The International Special Review District (ISRD) board decided on Dec. 10 to move forward with the final design and demolition of the Four Seas Restaurant on 714 South King Street.
Developed by InterIm, a new building will rise in its place—provisionally called Uncle Bob’s Place. It will have eight stories with commercial space on the lower levels and 100 percent of affordable housing units above. InterIm will manage the housing, while the Chan family, owner of Tai Tung Restaurant and the former Four Seas Restaurant, will manage the commercial space.
Three blocks away on 614 Maynard Avenue South, there has been massive pushback against the demolition of the Bush Garden building. Developer Vibrant Cities wants to build Jasmine, a 17-story development consisting of micro retail and market-rate condos. Among the most vocal opponents against the Bush Garden demolition has been InterIm, which is bulldozing Four Seas, and activist group Chinatown-International District (CID) Coalition.
This seems to contradict InterIm’s position on new development. In an interview with the Northwest Asian Weekly in November 2017, InterIm Director Pradeepta Upadhyay said the organization is not against progress or new development, but against displacement.
There is nobody to displace at Bush Garden so it’s baffling as to why InterIm is so opposed to Jasmine. I can take a guess: it’s not low-income or affordable housing. I wish InterIm would just be honest and say they are anti-market rate housing.
Here at the Northwest Asian Weekly, we support the demolition of both Bush Garden and Four Seas, and we support both projects. It shouldn’t be either or—either low-income housing, or nothing.
Low-income and affordable housing already make up more than two-thirds of all housing in the Chinatown-International District (ID). The ID needs a mix of low-income, affordable, market-rate, and retail. The ID needs diversity—not just of races but of all income levels, and diversity of ideas, not “my way or the highway.” We need new buildings and to let go of the ones that are literally showing their age and in Bush Garden’s case, a safety hazard. We also support the proposal to locate the Bush Garden restaurant at Uncle Bob’s Place. The late and beloved community leader, Bob Santos, was a well-known regular at Bush Garden and he loved karaoke. Bush Garden was the first restaurant to have a karaoke bar in the country.
James Wong, the CEO of Vibrant Cities, has also offered a spot for Bush Garden in Jasmine. No matter where it ends up, it’s important that a space for the community become available. Since the closure of the Nagomi Tea House in 2018, such a space has been lacking. It may be more feasible to locate it in Jasmine, as the Four Seas location has less than 1,000 square feet to work with. Jasmine could additionally provide a public space and perhaps a photo gallery in that space of the history of Bush Garden.
An already incredible community, the ID has an opportunity to thrive even more.