It felt like a step toward normalcy in a post-pandemic world.
Visitors swarmed the Chinatown-International District (ID) over the Memorial Day weekend, bringing crowds that have been missing for a better part of a year, since COVID-19 arrived in Washington state and the U.S.
Those crowds—a welcome sight for local businesses that have been struggling to stay afloat—were spared the hike in on-street parking rates—which increased on June 1.
The ID has the most expensive rate at $2.50 per hour in the afternoon, higher than any other neighborhood in the city.
Despite the Seattle Department of Transportation saying that parking prices will remain below pre-pandemic levels, this feels discriminatory.
The communities in the ID have been historically marginalized and excluded by discriminative laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and Japanese incarceration.
ID businesses saw a dramatic drop in business as early as last January, even before the first coronavirus case was documented here. Business owners were fighting not just fear, but anti-Asian sentiment.
Then came last summer’s police protests that spilled into the ID and splinter groups causing more damage, and there’s the ongoing issue of encampments and visitors having to navigate their way through trash, needles, and human waste, if they want to patronize a business here.
We are a vital part of the Seattle community and the City should reconsider the parking rates for our district.
Since the pandemic, we appreciate that SDOT has designated several spots for restaurant and retail curbside pick-up.
Ethan Bergerson, a spokesperson for SDOT, told The Seattle Times that ideally, parking should be expensive enough so that there are one to two open spots on every block, but not so expensive that nearby businesses are hurt.
Businesses in the ID will be hurt. People who want to visit the ID will be turned off by the parking fees—which are higher than all of Seattle.
We need all the help we can get and we urge the City to re-think its policies.
We need thoughtful planning, programs, and budgeting to reduce disparities and achieve equitable outcomes for all populations—especially marginalized populations like the ID.