News May 23, 2012 at 4:00 am

Is Light Rail Driving Racial Minorities Out of Rainier Valley?


This is a well written article. I find interpretations of census data fascinating. Detailed census data provide unmatched lessons in socio-economics.
Roger Valdez' point is very important. Columbia City was gentrifying well before light rail was built. Gentrification has been happening in the Central District for years without any light rail being anywhere nearby. Because those areas are close to downtown and affordable, they WILL see an increase in price no matter what happens.

Some will use this to argue that mass transit hurts the poor. But gentrification would happen and has happened even without it. And without light rail many of the low income residents would have a harder time affording transportation.

The answer then isn't to blame light rail, but to blame low wages and the lack of enough subsidized housing. Good to see that covered in this article.
Tell the peeps on the Eastside to hire US citizen minorities instead of H1-B visa minorities.


Problem solved.
Housing prices and rents in my neighborhood, about a mile from a light rail station, have gone down since the rail opened. There are plenty of vacant storefronts around too. Maybe the authors should expand their study area to the entire Rainier Valley instead of just the "area around the light rail stations." Even well-off white people can't easily afford to live there.
Sounds like good news to me. Maybe people will stop breaking into my car and leaving empty bottles of OE800 on my lawn.
I'd love to see input from the likes of Sharon Tomiko-Santos or Ray Akers on this (although maybe Ray is responsible for comment #4). Sharon, who would probably agree that losing diversity in the neighborhood is a shame, consistently fights any of the efforts that have been proposed to counteract this problem.
Though the question is certainly an interesting one, the quality of the analysis is certainly not. Consider Mr. Valdez's point about correlating rail with affordable housing opportunity - based on an equally unfounded correlation between race and income. That said, Mr. Valdez certainly deserves a drop in pay!

Understanding gentrification in general is the place to start, and even if white people do come into a historically minority neighborhood and fix things up they are also more likely to move on - especially as their Children reach school age.

The argument that increasing racial diversity is a bad thing is pretty much a 'separate but equal' segregation argument - another even more heated debate topic that is not nearly so simple as the partisan pundit dumbshits would have you believe.

For me, the place to start is ownership, residential and business. If a minority renter leaves the Rainier Valley and buys a home in an even more affordable, traditionally white, neighborhood in S. King or Pierce County that is a good thing.

Sound Transit had a rather large pot of money to 'mitigate' displaced businesses and it would certainly be interesting to see whether that money went to help previous business owners or actually subsidized new competition upon their condemned former properties...

Lastly, the biggest authority on this to talk to would be Martha Choe, the former Seattle Councilmember and Sound Transit Board member who led the effort to get this rail line built first.

I bought my first house on Beacon Hill from a Hispanic Family. I subsequently sold it to a white gay couple.

Our current house was bought from an Asian couple, and we're not planning on moving anytime soon.

In both cases, the families got a HUGE return on investment - in the magnitude of twenty times the purchase price. The Hispanic family moved to Arizona. the Asian couple bought into a very classy retirement complex over on the eastside (we're still in touch with their kids)

Both houses are within four blocks of the Beacon Hill light rail station, although it wasn't there when we moved in to the current Chez Vel-DuRay.

So are we part of the problem? It sounds like everyone all around got a good deal.
@2 is correct - The Central District gentrified without Light Rail. As Seattle grows, more people want to live closer to Downtown. (Especially with rising fuel costs and more traffic jams and commute times.) Blaming light rail for this is overlooks the big picture.
To be clear, Roger Valdez was not speaking for Sightline in his remarks to the Stranger.

