When city leaders wanted to tear down warehouses in South Lake Union for the Seattle Commons, people lost their motherfucking minds—partly because it would promote big, tall condos on the park's edge. So they organized against, and ultimately killed, Paul Allen's initiative to redevelop the area. A decade later, a people again lost their shit when Nickels, Vulcan, and Amazon wanted to construct slightly taller office buildings on the same stretch of land.

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SHA's scratched plan to replace low-income housing with uninhabitable foam blocks, ridding the city of its poor problem.
  • SHA's early proposal to replace low-income housing with uninhabitable foam blocks, ridding the city of its "poor problem."
But when it comes to Yesler Terrace, a two-story housing project on First Hill that is slated for wholesale redevelopment, potentially with rerouted streets and 23-story skyscrapers housing thousands of new residents, Seattle is mostly silent.


"We haven't gotten a lot of feedback at all," says Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) spokeswoman Virgina Felton. "Almost nobody attended our public hearing. We had more staff members than the public present."

This is striking because next Monday, December 13 is the last day people can log an opinion on the SHA's options for redeveloping the 28-acre site—options that range from doing nothing to the 561 low-income units housed there to tearing everything down, rerouting streets, and building up to 5,000 units of mixed-income housing, along with space for new businesses, hotels, offices, and acres of open public land. In other words, practically building a new neighborhood in the belly of the city. The public's not paying attention now (perhaps because poor people inhabit YT) but in the future this project will be unavoidable.

And despite the public's silence, the move is controversial—YT's current tenants will be displaced during any redevelopment and the SHA won't announce until March just how many new low-income units it plans to generate.

Read about the four choices to redevelop YT after the jump.

Sketches of YT mid- and high-rise apartments.
  • Seattle Housing Authority
  • Sketches of YT mid- and high-rise apartments.
The SHA is considering four alternatives to the current low income 561-unit model (with a fifth, do-nothing option thrown in for good measure—here's the full, 700-page .pdf). The first three choices would require amending the land-use code to allow the city to rezone the area for mixed-use development. All four choices include varying acres of public open space (like parks) and semi-private open space (space with designated uses, like building courtyards and a play area for daycare providers) to the area.

Here are the four new proposals, in brief:

• Option One (low density): 3,000 units built, along with 800,000 square feet of office/hotel space and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. This plan includes adding 6 acres of public open space and adding 3,900 parking spaces to be built under the buildings. (In a variation of this alternative, SHA would build 400,000 square feet of office space with 3,300 parking spaces, but no hotel space.)

• Option Two (medium density): 4,000 housing units built, along with 1 million square feet of office and hotel space, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, and 50,000 square feet of space for neighborhood services (including the Yesler Terrace community center). This plan includes creating 6.4 acres of public open space and 5,100 parking spaces. It also calls for redesigning the street grid to better connect with Capitol Hill, the Central District, and the International District, as well as eventually adding a streetcar to the neighborhood.

Seattles new skyline with option 3
  • Seattle's new skyline with option 3 (new buildings bottom right—click to enlarge)
• Option Three (the highest density choice): 5,000 housing units built, with 1.2 million square feet of office/hotel space, 88,000 square feet of commercial space, 50,000 for neighborhood services, new street grids, fireworks, etc. It would also include 6.9 acres of open space and add 6,300 parking spaces to the area.

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• Option Four: YT wouldn't be rezoned for mixed-use development, so no new non-residential uses would be created which, frankly, is a wasted opportunity. Housing would still jump from 561 to 1,523 units, and while all 561 low-income units would "likely" be replaced, this scenario adds "no additional housing units for extremely, very low, or low-income households," according to SHA's study, which means there would be an odd mix of low-income and high-income development mashed together. The scenario includes 10,000 square feet of commercial space, and a total of 20,000 square feet of office and 50,000 of neighborhood services would remain. There would be 1,840 parking spaces within/under buildings and surface parking.

• Option Five, the "No Action" choice makes no changes to the current site. If you have further questions about this option, simply take a walk up to Yesler Terrace and behold the crumbling mess we'd be strapped with into the foreseeable future.

Within the next four months, the SHA will settle upon one of these choices (or some variation) as its 15-year-plan for the future. You should have an opinion on this matter and your opinion should be directed here, this week. It's your last chance to do so. I don't want to hear any bitching for the next 15 years if you fail to complete this very simple task.