By Sam Le
Northwest Asian Weekly
On 16th Avenue Southwest and Cambridge Avenue, Young’s Restaurant, a Chinese family-owned café, has become the first commercial site to complete the RainWise program. It celebrated the milestone with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 4. Young’s Restaurant partnered with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), King County, and Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) — showing that both large scale and individual problems can be solved by the cooperation between private owners, local government, and community-based organizations.
The RainWise program is a rebate program funded by SPU and King County where individual homeowners or businesses apply to have cisterns and rain gardens installed to store and control the spillover rate of stormwater, and prevent sewers from overflowing, hillsides from erosion, and bodies of water from flooding.
Jo Sullivan, the King County program manager for RainWise, said, “The program is a great way for private property owners to become a part of a solution for the stormwater overflow problem.” The program also made it a priority to ensure that immigrants, refugees, and communities of color were informed and educated about the program. Often with programs and projects that involve applications, inspections, and contracting, communities of color, especially those with limited English skills, are overlooked and underserved. ECOSS, an environmental education nonprofit, played a key role for the RainWise program, as they are able to bring on both clients and contractors from communities of color.
King County and SPU have partnered with community-based organizations, such as ECOSS, in order to ensure that the RainWise program has equitable access. Sullivan continued. “So to make that the solution is equitable, it was important to work with organizations such as ECOSS, who are established in working with the different communities of color.”
“When it starts to rain, we have issues of leaks and flooding on the roof and in the parking lot, which causes me to worry as there could be many costly issues if we don’t solve it,” shared Ella Young, owner of Young’s Restaurant. “After learning about the RainWise program and how the rebate could help solve our problems and reduce cost, I asked if we could do the program.” The installation of three 530 gallon cisterns and a revamped gutter system gave relief to Young, as their roof and parking lot situation are now under control.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, the success of the project was celebrated as Young’s Restaurant becomes a model for the RainWise program for landscaping contractors and other businesses to learn about the opportunity. King County and ECOSS staff were present to congratulate Young’s Restaurant on the completion of the three-year project. Remarks made in English, Vietnamese, and Cantonese highlighted the involvement of ECOSS in ensuring language access and outreach.
“We are lucky to have this program,” said Young. “It didn’t only fix the flooding and leaking problems, but we can also capture the water to do other things, like growing herbs and tomatoes. I’m glad that we have this program, and that there is funding to do it.”
For more information, visit seattle.gov/util/rainwise.
Sam Le can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.