In fact, Sightline wrote approvingly about Puget Sound Sage's report, here:…

Eric de Place
Sightline Institute
Matthew Yglesias has written a LOT about how most people misunderstand the underlying dynamics of "gentrification". Basically, you can't build good transit and NOT expect property values to go up if you don't provide more housing supply. I'll just steal from him:

"The main thing you need to do is recognize that this kind of bad gentrification is a relative scarcity issue. It’s very expensive to live in low-crime walkable transit-accessible neighborhoods featuring good public schools because housing in such neighborhoods is in short supply. To reduce the cost of housing in such neighborhoods there are a few things you need to do. One is that where you have neighborhoods with some of those characteristics you need to allow for denser construction of housing units. Another is that you need to work on the social policy problems of crime and school performance in existing walkable urban neighborhoods. And a third is that you need to build more transit lines and transit nodes and ensure that such nodes as exist have “smart” (i.e., dense, walkable, mixed use) development around them. And a fourth is to not waste the opportunities that we have — there’s a giant open-air parking lot right by the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station in DC, which is just a dumbly low-intensity use of land adjacent to scarce Metro stations. "
@ 3 yeah keep the damn foreigners out! Are you kidding me?
So it's a problem when white people move back into a neighborhood. Weren't white people also excoriated for moving AWAY from neighborhoods? Pick a lane and stay in it
""Since 2005, land values surrounding Southeast Seattle's light-rail stations have risen by over 50 percent," the report states."


Here’s a couple of properties within a couple of blocks of the Othello station:……

Those have values now that are at 2006 levels, which is three years before light rail was operating. Where’s the evidence that light rail has increased values by 50%?
I just bought a house in Columbia city, and part of the reason was the proximity to light rail. There could be a nugget of truth in this, but I am just one data point.
@12: Will in Seattle's ability to pat himself on the back for being a radical left-winger while simultaneously advocating racist closed-border policies not out of place in a Minutemen brochure is just one of his many, many charming features.
The prevailing opinion is that whites are not welcome in the valley. Fuck this noise. The last 30 years have been really depressing in beacon hill and Rainier valley, and I'm glad to see someone cleaning up the joint. You'd think that people would like to see high-rise public housing built (aka 'the projects) instead of transit. How about we lease a few of these homes to drug dealers and pimps? Wasn't this valley all Italian immigrants once? Increasing diversity means some people find a way out and others find a way in. Better to increase property values along the way, imo.
White people leave a nieghborhood?


White people move into a neighborhood?


Guilty White Liberals…always good for a laugh.
I've always been a little concerned about well-meaning people who decry gentrification. Peeking beyond their arguments I sometimes hear "let's keep poor neighborhoods poor!"

The reality is that lots of those people of color who moved to the suburbs did so because that's where they preferred to live and they could afford to make the move -- often because they could sell their Rainier Valley starter home for a good profit.

I would be more impressed with studies like this if they could back up their rhetoric with some real hard numbers. In the real estate business, real numbers are easy to find, on a parcel by parcel basis.

Next time show us the beef, Sage.

"Since construction of the light rail land values around the stations have increased dramatically,"
-Rising property values (in the midst of the great recession). such a problem to have!

"While the minority population grew by 47 percent in the last decade across King County (and the white population shrank by 2 percent), in Rainier Valley, the trend is nearly reversed: Racial minorities increased by only 5 percent over that same period and the white population increased by 17 percent."
-No, If the trend were nearly reversed, the minority population would have shrank while the white population grew. More accurately, both populations grew with greater parity.

"Twenty-three percent of low-income Rainier Valley residents depend on public transit to get to work (versus only 14 percent of their richer neighbors)"
-Now we've transitioned from race to income.  Are we to assume that minorities are poor and whites are rich? That's pretty racist.

"The report highlights, and we hear it over and over again, that the success of light rail threatens to destroy what we find beautiful in the neighborhood,"
-Yes. Rainier Valley used to be so beautiful. Unbearably beautiful.

Presumably some of the "minorities" owned property there and saw it was a good time to unload crappy housing stock on gullible white folk with images of polishing wood floors in their eyes.

