“Why should we give way graciously to the County’s misallocation of public funds to build a sports stadium?” perhaps summarizes the three years Diana Bower spent on the Stadium Impact Project which recently lost its funding.
Bower, a long-time International District supporter, was contracted by the City and County to implement the 21 Stadium Impact Resolutions passed by the City to mitigate the adverse impact of the Domed Stadium on the surrounding Pioneer Square, Skid Road and International District area.
Although the job is far from completed, funding for the Project ran out. Bower served as liaison between the City and County governments and planned social services concentrating mainly on the International District. The Pioneer Square and Skid Road areas had agencies to deal with such matters at that time, Bower said.
Looking back now, Bower sensed that, ironically, the reason for her contract was to try to mitigate the effects of what she calls the misallocation of public funds for the Stadium. She says misallocation because the basic needs of the poor and elderly in the surrounding areas remain unmet.
Bower, a native of New York with a New England arts education, traveled in Europe and Asia studying art, architecture and graphics. She studied urban planning after she moved to the West Coast with her husband, Ted, an architect. Before the stadium project, she worked on Model Cities parks, Central Area housing programs and city transportation planning.
Early in 1973, the Citizen’s Action Force, a citizen’s group formed to discuss how the Stadium might affect people in the area, persuaded the County to hire someone to implement the 21 Impact Resolutions passed by the City Council during Fall, 1972. The resolutions dealt with various social services and physical improvements in the I.D. and Pioneer Square.
The project was contracted to Ted and Diana Bower, Architects and Planners, and Diana served as principle consultant on a half-time basis for three years. The salary was paid by the County and the work space and secretarial staff provided by the City.
“The funny thing is,” Bower said, “that that County was, in essence, paying for someone to oppose it, since the Stadium was built by the county and the person was to deal with the problems caused by the Stadium.”
Bower had been involved with the International District earlier, notably in conjunction with the Model Cities program as member of a citizen’s task force and also as a staff member of Model Cities.
She traces her interest in Asian people and culture to the years she lived in India, Southeast Asia and Japan.
“Any artist on the West Coast, especially one who has travelled in Asia, can’t help but have an interest and relationship to Asian art, thought, and design—the influence of Asian art and people on the West Coast is very important,” she maintained.
Looking back over three years, Bower sees a few major successes in the District, notably in social services: the health clinic, the community center plan which became the impetus for formation of the public corporation, street trees and the children’s small park. She points to those with whom she worked to make these project come about—Bob Santos, Tomio Moriguchi, Susie Chin, Maxine Chan, Doug Chin, Frankie Irigon, Angel Doniego, Donnie Chin, Glenn Chinn, and many others.
“The Inter*im Social Welfare Task Force, chaired by Doug Chin, got things started,” said Bower, “and we made plans for comprehensive social services needs in the District, wrote proposals and looked for funding. The community center proposal is a good example of our efforts.”
Bower sees negative aspects to the stadium project. “This big mistake is the cause of a lot of problems, a lot of bad things flowed from that,” she said. “District people have been forced into a situation for which there is no fair or equitable solution.
“People have been pushed into a situation opposing each other or trying to decide who is expendable—the residents, the businesses, and so on. The parking problem is a good example of this. We are trying to decide whether Kokusai theatre-goers or residents who own cars are more important, and the answer is that everyone is important.”
She continued that because of the stadium, some District people have gotten into the mind-set of accepting the burden the County has placed on them, even though the quality of life in the district is threatened.
Bower feels the Stadium impact will continue, despite the end of the Stadium Impact Project. However, the Special Review Board and the Public Corporation have been formed to deal with various development and planning aspects. “No single half-time person could deal with all of it,” she said. Housing is an unsolved dilemma, says Bower. Housing, basic to survival is not adequately provided for all people.
“Perhaps this is a reflection of the state of American society,” she said.
The best solution for the District, Bower said, are those which involve the cooperation of all people—business-people, residents, and others.
“Economic growth should not be the only goal in life, even though I know some business people and people who build stadiums think this way,” Bower said. She also thinks District people would start relying more on themselves, not federal funding. She likes the idea of workers owning their own means of production. The Cicada Arts and Crafts Cooperative, which she helped initiate, is one example.
“Housing, garment factories and lots of projects could be run as consortiums or cooperatives with people putting in money and running the project cooperatively,” she said. Commenting on the women working in garment factories under poor working conditions, Bower asked, “Why can’t we have our own factory, maybe on a small scale, and arrange it so the people doing the sewing own the factory?
“I have an educated mistrust of federal funds as a source for District project,” Bower remarked. “Just look at the failure of Ray Chin’s low income housing project utilizing (Department of Housing and Urban Development) Section 8 funds. These HUD programs do not work out partly because of the tons of federal regulations put on people who accept the funding. In addition, the reporting and monitoring procedures are terrible unless you have a big corporation to deal with it.”
The secret, Bower says, is to think small. She offered this quote from E.F. Schumacher: “I would suggest that the possibilities for any real change, can only come from small groups of people… the dinosaurs will collapse under their own weight… If any of us still expects any real help from big, powerful organizations, I suggest they are wasting their time.”
“Small people, even poor people, can create an economic base,” Bower said. She pointed to China as a good example of small units of individuals working together and joining to make a large movement.
“We have a tremendous asset in the smallness of the I.D.,” she said. “If we want to, we can communicate with each other three times a day, in person.”