Open Letter: Community group questions rapid changes in Chinatown International District

Guest Contributor May 17, 2017 0

A view of the Chinatown International District from Smith Tower in 1996. • File Photo

The following is an open letter from The CID Coalition to City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ International Special Review District (ISRD) Board Coordinator Rebecca Frestedt and the ISRD board.

Dear ISRD Board Members,

We are a group of community organizers—which includes people who live and work in the Chinatown-International District, or have family who live, work, and receive services in the Chinatown-International District—who are deeply concerned with the future of the neighborhood. Rapid change and development are increasing pressures of displacement on existing residents, small businesses, and nonprofits serving our communities.

On March 11, 2017, the CID Coalition organized a public meeting to provide information on the 14-story development at 8th and Lane. We solicited feedback from community members about this particular development, as well as on the larger issues of development and gentrification in the neighborhood. Our multilingual and multi-generational meeting drew over 70 attendees.

According to a survey we collected at the meeting, the vast majority of participants opposed the development and feel “bad” or “very bad” both about the proposed 14-story hotel on 8th and Lane, as well as how the City has generally engaged the community around issues of development. In response to the proposed development, the community also expressed concerns about increases in traffic, decreases in pedestrian safety, disruption in access to services and daily needs, exacerbation of issues of affordability that would lead to displacement of existing residents and small businesses, and loss of a sense of community, culture, and heritage.

Given these concerns, we urge the International Special Review District Board to carefully review the 8th and Lane project based on the criteria set forth in the code for hotel projects within the District, namely impacts on the cultural, economic, social, historical, and related characteristics of the neighborhood. The ISRD should request additional information and analysis from the developer, Hotel Concepts, in order to enable the level of review necessary to evaluate the project’s many impacts and address the concerns coming from the community. At minimum, the ISRD should request information relating to:

  • Residential use and affordability. Chinatown-International District is at the highest risk of displacement, according to the 2035 Comprehensive Plan. Even with the proposed 5-7% MHA requirement in the HALA upzone of the CID,  the need for truly affordable and low-income housing is dire. The CID is significantly more diverse, lower-income, and older than the Seattle population as a whole. According to the OPCD Director’s report in April 2017, 95% of the area population are renters.  The median age is 52, compared to 35 citywide. Information for the Community Reporting Area (which also includes part of Pioneer Square), found that 40.6% of residents were living below the federal poverty line, compared to 15% citywide. Census tract data shows the median household income of the CID is roughly $23,313—compared to $80,349 for Seattle’s median household income overall. What is the additional affordable housing demand that will be generated from low-wage jobs at the proposed hotel? What will the project contribute towards preserving housing affordability in the neighborhood? Does the site have potential use for affordable residential?
  •  Traffic, congestion, parking, safety, and the pedestrian environment. How does this project and the vehicles used by hotel guests and apartment and condo residents contribute to congestion along S Lane and impact safe vehicular and pedestrian access to senior, childcare, family, and health services across the street? How will traffic and parking impact S Lane’s function as a green street? How will increased traffic interact with the Streetcar on 8th Ave?
  • Historical and cultural compatibility and access. How does this project maintain cultural and historical characteristics of the neighborhood? How will design maintain compatibility with Asian Design Character, and in relation to nearby structures, and to the people who live and receive services nearby? What type of retail will it include, and will it offer goods or services accessible to the existing community? What are the brand standards for the hotel, and are they flexible enough for the hotel to be integrated with the character of the neighborhood?
  • Noise, light, and glare. Will there be stress to nearby residents and program recipients due to construction?
  • Height, mass and bulk. This should include shadow and wind studies and elevation studies. What open public spaces or other public amenities will be provided?
  • Employment. Who will the hotel be hiring? How many people will the hotel hire from the neighborhood, and how will they be recruited? How will the hotel operator comply with local labor standards? Will the hotel operator provide protections for immigrant workers? How will the hotel operator create a harassment- and intimidation-free workplace?
  • Accessibility. Who is the hotel as well as apartments and condos targeted towards? What is the marketing plan for the hotel and the residential units? What is the expected rent for the apartment units, and sale price for the condos?
  • Public Safety. How will this project ensure that nearby residents and their family members—including seniors and small children, feel safe and respected, when a hotel is likely to bring in a temporary, transient, and higher income clientele?

In addition, we are concerned about the lack of community outreach and engagement by the developer, and would like to see Hotel Concepts provide meaningful opportunities to solicit feedback and listen to the needs of existing CID residents, employees, small businesses, nonprofits, and service recipients.

If Hotel Concepts is unable to genuinely engage with the community, fails to provide sufficient information in response to the above inquiries, or does not indicate through their response the kinds of impacts that community members have shown are of serious concern, we urge you to deny approval of the project.

Thank you for your interest and leadership. We understand that there are multiple development projects slated for the CID, and urge that similar types of thorough analyses be applied to future development projects.

The CID Coalition   

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