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This is excellent news! Maintaining the current number of housing units for the poorest of the poor, while also recognizing that, as they call it, "workforce housing" is also a need in Seattle.

I'm sure John Fox will have something to complain about (those "extremely poor" units should all be top floor penthouses!!!), but overall, sounds like they're moving forward with a great plan!
Posted by michaelp on April 12, 2011 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 2
I'm the electrical hostess for this project. They are proposing all sorts of interesting renewable and efficiency stuff.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on April 12, 2011 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Fnarf 3
The reasoning, whether you agree with it or not, is to avoid solid blocks of the poorest of the poor, or ghettoes, in other words. It's enforced mixed housing -- which is a good idea in theory. It's not clear to me that it's really the best way to accomplish this, but the principle is sound.

What worries me most is the provisions for the thing that low-income neighborhoods are really short of -- businesses. They give square footage, but without addressing the nature of the problem: how do you encourage real businesses that serve the community? City governments, by and large, have proven to be spectacularly terrible at this. The city, even in ordinary (not low-income) neighborhoods, is FULL of mandated retail spaces that will forever be empty or underutilized because we don't know how to fill them.

But overall it's a good solution. Yesler Terrace as it now stands is not a sustainable idea. What would really be awesome would be to have the old Japanese- and African-American tenement neighborhood it replaced back again, with a fair mix of those units ripe for gentrification, and the kind of natural piecemeal development that really works in a city. But hey, it's better than nothing. I hope it's a success.
Posted by Fnarf on April 12, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Report this
This makes me pretty happy. I don't remember the original plans being so good on the relocation assistance. It's staggering to me that the median city income is 85 grand, though. And I didn't realize this was going to be a twenty-year project. Mercy me.
Posted by gloomy gus on April 12, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Report this
The area just west of downtown Seattle is Elliott Bay. I think you mean the area just east of downtown Seattle.
Posted by HOT PUSSY on April 12, 2011 at 1:17 PM · Report this
One for one replacement on site would be great. This is important because no one else is building housing affordable to the very very poor. This is the mission of the housing authority and it is important that they keep doing this.

That being said, folks need to understand that there is no longer federal money from HUD for building the housing projects of yesteryear, which is both a good and bad thing. Good because concentrated pockets of extreme poverty are generally not the best for any neighborhood or community. Bad because there will always be folks living on less than 10k a year (Yesler's average household income) due to disability, age or other life circumstances. In the era of the eroding social safety net, where will these folks live? Likely on the street if there weren't public housing or Section 8 vouchers. So I applaud SHA for getting creative here and trying to find a way to generate income (market rate and commercial development) to offset the cost of building subsidized housing. I just hope that we get a mix of scales - low to high density - and that some of the public housing remains in townhomes and NC65 (6 stories) or below. One of the beautiful things about Yesler is the low-scale of it, and that people felt a great sense of ownership given their yard and ability to garden and watch their kids play. I hope this isn't lost all together, even though I wholeheartedly believe that this site warrants increased density more than any other in the City.
Posted by kgdlg on April 12, 2011 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Thanks Cienna for your on-going coverage of this important issue. The most important item in your story - new news if you will - was the statement from Virginia Felton, SHA's PR person, telling you that as many as 187 or one-third of the current 561 public housing units are likely to be built off-site. For months, they've repeatedly told the press and City Council it was their intent to replace all but 61 on site.

We fear that by the time they get their permits, over half will be replaced off-site. That's what happened at their four HOPE VI sites (Holly Park, High Point, Roxbury Village, and Rainier Vista). 2000 public housing units were removed and only half replaced on site. And all for the low price of about 1 billion in state, fed. and local housing dollars - all to come out at the other end with fewer units that we most desperately need in our city serving the poorest of the poor.

The claim by SHA that they will build replacement units off-site is simply a case of robbing Peter to Pay Paul. To build off-site, SHA must spend millions more to buy land and build the units - and as was the case at their HOPE VI sites - they'll raid existing sources like our housing levy and state trust fund dollars for those off-site units. Monies we need to expand our stock instead go towards replacing units SHA destroys. What a colossal waste. By contrast when they're all replaced "on-site" you don't have pay the price of land offsite and you can internally subsidize the public housing from extra revenue coming from the added density, and commerical and condo uses in the new development.

According to the 2008 King County Housing Benchmarks report, there is a shortage of 40,000 rentals affordable to those with incomes at or below 40 percent of median. The current residents at Yesler Terrace earn on average 18 percent of median. This is where the need is. By contrast, that same report shows a surplus of rental units in King Co. priced at rents affordable to those between 50-80 percent of median.

It's not too much to expect of SHA to replace all 561 public housing units on site. That'd be only 1 out of 10 of the 5000 roughly on site serving the people SHA is mandated to serve. We believe at least 1000 or 20 percent should serve public housing residents. Then we have a project that actually expands the stock of housing we so need in our city.

Yesler Terrace for 70 years has been the most fully integrated neighborhood in our city and one of the most integrated in the nation. It's helped generation after generation of low income people, working people, communities of color, and first generation immigrants (such as Gary Locke's and his family) get on their feet from hard times. It is needed now more than ever and must continue to perform these functions. The loss of Yesler Terrace turned over to high priced condos and expensive office space and gentrified is symptomatic of what's happening all over this city. It represents the loss of our city's soul if we let it happen.

- John V. Fox for the Coalition
Posted by John V. Fox on April 12, 2011 at 5:32 PM · Report this
Captain Wiggette 10
@6 My thought also.
Posted by Captain Wiggette on April 12, 2011 at 7:51 PM · Report this
angelallwayz206 12
I Know they have to do something soon over 100 units near Harborview have a Failing Sewer System. I am a resident here.
I never thought I would live in Public Housing but a DV made it my Fate. I have great neighbors and a safe place to raise my daughter. This is going to be an Uphill Battle for sure. What I want is an archeological dig first because this is sacred land of the Indigenous 1st PEOPLE. Trust and believe my neighbors and I will not go until we are ready and we are assured that they will replace 1 for 1 the units they destroy..............
Posted by angelallwayz206 on April 13, 2011 at 9:57 AM · Report this
It'll be floating in the sound?
Posted by vamos on April 13, 2011 at 10:01 AM · Report this
I don't really get this idea of dual-duty parking lots. If residents are only able to use them at night, that means they are forced to use their cars during the day or find some other place to park. What if someone wants to own a car for occasional or at least not-daily use? They should really get down to at least a .5 or lower parking ratio and have lots of zipcars and transit access instead.
Posted by zef81 on April 14, 2011 at 12:05 AM · Report this

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