So much for equality. Salon is promoting gay privilege.
“They’ve taken an area that was formerly a home for gay people, for queer people, for artists,” says John Criscitello while showing me around Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, “and they’ve turned it into a destination drinking spot.”
Criscitello, an artist who lives and works on Capitol Hill, is 48 years old but looks a decade younger. He’s tall and muscled, with tattoos covering most of his skin and blue eyes that stand out against the gloomy Seattle sky. He hasn’t been in the city long — he moved from New York just four years ago — but in that short time, he’s seen the neighborhood change immensely. His guerrilla posters, wheat-pasted to buildings and telephone poles, say things like “Welcome rich kids” and “We came here to get away from you.”
For the last half-century, Capitol Hill has been Seattle’s Castro, its Boystown, its Gayborhood. Well before they could get married in Washington or any other state, gays and lesbians could find community, safety and affordable housing on the Hill. But Capitol Hill has moved from a place that was a little gritty, a little divey and very queer to a party zone for straight people. Weekends on the Hill feel like Mardi Gras, and bars that were once reliably safe for the queer populace are filled with the neighborhood’s new residents — heterosexual tech workers and their girlfriends. The two cultures — the old queer folks, the new tech workers — sometimes clash, and in the most liberal neighborhood in one of the most liberal cities in America, hate crimes are on the rise.
For Criscitello, the shifting nature of the neighborhood isn’t just about losing his seat at the bar; it’s about his ability to stay in the city at all. The average rent in Seattle is now more than $1,800 a month, a 40 percent increase in the past five years, and it’s only getting higher. Purchasing a home is even more out of reach. In this once working-class city of lumbermen and Boeing machinists, the median home price is now $535,000, a 19 percent increase since March 2014, and bidding wars are common. Redfin reports that more than 40 percent of homes are going over the asking price, many in cash. As longtime Seattle realtor Penny Bolton told me, “People are coming here who make a lot of money, and they’re coming from places where they had a lot of money.”
John Criscitello, like many Capitol Hill residents, blames Amazon.
Capitol Hill is just a few miles from Amazon’s Seattle campus, and thousands of tech workers have moved to the neighborhood in the past few years. With the influx of highly paid software developers and engineers, the cost of living has risen, driving out many working-class queer people and artists. Tim Ellis, a real estate agent and editor of SeattleBubble.com, explains the population shift this way: “It’s hard to find good developers, so tech companies are hiring outside Seattle, bringing in people from the Bay Area who come in with a really high income. That can’t not have an effect on prices.”There are not enough Cocoa Puffs in the word to satisfy them, are there?
Imagine the reaction if the people the gays bought out had banded together to keep them out.