Thus Light Rail was like an icon, or beacon to middle class folk, saying it's "ok" for them to live there. The knifings and beatings from residual thugs will continue until even they give it up.
The law of unintended consequences at work. Remember, it was Rainier Valley business interests that lobbied hard for light rail along the MLK corridor. Now they're complaining that it's driving people out of the neighborhood.
None of this is an " unintended consequence" or even remotely surprising. There is a ton of data that show real estate prices skyrocket along rail lines. Believe me: everyone saw this coming. That's why there was a housing plan already in place. Whether it's sufficient or not is another matter.
They are right: Light Rail (and other development) IS pushing African Americans out of Rainier Valley.

The answer is that the city should not build light rail or any other transit improvements or enact any type of changes that will increase property value in neighborhoods with a certain threshold of minority residents.
@24 (myself) You're right - let's return to 1 AD-1960's era redlining and actively prevent any development/value increases in brown neighborhoods.

For many americans of all races, for many generations, semi-arbitrary increase in land value has been a ticket from working class to middle/middle-upper class - an affect that can last multiple generations. This complaint is totally baseless; as there is no real answer for gentrification. The poor will always loose, unless they become rich.
@9: If they own the house, yes. If they'd been renting a home or leasing a business space, they'd be SOL.
@8: Unless they're renting their home or leasing a business, in which case they're SOL. Seriously, You know this already; you're one of the most knowledgeable and astute commenter on this site. Why are you busting out this 'let them eat cake' bullshit?

notice a trend?

How about the fact that many rainier valley folk can't even access the light rail because there are two miles between stops.
Of course it is. That's the whole idea. Mission accomplished.
Judging by the robberies and murders near the stations, they sure love the new pickings the train has delivered.
Judging by the cartoon, it's only green people leaving.

They should have run the line straight to Seatac from King Station. It takes for fucking ever to get to the airport by the train and u have to hide your iPhone half the trip.
Doofus2, dear, I am not suggesting that anyone "eat cake". I'm just pointing out that gentrification is a very nuanced topic. Some people of every color win, some people of every color lose - just like any other real estate trend. I was "gentrified" out of the Pike/Pine corridor when the rent on my spacious '60's era apartment became more than a mortgage payment on the small house I bought on Beacon Hill.

And I wouldn't be so quick to assume that businesses are being pushed out. I worked with commercial businesses along MLK for many years, both during and after the light rail was put in. In addition, I was very familiar with the MLK strip prior to that time, having lived in SE Seattle for quite some time. It has remained remarkably stable in the types of small businesses that are along it - probably because the big chains have no interest in opening stores down there.

Keep in mind also that two major public housing projects are located in very close proximity to the Othello and Columbia City Stations. That doesn't necessarily equate to minorities, but it does ensure that the very poor of every color have a safe haven in the valley.
You can only hope this report is right…..

Charge: Aspiring rapper killed man at South Seattle video shoot
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Seattle man accused of gunning down an unarmed man amidst a crowd of onlookers has been charged with murder. Filing the charge Wednesday, King County prosecutors claim Troy D. Sanders shot Courtney Taylor twice on May 16 during a confrontation at a Rainier Avenue South Jack-in-the-Box.

According to charging documents, Sanders delivered the fatal shot while Taylor was already on the ground. A convicted pimp, Sanders, 26, fled the scene immediately after the shooting. He remained at large Wednesday. Sanders – also known as John Taylor, and not related to the victim – was filming a music video at the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru moments before the shooting, which occurred shortly before 8:30 p.m. in the 9200 block of Rainier Avenue South.
Does anyone really think Catalina wants po' ghetto blacks or young white gentrifiers moving into her little corner of Paradise?
Okay, about Roger Valdez. This is the same dude who headed Mayor McShithead's committee to make Capitol Hill safe for check cashing parlors, abortion clinics, and 7-Elevens in the middle of residential blocks.

That committee was stacked with McShithead's developer cronies, and Valdez tried to keep all of their communications secret.

