By CID Coalition
For Northwest Asian Weekly
The Chinatown-International District (CID) Coalition was dismayed by the Aug. 5 article “Chinatown-ID housing affordability measures,” which inaccurately represented community opposition against the proposed 14-story Marriott hotel on 8th and Lane, as well as new city legislation affecting the neighborhood. Over the past several months, the CID Coalition has been directly engaging with community members about the hotel, as well as the recently passed Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) upzone. What we’ve repeatedly heard paints a very different picture than what the Northwest Asian Weekly suggested.
The CID Coalition is a grassroots group of organizers — including people who live and work in the CID, and/or have family members who live, work, and receive services in the CID, and consider the neighborhood vital to our history, culture, and identity. Our goals are to fight against displacement, center community voices in decision-making processes, and stand with other neighborhoods who are also facing displacement. We work towards a multicultural, intergenerational, and self-sustaining future for the CID, which is one of the most unique neighborhoods in the country.
In 2013, International Community Health Services (ICHS) and Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) tried to buy the property where the hotel is planned, to build a nursing home for Asian American elders, but were outbid by the developer, Hotel Concepts (who also plans to evict a low-income Latino community for a hotel in SeaTac). Wildly out of scale with the area, the Marriott would stand directly across the street from where many of our family and community members live and receive services at ICHS, Denise Louie Education Center, and Legacy House assisted living (managed by SCIDpda). Kin On senior citizen center, a Seattle Public Library branch, and Donnie Chin International Children’s Park are also within one block.
These organizations have publicly expressed concerns over the impact this development would have on residents and service recipients. SCIDpda, ICHS, and Denise Louie Education Center depend upon the small 8th street for daily loading and unloading of hundreds of seniors, children, and patients, and ambulance and fire truck access for frequent emergency calls. The addition of over 260 units across the street and increased traffic congestion would likely make it extremely difficult to access services in a safe manner. Construction noise and dust would likely last for over a year and could cause stress and disruption to nearby elders, children, and their family members.
The CID Coalition formed in early 2017 after learning about the proposed hotel. Hundreds of diverse community members — including elders, youth, residents, limited-English speakers, and small business owners — have come to our numerous meetings to voice their vision for the CID.
The majority who answered our survey indicated that they felt “bad” or “very bad” about the hotel development. Specifically, they are concerned about increases in traffic, threats to pedestrian safety, disruption in access to services, displacement of residents and small businesses, and a loss of community and culture. Community members have said they do not want the hotel, but instead want the land to become a public green space or facility that would better serve the community, especially seniors. Elders said they already felt an increasing sense of cultural isolation due to gentrification, and see Chinese businesses closing and being replaced with “white stores” that speak only English. They expressed the need for housing at an income level that reflects the community already present in the CID, with culturally relevant open and public spaces to connect with family and the community. During the International Special Review District (ISRD) board meeting in May, a record number of community members turned out to again express strong opposition to the hotel. The Asia Condominiums Homeowner’s Association also submitted a letter publicly opposing the development and expressing concerns about displacement. None of these community concerns were included in the Aug. 5 article.
The developer’s response to these concerns has been disrespectful and dismissive. Han Kim of Hotel Concepts said he was opposed to including affordable housing or family-sized units in the apartment and condo sections of the building. The developer’s architect, Studio19, also talked about preserving “Asian character” by picking patterns and materials to decorate the building, as if the culture of an entire community can be reduced to a pagoda rooftop or a few color choices. They also failed to study the impacts the development’s new restaurant would have on existing small businesses, and admitted that their restaurant is meant to be “an amenity to hotel guests.”
There is a desperate need for affordable housing, especially low-income housing, in the CID. The City itself has admitted that its recently passed MHA policy, by itself, is not an adequate anti-displacement tool. At a packed July 18 town hall, most CID community members expressed opposition to the MHA upzone, fearing it would worsen gentrification and displacement. The city’s MHA does NOT provide low-income housing for the CID.
The CID Coalition demands a moratorium on non-affordable development, which would give the CID relief from this fast-moving onslaught of hotels, condos, and expensive developments and allow time to create community-driven solutions on our own terms, not those of private developers and politicians.
The CID Coalition is not against development. However, we believe development should not cause the displacement of existing residents and small businesses, and should serve the wellbeing of the community instead of tourists, developers, and the wealthy.
We — and the community members we’ve heard from — envision a future where our families, nonprofits, and small businesses can survive and thrive in place. If you agree, we welcome you to join us. ■
The CID Coalition can be reached at email@example.com or on its Facebook page Humbows Not Hotels.