after proposal from the Democrats fizzle: a capital gains tax on fewer than 50,000 of the state’s wealthiest people; a proposal to raise the business-and-occupation tax; a carbon emissions tax pushed heavily by the governor. Before the final budget was written, all fell by the wayside.  

Whatever the future of these specific proposals, the state’s money problems remain unsettled going into 2016. As the nonpartisan Office of Financial Management noted throughout the year, the state’s population is growing, and the money required for necessary services has not been keeping up.

After the biennial budget was passed, the State Supreme Court agreed. The court found the state in continued contempt of its 2012 McCleary decision, which mandated that the state properly fund basic education. The court demanded legislators find more money, and began levying a $100,000-a-day fine until they do.

To find $1.3 billion of new money for K–12 education without new revenue, Olympia witnessed some serious brinksmanship this year, taking the session into overtime. Rather than return to session after the Supreme Court’s recent decision, the parties decided these budget battles would begin anew in 2016. Not that they’ll have a problem finding some extra dough. After all, as Andy Hill has stated repeatedly, there’s no budget deficit problem in Washington. —Drew Atkins

Boomtown Update

Seattle Business
magazine’s managing editor John Levesque offers his observations on tall buildings, parking, tunnels, cranes and the iPad Pro

Please disregard the chinese calendar. Turns out that 2015 was the year of the crane. At least in Seattle.

Looks as if 2016 will be, too. And on and on until boom goes bust. You know it will. Go bust, that is. It always does.

But for now, the business of Seattle is developing the future look of Seattle. In Ballard, that means five- and six-story apartment buildings designed in the Bow-Wow-Haus style by the Northwest School of the Architecturally Challenged. On Capitol Hill, it means feigning historic preservation by saving the façade of a sweet old building and gluing it to the front of a new hipster-plex. And, in downtown Seattle, it means trying to keep from being subsumed in a high-rising flood of Amazonian proportions.

This glut of development offers the clearest example that lenders are eager to part with lots of cash to help Seattle fulfill its mission of cramming thousands more people into the geographical equivalent of a walk-in closet, then taking away their car keys and parking spaces and telling them to devise a new way to get to work.

Some of those lenders are from other countries, notably China. These well-heeled foreign nationals pony up big bucks under the federal EB-5 program to gain access to a green card. It’s all above board, don’t you know. Except when it isn’t. The Securities and Exchange Commission says local developer Lobsang Dargey, a former Tibetan monk, diverted tens of millions of dollars of EB-5 money to other personal “projects,” including building a house in Bellevue and gambling some of it away in casinos.

Meanwhile, one of Dargey’s EB-5 projects, the 41-story Potala Tower in Belltown, is an enormous hole in the ground that will likely gape for a long time, not unlike the Seahawks’ secondary after a fourth-quarter collapse.

Seattle, of course, knows from holes in the ground. I suggested last year that the tunnel not being dug by Bertha would be a good place to park the Jeff Bezos Collection of Amazon Drones, but the Potala Pit is only two blocks from Amazon’s new downtown campus. It’s almost as if it was meant to be. Thank you, Mr. Dargey!

Points to Ponder

As the year of the crane comes to a close, there are other business-related questions to mull over: Tableau manners. As Tableau Software quietly becomes the dominant economic force in Fremont, what are its ultimate goals? Better seats for the Solstice Parade? Easier access to Fremont Brewing? Neighborhood discounts at Brooks Running?

Bad Apple. Going forward, what should we make of the fact that Apple’s new iPad Pro is a fairly obvious copy
of Microsoft’s Surface Pro, and that Windows 10 appears to be Microsoft’s best operating system since cave drawings? Is the new Microsoft of Satya Nadella and Brad Smith really a force for Apple to reckon with? Or will they also decamp Redmond for the NBA?

Caught in the net. Will Seattle embrace its own broadband internet system and loosen the grip of Comcast, CenturyLink and others who would happily bundle all of our communication needs into one neat package deal that we can’t extricate ourselves from until the Mariners win the World Series?

Putting down roots. When Weyerhaeuser moves its corporate headquarters to Pioneer Square, will the CEO plant a tree in the lobby for old times’ sake?

Planely speaking. When Boeing starts making a profit on its 787 Dreamliner, will airlines stop charging us for legroom? And if Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines ever meet for a peace lunch, will that lunch taste like pretzels or peanuts? The answers may become more obvious in 2016, although it’s hard to see anything clearly with all those cranes in the way.

Life Imitated Art
Does a rising tide lift all boats? Despite the growth of the city’s tech industry and the financial gains of those who built it, many local artists and arts organizations have been struggling to stay afloat as the cost of living reaches new heights. Our look back at 2015 offers hope that Seattle’s art scene isn’t underwater just yet.

Clockwise from top: Damien Gilley’s installation “X Painter” and Ryan Molenkamp’s tryptic “Three Terrors” at Out of Sight. A rendering of the new KEXP building.  “Flux(on)” by Obin Eley from the Seattle Art Fair.; out of sight: Bruce Clayton Tom; Seattle Art Fair: Courtesy of obin eley and 101/exhibit; kexp: skb architects

Allen’s art. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. produced the inaugural Seattle Art Fair this summer, drawing more than 15,000 attendees to local and internationally renowned galleries’ booths at the CenturyLink Field Event Center. Days before, Vulcan announced the December opening of Pivot Art + Culture, an exhibition space and cultural event center to be housed at the Paul Allen Institute for Brain Science location in South Lake Union.

Out of sight. In response to some local artists not making the cut for The Seattle Art Fair, Greg Lundgren of Vital 5 Productions, Sierra Stinson of Vignettes, and Kirsten Anderson and Sharon Arnold of Roq La Rue, put together Out of Sight, a survey of contemporary Pacific Northwest art, in the historic King Street Station.