At the very least, will some "journalist" ask Valdez who he works for right now?
"Rainier Valley was going to become wealthier—and whiter—with or without light rail, simply because it is one of the last places in Seattle where single-family housing stock is still plentiful and affordable," says Roger Valdez, a former research associate at the pro-density, pro-transit think tank Sightline Institute. Asking if a train is displacing minorities is such a loaded question, Valdez, says it's as "pointless as starting a conversation with the question 'Have you stopped kicking your dog yet?'"

Could this be the same Roger Valdez who pissed all over Roosevelt, calling the people who objected to 65-foot buildings "entitled single-family homeowners."

He also called them too old, too rich, and too white. But now that "transit oriented development" is pushing the poor black people out of Rainier Valley, we find out that Valdez doesn't give a shit about them.

It's only news if a cop or a "white Hispanic" (what ever the fuck that is) shoots a black kid.
As a Norwegian and a fag, I'd love to live in Ballard or move back to the Hill, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. Seattle is an hourglass-shaped city with nowhere to expand, so housing costs will go up whether or not we have light rail.

And even if the city tried to combat this inevitability, any public-policy approach to mitigate gentrification (rent controls, increased Section 8 vouchers, public housing, etc.) would have to be colorblind.
The consequences may be unintended but they should not be unexpected. We live in (for all its imperfections, contradictions and inconsistencies) a market-driven society . . . not a social values-driven society (much as I might prefer the latter). Why the surprise that demand will drive up the price of something in short supply?
A major problem is the definition of "affordable housing" (thank you, Sally Clark). Affordable housing simply means that those units be rented to a person whose income is ANYWHERE UP TO 80% Area Median Income which is about $45k. So, "affordable housing" typically goes to those on the higher end of this income bracket (incomes of $30k-$45k) so developers can maximize rents. Affordable housing, importantly, has nothing to do with rent price regulation, but is based on income. Until we address the total misnomer that is city mandated "affordable housing," displacement will persist.
Anyone recall a census study that was indicating there was already a migration of minorities from Beacon Hill to SE Seattle/King County? It was published a few years ago on 2000 data and seems to signal the inevitable, and not any causal effect from the light-rail.

Gentrification was indeed already happening in the late 90's - but continues to crawl at a glacial pace. The south has been a tough sell for alot of yuppies, big box retail, and density-dependent hipsters. (However, not the gays and artists -- so we're in that phase of gentrification still.) My guess is that it's going to take generations, and won't be some mass multi-ethnic flight.

I've been living on Beacon nearly a decade and know that while the town-homes explosion was wanting to capitalize on the light-rail access, home values here still remain pretty flat (if not underwater).

Also, minority owned businesses are still going pretty strong - they're opening more and staying put, so there doesn't seem to be the 'empty storefront' problem that the study portends. Rather, I might suggest that again - minority businesses for minorities are still the backbone of the Valley and SouthEast in general.

But yes, there is a problem if rents around the station are impossibly high, and yes - agree there are some immediate fixes in the Low incoming housing projects (which @33 cites and I know of at least 3 more up here on Beacon).
@37: pissed all over Roosevelt, calling the people who objected to 65-foot buildings "entitled single-family homeowners."

Again, you're getting a $500,000,000 subway station, paid for by all of us, and then you freak out because anybody who doesn't already own a single-family home there might wish to move to the area.

What about that does not make you an "entitled single-family homeowner"?
Seattle's goal has always been to be lily white ever since the Denny party landed on Alki. Displacement has been par for the course for years. They displaced the Duwamish to get the area known as Pioneer Square, they displaced the Japanese in interment camps during WWII (didn't see any German American internment camps. Hmmm), and now this. So it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone and if it is, it's probably the latte sipping, KEXP listening, Obama sticker on the car bearing hipsters naive enough to think we are in a post racial society because a dark person in favor of all marriages is in the white house. Puhleeze!
Sugarbosom, you apparently know nothing about North Beacon Hill. You're welcome to come to dinner, but you're probably one of those people who are terrified to cross Jackson.
There is a good chance in SE Seattle that the businesspeople with higher revenues and the property owners with higher values are MINORITIES THEMSELVES. What do you say to them?

