Queering Gay Gentrification: The Neoliberal State as Gentrifier on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, 1986–91

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:00 AM
Midtown Suite (New York Hilton)
Kevin McKenna, University of Washington Seattle
Since roughly 1980, Capitol Hill has been recognized as home to Seattle’s gay community despite the relative dispersal of gay spaces throughout the neighborhood compared to San Francisco’s Castro, West Hollywood, and other “gay ghettoes.”  Capitol Hill was also a neighborhood that new residents were able to access more easily in the 1980s as a result of recession and suburbanization.  While gay business owners began organizing to make the Broadway retail district Seattle’s Castro Street in the early 1980s, the City of Seattle established the Broadway Business Improvement Area (BBIA) in 1986 to promote Broadway as a safe, clean area for consumers to shop and business owners to do business.  Furthermore, the city commissioned a Pike/Plan Planning Study (PPPS) to develop the Pike/Pine Corridor along the southern edge of the neighborhood in 1987.  While both the BBIA and PPPS embraced the gay community as contributing to the vitality of the neighborhood, gay residents did not drive gentrification of the neighborhood.  Rather, businesspeople, gay and straight, promoted the development of retail districts on Capitol Hill while promoting the expulsion of homeless people from the neighborhood.  The City of Seattle not only supported the development of business on Capitol Hill but institutionalized the BBIA and PPPS, providing both funding from tax revenues. During the early 1990s, African American residents and other lower income residents particularly along the southern edge of Capitol Hill were pushed further south while these city-sponsored institutions promoted the presence of the “gay community,” which increasingly came to signify predominantly white gay businesspeople and consumers.
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