Yesler Terrace: opportunity for a legacy TOD project
With many neighborhoods throughout Seattle undergoing gentrification, how do we build Seattle for the next century as a place all families can thrive? How do the janitors that clean high-tech company offices get the same opportunity to live in the Emerald City along with high-earning Amazon employees? It starts with getting the most out our public investments to stabilize communities. For this, there is no better opportunity than Seattle Housing Authority’s (SHA) Yesler Terrace redevelopment project.
For over 70 years, SHA’s Yesler Terrace has provided safe and clean housing for people with the least resources in the city, keeping families out of homelessness and helping build community. The public housing at Yesler Terrace sits just east of downtown and just south of Seattle’s biggest concentration of medical facilities. It also lay just above the International District’s Little Saigon, a thriving business community of serving the region’s Vietnamese population.
In addition to being central to tens of thousands of jobs, Yesler Terrace will soon be connected the region’s growing light rail system via the First Hill street car. There may be no better public housing site in the State of Washington from which to find work.
With the other major public housing sites in Seattle already redeveloped, SHA has now proposed to transform Yesler Terrace from 561 units of extremely low-income units – spread over 28 acres – to over five million square feet of residential and commercial development. Most of the project will be built by for-profit developers.
Who will benefit? Will this prime location provide opportunities for all families, of any income and race? Will it create good jobs for people of all education and skills?
SHA’s development plan creates the basic template for a long-term, mixed-income community. But, Sage and community leaders in the International District / Little Saigon, believe SHA and the City of Seattle can do much better.
Over the Summer of 2012, the City of Seattle is deliberating whether SHA’s plan meets the economic, social and environmental needs of the city.
To make the most out this unique transit oriented development opportunity, Puget Sound Sage urges City council to improve SHA’s plan through the following elements:
- Provide stabilizing support to Little Saigon’s small businesses against growing forces of gentrification – including Yesler Terrace itself.
- Create more units affordable to low-wage working families, making $30-55,000 a year, who are quickly being priced out of Seattle
- Create more units for families who require three or four bedrooms
- Ensure all low-income housing remains affordable for at least 50 years
- Create construction career opportunities – not just temporary jobs – that include guaranteed apprenticeship training, both for residents and surrounding low-income people of color.
For more details on Sage’s recommendations for how to make the most of this jewel in the crown of public housing, read our letter to the City
and comments to the Department of Planning and Development.