I can think of many, many business and land owners on my block and in the Columbia City strip that are minorities. Way more than in most neighborhoods in Seattle. Ask them what they think of the growing land values and wealthier patrons.

The answer, I think, is to subsidize housing for populations that would otherwise be displaced. Do it more and do it more effectively - maybe even get some of the social justice hand wringers in other parts of the city to pony up some land in THEIR neighborhoods to take on people who are displaced.
Also, I'm a white guy married to a white woman with 2 white kids living in SE Seattle. When I'm not hearing that my neighborhood is dangerous, hostile, scary, not worth investment, etc. I'm hearing that it's a huge problem that I moved here to have a family, fix up my house, get to know people on my block, earn a good living, etc.

Frankly, I'm tired of it. Me and my mixed-race, Mexi-Fili-Afri-Viet-neighbors all know each other. Have a couple block parties each year. Our kids play, we shop and try to leave our money in our hood with our people. We want the cars to slow down on our block and people to stop littering. Small-time, keeping your hood nice stuff. We don't really give a shit what your numbers say. We're cool, thanks.
Nothing gets Seattleites more fired up than a discussion about race. That’s what this is about right? Someone mentions gentrification and everyone goes to DEFCON 1 because it sounds like someone is calling you a racist and you can’t wait to tell anyone that will listen how you’re not because you live in a diverse neighborhood and have minority neighbors. “I love Vietnamese, Ethiopian and all ethnicities”…foods.

You shouldn’t feel one way or another about gentrification. It’s completely natural and we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. Does anyone remember that term America invented called Manifest Destiny? That was simply humans being humans. You see something you want, and you take it. The examples of diverse nations are few compared to the ones that aren’t. It’s natural to want to cohabitate with people of similar genetic make up. Animals do it, so why shouldn’t we?...and please don’t make an argument illustrating the differences between animals and humans, because if you do, you’re an idiot.

This town is 70% white so there is no real diversity, and what little there is will seemingly become fewer simply because population growth is an exponentially occurring thing. 70% will multiple a whole hell of a lot faster than 30% and they’re gonna need somewhere to live.

My point is gentrification is not a bad thing; it’s just a thing. We all need affordable housing and those with even just a slightly higher income win. If you want to stop it you’ll have to section off parts of the city and make them off limits to racial spread, not like a reservation (but like one).
#43, first off, I don't live in Roosevelt. But I sympathize with the people who do.

Secondly, you're flat-out lying when you write that people there "freak out because anybody who doesn't already own a single-family home there might wish to move to the area."

Fact is, Roosevelt's community association agreed to density that matched city standards.
@49: We've been over this. The RNA stuck 100% of the density it "accepted" (a paltry 450 new units) immediately abutting the highway... and as far as possible away from the subway station!!

Would you live in an apartment with I-5 traffic whizzing by 24 hours a day? Neither would I.

The subway station, however, will directly serve the high school's football field and a bunch of lawns with white picket fences.

Yeah, that was so "generous" of the RNA! Given how much we've paid for that station, this is fucking thievery, plain and simple!

I'm curious...can we see a heat map that shows property value over time along the geographical length of the railway?
d.p., you "modern urbanists" can't help lying through your fuckin teeth. But guess what? Capitol Hill just kicked 'em down your throat. Must be pretty rough when Hipster Central tells you to go fuck yourselves, eh?
You are full-on head-up-ass, G.

The preservation of functional commercial and residential density on the Bauhaus block would be a triumph. Especially if it sets a precedent for better integration of new and old, and repudiates the developer predilection for ugly new garage-apartment chimeras. (Obsessing over parking spots -- which NIMBYs like you tend to do -- is basically responsible for all the bad recent Seattle architecture that we both hate).

Capitol Hill wants smart growth. Roosevelt thinks growth should be...over there smushed against the highway, thank you very much.

There's a difference.