River rising. Curators/environmentalists Sarah Kavage and Nicole Kistler organized Duwamish Revealed, a summerlong series of installations, performances and events that celebrate Seattle’s only river. The series draws countless locals to interact with the river for the first time as the Environmental Protection Agency moves ahead with its long-awaited cleanup.

Booster club. In July, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a partnership with cultural services agency 4Culture on a onetime program, Building for Culture. The county will issue $20 million in bonds backed by lodging tax revenues to support capital projects for nonprofits, boosting arts and culture organizations at a time when the county is experiencing unprecedented population growth.

Station break. In January, alternative community radio station KEXP broke ground on its state-of-the-art headquarters at
Seattle Center, funded in part by a $1.86 million award through the state’s Building for the Arts Program. The new facility, which includes a live recording space and viewing area, a stage, a café and a gift shop, opens this month.

Book report.
Former Stranger book critic Paul Constant launched the online Seattle Review of Books, finally providing the city’s literary scene with the critical journal it has long needed. Meanwhile, Seattle Weekly, Town Hall and Crosscut founder David Brewster announced Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum, a membership-driven library and reading room in the old downtown Seattle YMCA, slated to open in January.

Locals only. Museums showcased the talents of the region’s emerging and mid-career artists. The Frye Art Museum hosted solo shows for Leo Berk and Rodrigo Valenzuela (now based in Houston), and ended the year with a group show of 65 artists, performers, writers and filmmakers titled Genius / 21 Century / Seattle. The Bellevue Arts Museum hosted a retrospective of sculptor/jeweler Jana Brevick’s work, and a show of counterculture fashion from the ’60s and ’70s curated by artist/designer Michael Cepress.

Grand openings.
This year saw three exciting art spaces pop up in Georgetown: The Alice, in the spot vacated by LxWxH; Interstitial, directly upstairs; and the refined-looking and capacious studio e, a short distance away. A few other new galleries and art spaces launched in more unlikely locations: Veronica opened in the Artspace Mt. Baker Lofts in Rainier Valley; Feast Arts Center opened in Tacoma; and far north in rural Skagit Valley, the I.E. gallery opened in Edison. —Jim Demetre


The Curious Celebrity of Russell Wilson
With all his red carpet and concert appearances, best-dressed lists and tweeting, we’re amazed the Seahawks QB found time to play football. Here are just a few of the things we learned about him this year.


In 2015, Wilson spent as much time on stage as in a stadium; suzi pratt / getty images

He’s a man of diverse tastes.Wilson enjoys watching classic gangster movie Scarface—featuring Al Pacino as a cocaine-abusing maniac—while simultaneously listening to gospel music on his iPod, according to a recent profile.

He bounces back. big time. Despite breaking an entire city’s heart when he threw an interception in this year’s Super Bowl, it seems all was forgiven by the kickoff of the 2015–2016 season, when Wilson went from being one of the lowest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL to the second-highest, with a four-year, $87.6 million contract.

He’s tight with the man upstairs. If Wilson is to be believed, God likes to toy with the emotions of Seahawks fans. He credits the Most High for the four interceptions he threw in last year’s National Football Conference Championship Game, saying it was God’s way of making the game “so dramatic.” He also claims God caused the Seahawks to lose the Super Bowl in order to test Wilson. But as for Wilson’s commitment to refrain from pre-marriage relations with his girlfriend, R&B singer Ciara, he simply asks that people “pray for him.” God may guide his throwing arm, but he needs some extra help with that one, it appears.

He has a way with words. It’s been noted that the QB is more polished, more capable of saying the right thing for sponsors and the press, than anyone else in the NFL. Maybe it’s because his father has been coaching him through fake press conferences since he was 7 years old, according to a Rolling Stone feature.

He’s found a magic potion. An investor in Reliant Recovery Water, Wilson attributes the liquid with near-miraculous properties. “I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine,” Wilson said, describing a concussion-worthy hit he received. “It was the water.” Unfortunately, claiming that magic water prevented brain damage may only fuel concerns that football players receive too many hits to the ol’ noggin.

He’s a romantic at heart. What did squeaky clean Russell Wilson think of kinky sex flick 50 Shades of Grey? Not much. “Saw a movie filmed in the town I call home,” tweeted @DangeRussWilson. “Provocative/disturbing no doubt but that does not make me less Faithful.” —Drew Atkins

It’s getting better
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling made same-sex marriage a right in all 50 states, giving the LGBTQ community a major win. But while Seattle has a reputation as a liberal city, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows here.

High: Seattle’s 41st Pride Parade brought hundreds of thousands of people to Seattle’s streets in late June. With the event falling just days after the marriage equality ruling, spirits were high. In honor of the parade, the city’s Department of Transportation and Department of Neighborhoods transformed Capitol Hill crosswalks into rainbows.

Making progress: The Seattle City Council passed a law in August requiring all public spaces, both private and city-owned businesses, to assign any single-stall restrooms as all-gender.  

Promising: In July, Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer Jim Ritter, a member of the LGBTQ community, created Safe Place. Participating businesses, schools and organizations display the Safe Place decals and are trained to offer refuge to victims of LGBTQ hate crimes. The SPD hopes the program will also encourage the reporting of these crimes.

Low: Hate crimes directed at the LGBTQ community continued to rise. According to the SPD, hate crimes have increased substantially since 2013, and in July of this year, reportedly increased nearly 50 percent from the same time last year. The rate was especially high in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Although neither police nor politicians have cited any direct cause, some pundits blame “hetero-gentrification” by the influx of new residents. —Madeline Lootens