By Teresita Batayola, Maiko Winkler-Chin, and Janice Deguchi
For Northwest Asian Weekly
Approaching International District/Chinatown from the southeast, you are quickly in the midst of vibrant activity centered on 8th Avenue South, with South Dearborn and South Lane Streets as its borders.
A community clinic, a senior assisted living facility, and an early childhood education center share space in one building, with affordable family housing, a library, a community center, and restaurants across the street, together making up International District Village Square.
A once blighted and dark corner of the community has, over the last 15 years, become one of the liveliest spots in our neighborhood through careful redevelopment and purposeful location of multi-service and multi-generational facilities.
Now we are worried that the First Hill Streetcar will put our community at risk. The City of Seattle plans for a new streetcar line running along Broadway and Jackson Streets.
Recently, we learned that the City intends to place the streetcar maintenance facility at the Charles Street yard, using 8th Avenue South for access. This means construction for months, followed by the streetcar passing through our facility in perpetuity.
Our organizations — International Community Health Services (ICHS), Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), and Denise Louie Education Center — fully support the streetcar project, but they are very concerned that critical public safety factors were not considered and that affected organizations and members of our community were not notified.
In fact, the City informed us several weeks ago that they had made their “final decision” to use the Charles Street facility because it was cost-effective — the City owns the facility, and the location minimized wear on the streetcar wheels because of the limited turns needed to access the facility via 8th Avenue South.
Placing two or more rails down the middle of 8th Avenue South presents safety risks for many of our patients, residents, and patrons. Hundreds of children, seniors, and people with disabilities come to International District Village Square on a daily basis.
— Legacy House provides services to 125 frail and elderly seniors.
— ICHS provides an average of 282 medical and dental visits per day, 87 visits are by seniors 65 years of age and older, while 23 visits are by infants and children up to 4 years of age.
— Denise Louie provides child care and preschool to more than 55 children.
Our children, our elderly, staff, and visitors will face the hazards of a construction zone, and risk tripping and other potentially more serious accidents during and after the work is complete.
Not only is our block heavily congested with pedestrians, but it also has high motor vehicle traffic. King County Metro ACCESS vans queue multiple times a day to pick up and drop off seniors. School buses pick up and drop off children at least twice a day.
Ambulances and fire trucks come at least twice a week in response to 911 calls. A semi-wide trailer provides necessary mobile mammogram screenings once or twice a week. Because of its proximity to I-5, drivers frequently utilize 8th Avenue South to access the ID or downtown. Bicyclists similarly turn from Dearborn onto 8th for a calmer, safer commute.
The addition of streetcar activity would make this area even more congested and increase safety hazards for our patients, residents, and clients.
We have talked with the mayor and City council members about our safety concerns and are hopeful they will remedy this decision. While our community gave input on the major streetcar routing to the ID/Chinatown, the City slipped in an unpleasant surprise on the selection of the maintenance yard and routing. ♦
Teresita Batayola is CEO of International Community Health Services. Maiko Winkler-Chin is executive director of Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority. Janice Deguchi is executive director of Denise Louie.
They can be reached through email@example.com.