Now tell me again about how Roosevelt "needs" to preserve "the views" of a plain brick school building! Not the building... the fucking views!!

p.s. Can't wait until liquor prices get jacked through the ceiling on Friday, and you get to choke on your own words.
...For the record, Roosevelt High School has some very lovely masonry work around and above its doorways. The entire rest of the facade is perfectly functional but quite plain.

Thinking that nice doorways qualify a building to be treated like the White House and permanently isolated from all else around it makes you a fucking lunatic... also known as a "NIMBY."
Hey d.p., Capitol Hill just told you, the city council, your idiot mayor, and all their friends to fuck off.

Liquor prices? They'll go up. People will get pissed off and lean on the legislature to cut the ridiculous alcohol taxes. If they don't, then Eyman will put a initiative on the ballot and it will pass. You will whine and I will laugh.

Oh, and how well do you think the rest of your agenda will do with Gov. McKenna plus a functionally Republican state senate? Your fucked up crowd is doing what I thought could never be done: Turning Washington into a red state.

Once it happens, go over to the nearest mirror and have a look at who made it happen, you arrogant, obnoxious fool.
@56: Re: Capitol Hill; smart-growth issues; you having some weird idea that I work for developers.

You, sir, are truly an idiot.

That is all.
d.p., I hope you do work for developers. I'd hate to think you're doing their work for free. Are you really that stupid?
Fucktard, moron, troll. Enjoy the smell of your own intestines.
Yeah, d.p., in the end that's what you people do. It's what you did in Roosevelt, and then Capitol Hill. It's because you are just sooooooo much smarter, and sooooooo much better than the mere humans who have poured their sweat, their money, and their dreams into their houses and their neighborhoods.

Oh yeah, d.p., all those people who lives their lives and their communities? Just a bunch of idiots and ants to be crushed by you and your urbanist developer buddies. Given that choice, I'm happy to be a "fucktard, moron, troll" in your eyes. It's an honor. Really, it is. You made my day.
And that $500,000,000 for the subway station? Exactly whose sweat, money, and dreams manifested that?

It certainly isn't magically appearing because the high school is so darn swell to look at.
d.p., you arrogant piece of shit, I bet you've never owned a single fucking thing in your life. Probably never paid a tax either. Take your bicycle and your "medical marijuana" and your hipster attitude and get the fuck out.

You and your shithead kind are no longer welcome even on Capitol Hill, which has just joined the growing list of neighborhoods that have told you and your shyster friends to fuck off. And tell me, what are you getting from the developers who are whoring you out, anyway? A pat on the head and a free latte, you pathetic idiot?
The Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese people are moving out of the Valley? I doubt it. When I moved to Seattle The Rainier Valley was a civilized neighborhood of mostly Italian working class people, thus called "Garlic Gulch."

In the 1970's the Seattle School District was trashed and White Flight began. The Central District expanded to South City limits and the Valley was trashed.

Ten years later the Vietnamese (Boat People) refugees began to buy trashed property at 12th So and So Jackson that had been vacant for decades. It was their turn to expand south and displace the minority which had trashed it.

It was the Boat People who made 12th and Jackson and the north half of the Valley safe (again) for white people. If any other ancient Seattle residents remember differently, please tell me your experience.

In Snohomish County, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese people are no longer officially designated as a "racial minority." Why? I suppose because half the new business starts are by Korean people and any group that is more successful than white people can't be a minority.

In the Seattle area press, "minority" means people who self-designate as "black" or some variation - never civilized people who came from Asia.

I pay more taxes than you ever will, G. But if your keyboard makes you feel like a big man...
d.p., you should stick to what you know, or at least to what you possibly could know. Which, quite frankly, isn't a hell of a lot. Your kind never, ever wants to admit something like that. You think you know everything.
I know that you live in Magnolia, and that your frequent protestations of expertise are utterly unfounded.

That's all anyone needs to know about your pathetic ass.
You don't know nearly as much as you think you do. Typical drug addicted hipster, surviving on some real estate builder's crumbs!

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